Interesting report on teaching how to read

Yesterday I found this report by Kerry Hempenstall via a tweet by David Didau. In the report the scientific evidence behind teaching how to read is considered.

From the executive summary:

There are five essential and interdependent components of effective, evidence-based reading instruction — the five ‘keys’ to reading:

  • Phonemic awareness: Knowledge of, and capacity to manipulate, the smallest distinct sounds (phonemes) in spoken words.
  • Phonics: Learning and using the relationships between sounds and letter-symbols to sound out (decode) written words.
  • Fluency: The ability to read accurately, quickly and expressively. Fluent readers are able to focus on reading for meaning.
  • Vocabulary: The words children need to know in order to comprehend and communicate. Oral vocabulary is the words children recognise or use in listening and speaking. Reading vocabulary is the words children recognise or use in reading and writing.
  • Comprehension: Extracting and constructing meaning from written text using knowledge of words, concepts, facts, and ideas.

There is also mounting evidence that explicit or direct instruction is the most effective teaching method, especially for the fundamental code-based components ― phonemic awareness and phonics — and especially for children at-risk of reading failure. In recent years, research has continued to demonstrate that explicit teaching of the ve keys to reading bene ts all children and can significantly reduce literacy gaps.

The impact of reducing the number of struggling students through more effective initial class teaching should not be underestimated. School resources and teacher time can be deployed more effectively, learning support can be targeted to children with serious learning problems, and benefits for students extend from improved educational achievement through to a lower likelihood of the mental health and behavioural problems that frequently arise following reading difficulties.

Progress in knowledge of teaching and reading is dependent on evidence from studies that conform to the rigors of research in other disciplines where the human and economic costs of failure are high.

There is an extensive and rigorous body of evidence about how children learn to read and the most effective ways to teach them. While this research is slowly beginning to be acknowledged in government policy, unfortunately it is not always reflected in teacher education or classroom practice.

This decade could be the beginning of one of the most exciting periods in education history, as the sleeping giant of educational knowledge — ignored for so long — begins to influence education systems around the world. If the evidence on teaching reading is adopted and implemented, there should be no more casualties in the ‘reading wars’.

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