What Science and Experience Tell Us About Reading Instruction

The Simple View of Reading:

To be a reader in the full sense is dependent upon two main processes:

  1. The ability to decode or recognise the words on the page [What ARE the words?]
  2. The spoken language to understand the words that have been decoded or recognised [What do the words MEAN?]

Download a diagram of The Simple View of Reading

The Five Pillars of Literacy:

Scientific evidence from the past half-century summarises the need for ‘Five Pillars of Literacy’:

  1. Phonemic awareness (awareness of the 44 smallest sounds, or phonemes, identifiable in English speech – most effectively taught alongside letter/s)
  2. Systematic Phonics (teach the alphabetic code: 170+ letters and letter groups which represent the 44 sounds, alongside the phonics skills of decoding for reading and encoding for spelling)
  3. Vocabulary enrichment
  4. Fluency
  5. Comprehension

Click here for information about the Systematic Synthetic Phonics Teaching Principles

Click here for the Learning Difficulties Australia’s ‘How Children Learn To Read’ by Molly de Lemos and Robert Sweet

What is Systematic Synthetic Phonics?

  • Systematically teach the letter/s-sound links of the English spelling system (the alphabetic code). Teach the phonics skill of sounding out and blending all-through-the-printed-word for reading. Teach the phonics skill of identifying the sounds all-through-the-spoken-word and allotting the letters and letter groups for each sound for spelling. Teach handwriting.
  • Provide decodable reading books for beginners consisting of letter/s and sounds already introduced to increase reading fluency and to build confidence.
  • Even learners who have difficulty learning to read need the same teaching as described above but they may need more ‘little and often’ and intensive practice of phonics and/or language comprehension.
  • Avoid teaching children ‘multi-cueing reading strategies’ where they guess words from picture cues, word shape, first letters and context as these can lead to poor reading habits that can be damaging in the long-term. (‘Context’ is required, however, to ascertain meaning of words or to indicate the correct pronunciation of words such as ‘read’ and ‘wind’.)***
  • Parents can provide the best support for their children by sharing conversations and by sharing experiences of a wide range of books.

***Marilyn Jager Adams: ‘In the world of practice, the widespread subscription to the belief system that the three-cueing diagram has come to represent has wreaked disaster on students and hardship on teachers.’

 ***Kerry Hempenstall: ‘The three-cueing system is well-known to most teachers. What is less well known is that it arose not as a result of advances in knowledge concerning reading development, but rather in response to an unfounded but passionately held belief. Despite its largely uncritical acceptance by many within the education field, it has never been shown to have utility, and in fact, it is predicated upon notions of reading development that have been demonstrated to be false. Thus, as a basis for decisions about reading instruction, it is likely to mislead teachers and hinder students’ progress.’

Click here for collated research extracts regarding three-cueing / multi-cueing

Click here for Dr Kerry Hempenstall’s paper ‘The three-cueing system in reading: Will it ever go away?’