Embracing and understanding the science of reading


Have you ever wondered how children learn to read? Witnessing a child’s transformation into a reader is akin to watching a magical unveiling.

In the dynamic field of education, few topics stir as much debate as methodologies of teaching reading instruction. For decades, educators have grappled with competing effective methods for teaching children to read. Phonics versus whole language, sight words versus decoding: these debates have often disguised a foundational aspect — the science of reading.

The State Education Department is spearheading a new initiative on this critical issue, challenging misconceptions and paving the way for evidence-based literacy practices: “The NYSED Literacy Briefs,” which focus on the science of reading. As stated by the department, “The Science of Reading refers to a body of research — 50+ years of interdisciplinary research that documents and describes how children develop reading and writing skills and competencies.”

The NYSED Literacy Briefs, produced by Harvard educators Nonie K. Lesaux and Katie C. Carr, represent best practices in literacy education, and can be thought of as a roadmap that shows us the best ways to help our children become great readers. These briefs are grounded in research and designed to strengthen knowledge of evidence-based literacy practices in pre-K-12 education.

One of the prevalent myths in reading instruction is the notion that phonics instruction is synonymous with the science of reading. While phonics is an essential component of literacy instruction, it is just one piece of the puzzle. The NYSED Literacy Briefs dispel this myth by emphasizing that reading is not an isolated skill, but rather a process that involves the integration of phonological awareness, oral language, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension strategies.

Each brief serves as a guide to evidence-based practices in the science of reading. By embracing these principles, we can continue to cultivate a culture of literacy excellence, ensuring that every student has the opportunity to unlock the transformative power of reading.

There are seven NYSED Literacy Briefs that provide evidence-based literacy practices:

  1. Science of Reading: What is it?
  2.  Science of Reading: Debunking Common Myths
  3. Science of Reading: The Role of Writing
  4. Science of Reading: The Pre-K Years
  5. Science of Reading: The Elementary Year.
  6. Science of Reading: The Secondary Years
  7. Science of Reading: Leading for Literacy

Armed with this knowledge, educators in Freeport Public Schools will continue to implement evidence-based literacy practices that align with the Science of Reading principles. Professional development opportunities are being provided to deepen educators’ understanding of effective reading instructional strategies, ensuring that they are equipped to meet the diverse needs of our students. By continuing to integrate phonological awareness activities, oral language, explicit phonics instruction, vocabulary development exercises, and comprehension strategies into their instruction, educators are creating a holistic approach to literacy that empowers students to become proficient readers and writers.

Literacy instruction is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Every student brings unique strengths, challenges and learning styles to the table. Therefore, we differentiate their instruction and provide targeted support to meet the diverse needs of our students. By leveraging data-driven assessment tools and monitoring student progress, educators can continue to tailor their instruction to address individual learning needs effectively.

The NYSED Literacy Briefs represent a paradigm shift in literacy education, challenging outdated teaching strategies and empowering educators with the tools they need to foster literacy success. By implementing evidence-based practices, we can ensure that every student in our schools has the opportunity to become a proficient reader. Together, let’s unlock the power of literacy and empower our students to thrive in an ever-changing world.

Kishore Kuncham is superintendent of Freeport Public Schools.