Early Litearcy - The Science of Reading

What is the Science of Reading (SoR)?

Understanding what the Science of Reading is and what it is not is an important first step.

The science of reading is a phrase used to describe a body of knowledge found in:

  • Developmental psychology
  • Educational psychology
  • Cognitive science
  • Cognitive neuroscience on reading.

"It (Science of Reading) is the emerging consensus from many related disciplines, based on literally thousands of studies, supported by hundreds of millions of research dollars, conducted across the world in many languages."

~ Louisa Moats (LETRS author)

"This research has been conducted for decades in the U.S. and around the world. They research has important implications for helping children to succeed, but has not been incorporated in how teachers are trained for the job or how children are taught."

~ Mark Seidenburg

Resources to Learn More about the Science of Reading (SoR)

Equity and Literacy: What the Words Say, APM Report


Reading League Recommended Books

(Other Resources Linked on the left/top)

What is LETRS?

Letrs logo

Language Essentials for the Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) is curriculum agnostic professional learning that dives deeply into the what, why, and how around the Science of Reading. LETRS takes that simple view of Reading and deconstructs all topics of importance, unpacking the Simple View of Reading theoretical model in 8 Units of Learning. Units 1-4 focus on Word Recognition, diving deeply into the brain, phonological awareness, phonics, orthography, and morphology . Units 5-8 focus on Language Comprehension including oral language, vocabulary, effective comprehension strategies, and the reading-writing connection. Units 5-8 can only be taken after moving through Units 1 -4.

Who is LETRS for?

LETRS supports all educators who teach reading and writing. LETRS is a focused learning opportunity to strengthen knowledge in reading foundations and how to develop overall literacy skills for all students.

What kind of commitment is this professional learning?

LETRS is not a "quick fix" or one day PD. LETRS requires approximately 2-3 hours of independent learning (text reading and online modules) every single week. Plan on committing about 100 hours in a school year to this learning. LETRS participants must start with Units 1 -4 and this learning is structured to take one year.

What impact can LETRS have? The Mississippi REL study

LETRS Program Information and Overview

What Scientific Research Informs LETRS?

LETRS is grounded in the science of reading.  Teaching reading is rocket science, as stated by author Louisa C. Moats (1999). The concepts and instructional approaches of LETRS are aligned with respected sources such as the Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading (Moats et al., 2010), the Elements of Effective Instruction (Florida Center for Reading Research, 2006), and Classroom Reading Instruction that Supports Struggling Readers:  Key Components for Effective Teaching (Denton, n.d.). In addition, this course incorporates reading research conducted in neuroscience, cognitive development psychology, and linguistics so that educators have solid evidence on how to teach reading to benefit all students.  Some notable research that informs LETRS is listed here.

  • According to Gough and Tunmer (1986) and Hoover and Gough (1990), the two most important components of reading are the ability to decode the written word and the ability to comprehend the language of text.

  • The orthographic processing system is on the left side of the brain, which serves language and is wired to the language centers. This area -- the “brain’s letterbox” (Dehaene, 2009 - 2013) -- is specialized for processing printed words, but not any other visual stimuli such as objects or faces.

  • Ehri’s phases of word-reading development (Ehri, 1996, 2014; Ehri & Snowling, 2004) derive from multiple experiments conducted over many years. Ehri has shown that the ability to recognize many words “by sight” during fluent reading depends on phonemic awareness and the ability to map phonemes to graphemes.

  • Reading is accomplished with letter-by-letter processing of the word (Raynor, Foorman, Perfetti, Pesetsky, & Siedenberg, 2001). Fluent readers perceive each and every letter of print. Printed word recognition depends on fast, accurate orthographic mapping or matching of letters and letter sequences to sounds of the spoken word.

  • The Four-Part Processing Model for Word Recognition (Seidenberg & McClelland, 1989; Seidenberg, 2013) is supported by modern brain science. In the Four-Part Processing Model, the phonological processing system is distinct from the orthographic processing system. Students need to be taught speech sounds and print patterns and then how orthography maps to speech. In contrast to this research-based model, the Three-Cueing Systems Model suggests readers depend on syntax and semantics to guess unknown words.

  • Hollis Scarborough, an eminent developmental psychologist and reading researcher, depicted the attainment of fluent reading as the progressive interweaving of strands or subskills in a rope (2001). Each domain of the Simple View of Reading -- language comprehension and word recognition-- includes strands that are definable, measurable, and somewhat independent.

  • Kilpatrick (2015) argues that there are three levels of skill sin phonological awareness: early phonological awareness, basic phonemic awareness, and advanced phonemic awareness. Assessment and instruction in all levels of skill are important for helping struggling readers and spellers at all grade levels.

  • One of the most well-established findings of educational research is that reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge are highly correlated with each other, and that knowledge of individual word meanings accounts for as much as 50-60 percent variance in reading comprehension (Adlof & Perfetti, 2014; Stahl & Nagy, 2006). While the Reading Rope indicates that other factors are important in reading comprehension, vocabulary is the most important single factor once students have learned the alphabetic code.

  • Charles Perfetti (2007) used the term lexical quality to describe the nature of a stored word image. A high-quality representation of a word in memory enables orthographic mapping better than a partial or poorly elaborated word image.

  • A good reader develops an overall representation of the text as it progresses. Some authors have called this a mental model (Johnson-Laird, 1983) or a situation model (Kintsch, 1998) of the text. The processes of reading described in the Reading Rope are all brought into play to build the mental model.

Early Literacy & Beyond Task Force