educators — The Science of Learning to Read
We are not born readers. Being able to recognize symbols and turn them into sounds – these are not skills woven into our evolutionary path. Our ancestors lived in an oral culture, and over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, human babies learned how to recognize and reproduce sounds. And yet, our species' experience with written language in an alphabetic form stretches back a scant 6,000 years.
For those of us who read without effort, it may be hard to understand the complexity of learning to read. There is no one reason why some children pick up reading quickly and others do not – some have biological disadvantages like dyslexia, language-based learning disabilities, others are socially disadvantaged and start kindergarten behind with limited vocabulary and for some there is an instructional mismatch.
What we do know is that about 20 percent of early elementary students will struggle to make the connections between symbol, sound and meaning. These students need the more explicit, structured, sequential and cumulative phonics-based approach either as rudimentary or supplemental instruction.
The difficulty of teaching reading has been underestimated. Child literacy expert Louisa Moats summarizes in her article "Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science," that "to understand printed language well enough to teach it explicitly requires disciplined study of its systems and forms, both spoken and written."
The challenge of teaching reading to children with significant academic challenges requires educators to be armed with the latest knowledge and scientifically based research methods.