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The Science of Reading: The Basics

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The Science of Reading: The BasicsClick to Enlarge

There are so many pieces to the Science of Reading that it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are a few highlights about what the Science of Reading IS and what it IS NOT. This knowledge will help you on your journey to teaching all children, including those with diverse needs and cultural backgrounds, to read.

What it IS

A Collection of Research

Research, over time, from multiple fields of study using methods that confirm and disconfirm theories on how children best learn to read.

Teaching Based on the 5 Big Ideas

Phonemic Awareness - The ability to identify and play with individual sounds in spoken words.

Phonics - Reading instruction on understanding how letters and groups of letters link to sounds to form letter- sound relationships and spelling patterns.

Fluency - The ability to read words, phrases, sentences, and stories correctly, with enough speed, and expression.

Vocabulary - Knowing what words mean and how to say and use them correctly.

Comprehension - The ability to understand what you are reading.

Ever Evolving

There is new research and evidence all the time. As populations, communities, and approaches evolve, so should practice.

What it is NOT

A program, an intervention, or a product that you can buy.

The Science of Reading could be considered an approach to teaching reading that is based on decades of research and evidence. It is NOT a specific program.

Phonics-based programs that drill phonics skills.

Phonics is an integral part of teaching reading based on science, but it is just one of the five big ideas that should be taught so all children can learn to read.

Complete and no more study needs to be done.

As with any science, it is never complete. We can always know more. More study happens all the time and researchers, teachers, and families can work together to bring the best research into classrooms.

Suggested Citation

National Center on Improving Literacy (2022). The Science of Reading: The Basics. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Office of Special Education Programs, National Center on Improving Literacy. Retrieved from