The ScienceS of Reading

Share Button

The microscope is a wonderful tool to get an up-close look at the world. Through it, scientists study the fine lines and inner workings of life.

If education researchers wish to guide children to see, understand and participate in the world they live in, however, we must step back from that fine-grained, narrow view and recognize how limiting it can be. Close-up views can limit teachers and families in knowing exactly what to do for their own children’s learning. Consequently, many never get it.

On the other hand, broad views can offer perspective and clarity that we teach children to read not only based on thousands of reading pedagogy studies, but also on making sure that children understand that the WHY of reading books is the person behind their eyes…THEMSELVES.

Literacy scientists have focused on figuring out every in-and-out of reading development. However, teaching reading so that each unique child can learn to do it effortlessly, focusing on seeing through a page and into the thoughts of wonderful authors and great illustrators, requires that we must fully understand kids individually. 

Consider the Science graphic shown here. The “Science of Reading,” a currently trendy topic in schools and universities, is like any of these others, but in comparison, it is so particular that it doesn’t even make this fascinating list. Most of us know a little about each of the topics shown, but rolled together they, with hundreds of other smaller areas of inquiry, they offer a full set of resources we need to provide a rich education. We must use them all to create excitement in children for a full learning life, the path to their potential roles in how and why the world and its inhabitants work the way they do. 

We can’t teach children to be literate–i.e., self-directed, lifelong learners–using the scholarship and science only about reading. If we wish to teach a child to use literacy to create a rich command of language to connect with others, we must recognize that kids don’t become lifelong readers by learning to merely “say” words or to read “accurately” about topics assigned by others. They must be taught to seek out and read THEIR books, and then to write about whatever THEY actually care about. THAT is what makes doing the hard work of learning to read and write worth it for each child. 

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

We’ve used the science of reading to guide teaching children to look great on standardized scores, though the elusive reading proficiency still doesn’t happen for fully two-thirds of children. Hence, we’re still failing if each child hasn’t developed a lifelong habit of reading self-selected books that spark their imaginations and touch their hearts.

So, let’s ask ourselves: Why might schools focus upon a science that seeks to improve reading test scores? Maybe because that’s just easier than fully educating lifelong readers and learners.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,