The Nation’s Report Card indicates that many students demonstrate only a basic mastery of reading; in 2022, only one in three fourth-graders scored proficient (or above) in reading. These scores might have influenced the ‘science of reading’ to usurp the ‘see and guess’ literacy methodologies that many schools now use for reading curriculum.
Schools are questioning the methodologies used in their reading curricula as the current approach has proven to be ineffective in helping students gain proficiency. Many states have adopted ‘the science of reading’ as an educational standard, but not every state has updated its literacy curriculum. How can parents advocate for the science of reading?
What is the Science of Reading?
Parents might have heard the term ‘the science of reading’ to refer to literacy instruction at their child’s school. The ‘science of reading’ is used to denote methodologies for literacy instruction that have been proven to be effective in helping children to learn to read proficiently.
A curriculum that focuses on the ‘science of reading’ is heavily concentrated on phonics skills and lessons in early elementary grade-levels. The NWEA explains that the science of reading also incorporates vocabulary comprehension, reading (or textual) comprehension, fluency and phonological awareness.
All these skills help children develop reading proficiency. Unfortunately, school districts have veered away from this evidence-based instruction to lead their literacy curriculum. Instead, schools taught students—especially those who struggled to read fluently—to use pictures to help them guess the words on a page. While this approach helped students in the short-term, ‘guessing’ didn’t allow children to develop the strategies needed to decode words successfully and grow their reading abilities.
As many students have fallen behind and failed to reach grade-level proficiency in reading, states are questioning the design of their literacy curriculum. Districts and state boards of education now understand that teaching phonics is essential to helping children learn to read.
Not every school district or state has embraced the science of reading yet. Can parents move the needle and encourage their school to incorporate the ‘science’ into their reading curriculum?
How Parents Can Impact Change
Parents always have a voice in their child’s school experience. Whether this ‘voice’ is advocating for their child in a quick email to the teacher or making their opinions heard at a school board meeting, being present matters. However, a reactive approach isn’t a proactive approach. This means that anger and fury won’t positively influence educators and district or state decision makers.
Some districts and state education leaders might be in the midst of changing curriculum while others are still committed to their current ‘look and guess’ approach to literacy. Parents might feel that they are in the dark about the content of their child’s reading curriculum and are unsure how their school district is guiding the reading journey. How can parents understand how literacy is being taught in their school or school district?
For public school districts, curriculum is posted online for parents to review. Parents can visit the main website for their school district to review the curriculum content for different grades and subjects. In addition, elementary and middle school classrooms might provide parents with a curriculum outline and resources about current subjects and lessons.
If parents are unsure if their child is learning ‘the science of reading’ through phonics, vocabulary enrichment and other key skills, they should explore the curriculum content via their district. If they discover that the district is teaching the ‘guessing’ approach to reading, parents can start to explore opportunities to make their voice heard.
How to Advocate for the Science of Reading
Public schools adhere to state guidelines related to curriculum. This doesn’t mean that districts can’t utilize different techniques and lessons, but they need to be in line with the directives set forth by the state department of education. Kappan explains that states “…often set minimum curricular requirements for school districts.”
How are states influencing the development of reading curriculum? Some states stipulate that districts must incorporate phonics or other strategies into the reading curriculum. In fact, Education Week reported that several states passed laws about teaching the science of reading. Through these laws, states are taking the lead to ensure that curriculum adheres to this evidence-based approach to teaching children how to read.
If parents are concerned that their child’s school has not yet incorporated the ‘science of reading’ into their curriculum, they can advocate for change. Again, districts can develop their curriculum; individual teachers, though, must follow the district’s lead.
Reaching out to the teacher or trying to change curriculum through the teacher or school principal won’t be effective or impactful. However, parents can attend school board meetings and raise their concerns at these meetings. Parents also can reach out to those in charge of developing the literacy curriculum in their district.
Changing curriculum at a state level also could be impactful. Parents can reach out to their state representative to raise awareness about the science of reading. However, parents also might research any current legislation related to reading; some states might already be pushing for change.
Parents also should realize that change takes time. Curriculum won’t be revamped overnight or even by the end of the school year. Instead, raising awareness at board meetings and reaching out to other stakeholders could be impactful to revitalizing the curriculum.
How to Help Children with Phonics
Parents who realize that their child isn’t receiving literacy instruction that is focused on the science of reading can provide this instruction at home. The Readability reading app is designed to help children develop reading proficiency through a results-driven and evidence-based approach to literacy.
Readability can be used by children in kindergarten through sixth grade; the program helps children develop reading fluency and gain comprehension mastery. Readability also provides vocabulary enrichment to ensure that children boost this essential skill.
The program features a built-in AI reading tutor that learns each child’s voice. When using Readability, children are prompted to read books and stories aloud. The tutor can identify when the child struggles to sound out a word. Like an in-person instructor, the AI tutor provides feedback and encouragement.
Children begin lessons on Readability at one reading level below their current level. This helps children feel more confident as they learn to work with the tutor.
At each reading level, children have access to a library of nonfiction and fiction books. These books are designed to appeal to the child’s age level so that they remain engaged with the program. Each book includes a list of vocabulary words, but children are encouraged to tap any word in the story to hear the word used in a sentence or hear the word’s definition.
Readability tests the child’s comprehension of every book they read. At the end of the book or story, the tutor leads a reading comprehension quiz. However, if the child incorrectly answers a question, the tutor teaches them the power of re-reading as a strategy to boost comprehension. The tutor shows the child a section from the book that provides clues that help them answer the question. The tutor reads the section aloud and the child is provided with another opportunity to answer the question.
Readability focuses on the fundamentals of the science of reading. Children learn to decode words they have difficulty reading, and the program is designed to help each child improve their vocabulary knowledge and increase their reading comprehension, too.
Parents researching effective programs to improve their child’s reading proficiency can explore Readability for free with their child. Sign up for a free seven-day trial period to meet the AI tutor and learn how this program can help children improve their phonics skills, gain reading proficiency and increase their reading fluency. Sign up for a trial today!