Key Considerations for Reading Instruction

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Reading is an essential skill that lays the foundation for success in school and beyond. As such, it’s no surprise that the research and evidence that inform our understanding of how reading skills develop and how best to teach reading – is a hot topic in the field of education.

There are a number of considerations and debates that continue to surround reading. Here are just a few:

  1. The role of phonics: Some argue that phonics instruction – teaching students to decode words by sounding them out – is the most effective way to teach reading, while others argue that a more holistic approach that emphasizes comprehension and meaning is more effective.
  2. The importance of oral language development: Strong oral language skills are a strong predictor of reading success, and some educators argue that more attention should be paid to building these skills in young children.
  3. The role of technology: While some educators argue that technology, such as computer-based reading programs, can be an effective tool for teaching reading, others caution that too much reliance on technology can detract from other important aspects of reading instruction, such as direct instruction and one-on-one interactions with teachers.
  4. The influence of socio-economic status: Children from low-income families are at a higher risk of reading difficulties, and some educators argue that more needs to be done to address this inequity and ensure that all children have access to high-quality reading instruction.
  5. The influence of culture: Some educators argue that reading instruction needs to be culturally responsive, taking into account the cultural backgrounds and experiences of students in order to be more effective.
  6. In Ontario, play-based kindergarten programs have been shown to be effective in promoting literacy development, as they provide young children with rich, engaging experiences that support the development of oral language and pre-reading skills.
  7. Another important issue to consider in the science of reading is the unique needs of English language learners. According to Dr. Jim Cummins, a leading expert in the field of second language acquisition, it’s important to recognize that English language learners often have different language backgrounds and experiences, and that this can impact their reading development. He suggests that teachers should be mindful of these differences and adopt an approach that is sensitive to the needs of English language learners.
  8. Finally, there is a lack of racial diversity among researchers and subjects in the science of reading, which has led to a lack of representation and inclusion of diverse perspectives in the field. This lack of diversity can have a number of negative consequences, including the perpetuation of biases and the exclusion of important research questions and approaches that may be relevant to underserved or underrepresented communities. One potential impact of this lack of diversity is the limited generalizability of research findings to diverse populations. For example, if the majority of research subjects are from a particular racial or ethnic group, it may be difficult to draw conclusions about how reading is experienced or how reading interventions are effective for individuals from other racial or ethnic backgrounds. This can result in a lack of knowledge and understanding about the unique needs and challenges faced by these populations when it comes to reading.

The reading is a complex and multifaceted field, and there are many different factors to consider when it comes to teaching reading effectively. It’s important to be mindful of issues such as the role of phonics instruction, the importance of play-based learning in early childhood, and the unique needs of English language learners, as we work to ensure that all students have access to high-quality reading instruction. It is important for the science of reading to actively work towards increasing racial diversity among researchers and subjects in order to promote more inclusive and representative research practices. This can be achieved through initiatives such as targeted recruitment and mentorship programs, as well as the development of research questions and approaches that are sensitive to the diverse experiences and needs of different communities. By doing so, the field can work towards advancing a more equitable and inclusive understanding of reading.

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4 responses to “Key Considerations for Reading Instruction”

  1. A comparison of ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ assessment approaches for reading – Big Ideas in Education Avatar

    […] So, what are the strengths and limitations of each approach? DIBELS is quick and easy to administer, providing a quick overview of students’ decoding skills. However, it can be limited in that it separates reading skills from the larger context of reading as a whole, and it doesn’t take into account cultural context or the interactive flow of information between teacher and student. See more in this blog post: Key Issues in the Science of Reading. […]


  2. adunsiger Avatar

    Thanks for writing this post! You have me thinking a lot about the Science of Reading. Coincidentally, it was also a part of a blog post that I was writing, when yours popped up in my feed. 🙂

    I do wonder if the Science of Reading, and the thinking around phonics instruction, could be a piece of the puzzle, but not the whole puzzle. For instance, I’ve seen examples of using visuals after decoding words to help ELL students, or even students with different language needs, better understand the vocabulary that they’re reading. I’ve done something like this when working with a student who is identified with ASD. It would be interesting to do a follow-up post to this. After highlighting the problems, what might be some of the solutions? Curious to know what you and others think.



    1. Deborah McCallum; Big Ideas in Education Avatar

      Thank you Aviva, I really appreciate your comment. I could not agree more that phonics is a piece of the puzzle, but not the whole puzzle. There are so many facets to think about. I think that solutions start with a comprehensive literacy program that includes phonics, I think that it also starts with more funding for tier 2 & 3 supports being available for primary students right away. I am in such a role now and highly recommend this. Solutions also look like deepening knowledge about the differences between supporting EAL learners, and supporting special needs. In addition, the provision of job-embedded coaching supports that provide that just-in-time learning and growth opportunities.

      I agree that a follow up post highlighting these would be a good idea!
      Thanks Aviva!


      1. adunsiger Avatar

        Thanks for this reply, Deb, and for writing the follow-up post! I think that exploring solutions and sharing ideas are so important!



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