My name is Brian Spencer; I have been a reading teacher and educational software author for over 20 years. Teaching reading is the family business — my parents ran a reading center from the time I was a young child until I graduated from college. Even my aunt ran her own successful reading center, using software I wrote that was based on the systematic phonics program my parents had developed. So you might say teaching reading is in my blood.
Over the years I’ve read some of the popular books on the science of reading (Proust and the Squid, Reading in the Brain, and Language at the Speed of Sight), but it was a book I ran across last year that became my gateway into the world of reading science.
That book was Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties by David Kilpatrick, published in 2015. In his book, Kilpatrick synthesizes more than 40 years of reading research, explains the major theories and findings, and provides practical information and advice for successfully teaching children to read.
Kilpatrick’s book opened my eyes to the way students make the transition from beginning readers to skilled readers, through self-teaching and orthographic mapping. He gave me a much greater appreciation of the role that advanced phonemic awareness plays alongside phonics decoding skill for teaching all types of of students to be good readers.
Because it is an academic text, aimed at teaching professionals, the book provides hundreds of references to studies and papers embedded directly in the text. Curiosity led me to start googling some of the referenced papers and reading them. And those papers referenced other papers, which led to even more papers. Before I knew it, I became hooked on learning about the science of reading.
As I read more and more, and my knowledge and understanding grew, I was amazed. The truth is, this worldwide community of scientists has figured out how reading works and how it should be taught.
The truth is, this worldwide community of scientists has figured out how reading works and how it should be taught.
Yet the vast majority of people, including many teachers, are unaware of most of this. In fact, the dominant methods of teaching reading in most English-speaking countries — whole language, balanced literacy, and the three-cueing system — are absolutely proven to fail with many children.
It is incredible that so many schools and teachers continue to teach reading in ways that are completely disproven by the research. A common lament among reading scientists is that the vast knowledge they have collectively developed over decades is largely ignored in teacher training programs and school curriculums.
But the times are changing.
Today a worldwide movement is growing. Parents are fed up with their children failing to become good readers. Teachers are fed up with being improperly trained. Educators are fed up with reading curriculums that ignore scientific evidence and produce poor results. National and local media are beginning to spotlight the reading crisis that is crippling many of our children’s education and future. More and more people are demanding science-based reading instruction.
The purpose of this blog is to help you become a world-class reading teacher, by bringing you knowledge of the theory and practice of science-based reading instruction.