Key points:

States are ensuring teachers have thorough professional development as they implement lessons learned from the science of reading

Using digital tools can positively impact students’ literacy achievement

See related article: As we embrace the ‘science of reading,’ we can’t leave out older students

While this fall marks my 38th year in education, it has been 28 years since I was a classroom teacher. Teaching elementary school was the hardest job I ever had, but there are many parts of the role I miss. This time of year, I especially miss the opportunity to teach young learners to read and write. As any elementary educator will tell you, seeing a child’s eyes light up as they grow into individuals capable of expressing themselves and exploring their own interests through the written word is one of the greatest joys in life.

The fulfillment I find in helping elementary school students develop their literacy skills has driven my interest in the science of reading. As the single most-discussed topic in education at this moment, the science of reading has been a focus of intense interest in state legislatures nationwide. Specifically, as of July 2023, about 30 states have passed legislation or created new policies focused on teaching reading.

But what is the science of reading? One of the most useful definitions of this incredibly important body of work comes from the Ohio Department of Education, which explains that the science of reading is a body of scientific evidence that:

Informs how students learn to read and write proficiently

Explains why some students have difficulty with reading and writing

that all students benefit from explicit and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and writing to become effective readers

Does not rely on any model of teaching students to read based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues