Scientific Principles of Reading Instruction

These principles have been distilled from the findings of more than 30 years of research studies under two very expensive federally funded programs: the $200 million in studies conducted under the direction of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), and the $1 billion Project Follow Through Study. The research indicates that, to be most effective, these principles should be taught in sequence:

  1. Teach phonemic awareness directly in kindergarten. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of elementary speech sounds.
  2. Teach, explicitly and in isolation, the single speech sound-spelling represented by each letter or letter combination. Provide practice in recognizing these speech sound-spelling relationships in decodable text.
  3. Teach frequent, highly regular speech sound-spelling relationships systematically progressing from easier to more difficult, and provide practice reading them daily, first in isolation and then in the context of words and sentences.
  4. Teach students directly how to sound out words by blending the words’ speech sound-spellings together sequentially from left to right, and then provide practice using words composed of only those speech sound-spelling relationships that have been systematically taught.
  5. Provide connected, decodable text for students to use to practice the speech sound-spelling relationships they have learned.
  6. Teach reading comprehension using interesting teacher read stories that include words most students have not yet learned to read, but which are part of their spoken vocabulary.
  7. Teach decoding and comprehension skills concurrently but separately, until reading becomes fluent such that comprehension skills learned through teacher-read literature can be applied to the students’ own reading once they become fluent decoders.