Defining the science of reading

By on Tuesday, December 19th, 2023 in Columbia Basin News More Top Stories

HERMISTON – The science of reading has become one of those phrases educators use that laypersons scramble to understand. Hermiston School District Director of Elementary Instruction Jerad Farley says the definition is simple.

“Science of reading is really what works for most kids most of the time in teaching them how to read,” he said.

Farley said when he was learning to read, phonics was still on the drawing board and whole language was the method used in classrooms. Now, however, after much research, it appears that basing instruction in phonics is the best way to help most beginning readers learn.

“Science of reading doesn’t just mean phonics,” he said. “However, that tends to be a good starting point. There are several components. You have to attend to phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension and fluency.”

Farley said when parents read to a child, they can help enhance their future reading skills by doing more than just reading a book. He pointed out that babies, simply by being in a language-rich environment, learn how to speak at very early ages. Tapping into a child’s language system can help their future reading.  

“Kids have to be able to hear first that words are made up of individual sounds,” he said. “In order to use our language systems, we have to teach kids that, like the word car is made of three individual sounds. Before we ever put print in front of kids, we have to get them to pay attention and say, ‘What sounds do you hear in car?’”

Farley learned to read with the whole language method. He says he remembers a large number of students in his class who were struggling with reading. “Whole language can work for some kids,” he said. “It doesn’t work for most kids.”