Reading—it’s a Science! This blog series will focus on the elements of the Science of Reading, orthographic mapping, decoding, and practical applications for teachers. See the first blog post here.

What is the science-supported tool that you can use to help your students build the skills necessary to become proficient readers?


For students’ brains to make the necessary connections that support orthographic mapping, decoding instruction must occur. Decades of research have proven that “Providing students with a solid foundation in decoding skills increases the likelihood that they will be able to read complex texts—containing unfamiliar words—independently.

Decoding requires several skills:

  • phonemic awareness—the understanding that spoken words are made of individual sounds
  • phonological awareness—the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual units of sound
  • automatic letter-sound correspondence—quick recognition of letters and letter combinations and the sounds they make to read the word

The research tells us that these skills are not automatic and must be taught. Students do not learn to read the words simply by being exposed to text. Students cannot determine words in a text by looking at its pictures. Reading does not just happen.

It’s not enough to teach students how to read words as they appear in texts and other instructional materials. Scientists have determined that students need “explicit, systematic phonics instruction” because the research has shown that “Insufficient phonics instruction in early grades can impede students’ reading ability in later grades.”

With this in mind, here is a simple example of what explicit, systematic instruction might look like in your classroom.

While learning to read is complex, science-supported tools help build your students’ skills. There are many phonics programs available. Implementing one that applies a systematic, explicit method will provide students with the decoding skills they need.

Reading is truly a science—and with the right approach—you can provide your students with the toolkit of decoding skills necessary to become proficient readers.

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See the next blog in this series for additional ideas for delivering decoding instruction.