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  • Amoriza Gunnink

Transforming Young Minds: Literacy Development and Explicit Reading Instruction



The significance of explicitly teaching reading to young children cannot be overstated. Embracing the science of reading is crucial for developing fundamental reading skills in the formative years of a child's life. This article aims to explore the essential practices relating to the science of reading, highlight important strategies that differentiate it from a laissez-faire approach, and present academic and empirical evidence supporting its impact on student outcomes. Additionally, we will examine the correlation between illiteracy and poverty in Canada and the U.S., sharing compelling statistics and emphasizing the importance of prioritizing literacy.

The Importance of Explicit Reading Instruction:

Research has consistently shown that explicit reading instruction is critical for young children's development. According to the National Reading Panel (2000), systematic and explicit phonics instruction significantly improves children's reading comprehension and is more effective than non-systematic or no phonics instruction. Furthermore, the National Early Literacy Panel (2008) found that early intervention programs focusing on alphabet knowledge, phonological awareness, and oral language skills lead to improved reading outcomes.

Key Practices in the Science of Reading:

  1. Phonemic Awareness: Teaching children to recognize and manipulate the individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words is a crucial component of early reading instruction.

  2. Systematic Phonics Instruction: Children need to learn the relationships between letters and sounds (grapheme-phoneme correspondence) systematically and explicitly to decode words effectively.

  3. Vocabulary Development: Building a rich vocabulary is essential for comprehension, as children must understand the words they read to make meaning of the text.

  4. Reading Fluency: Developing reading fluency involves teaching children to read accurately and with proper expression.

  5. Reading Comprehension: Effective reading comprehension instruction includes teaching children strategies to monitor their understanding, make connections, and draw inferences from the text.

The Science of Reading vs. the Laissez-Faire Approach:

The science of reading emphasizes explicit instruction, systematic progression, and evidence-based practices that have been proven effective in teaching children to read. In contrast, a laissez-faire approach relies on incidental learning, where children are expected to pick up reading skills naturally through exposure to books and other print materials without direct instruction. This method doesn't work and only leaves children behind. Studies have shown that the science of reading leads to improved student outcomes.

Illiteracy, Poverty, and the Need for Strong Literacy Skills:

In both Canada and the U.S., there is a strong correlation between illiteracy and poverty. According to Statistics Canada (2013), individuals with lower literacy skills are more likely to experience unemployment and low-income status. Our children deserve to be set up well, with the necessary literacy skills for their academic success and future well-being.

By implementing evidence-based literacy practices in the early years, we open wide windows of opportunities and create a brighter future for our children and society as a whole.

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