What is the Science of Reading?

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    The science of reading is an interdisciplinary field focusing on reading and writing and the issues accompanying those activities. Here’s all you need to know.

    The science of reading is a scientific field that encompasses interdisciplinary research into reading, writing, and all potential problems that may arise when trying to learn how to read and write. Since the field is so vast and since it is built on thousands of studies conducted in the past half a century or so, tackling all relevant aspects of it demands some care.

    Defining the science of reading

    The science of reading encompasses everything that falls under the umbrella of reading and related activities: language comprehension, phonics instruction, phonemic awareness, teaching reading, sight words, etc.

    The principal goal of the field is to provide sufficient, research-based evidence and information in regard to how we reach proficiency in reading and writing. In addition, it seeks to discover why some people have trouble reading, for example, dyslexia.

    Focusing on reading difficulties entails a quest for improved and more effective approaches to assessing and diagnosing problems that impair word recognition and decoding, make following reading instructions difficult, and hinder general reading fluency.

    The five components of the science of reading

    Even though evidence-based reading research is expansive and constantly developing, we can summarize it and divide it into five basic categories:

    Phonemic Awareness

    Language is primarily spoken. The words and speech segments we produce are imperfectly recorded on paper. When we communicate, we rely on our brains to recognize and decode phonemes, which are mutually contrastive sound units (e.g., changing one for the other can change the meaning of the whole word). Some people have issues with phonemic awareness and, thus, spoken language as a whole. The science of reading focuses on phonemic awareness, as it has been proven that increased phonemic awareness leads to higher reading success.

    Phonics

    Phonics is related to phonemic awareness, as you can guess by the very root phone. In essence, phonics is all about orthographic mapping, that is, letter-sound relationships. As you know, when we spell, we are recording sounds with characters, and knowing how to recognize those characters and map them to appropriate sounds in our language is crucial in developing proper literacy skills.

    Speech and reading fluency

    We don’t want to read — we want to read well. We want to read quickly, observe the natural rhythm of the language, and practice proper intonation when reading aloud. That is why fluency is an important aspect of linguistic research and the goal of all high-quality reading programs.

    Vocabulary

    Fluency comes hand in hand with vocabulary. Having an appropriate amount of words available to us when reading and writing ensures efficiency, as we don’t have to pause and linger before every word. That goes both when we are reading and when we are writing.

    Comprehension

    Comprehension may sound straightforward, but it actually encompasses all other categories and things like background knowledge in a single highly intricate process that enables us to understand the whole language: spoken and written. Thus, comprehension is both the ultimate goal of reading and the science of reading, which strives to enable everyone to reach it.

    The difference between reading and reading comprehension

    What is the difference between reading and reading comprehension? At the most basic level, reading is the very activity of translating characters to sounds or their mental representations when we subvocalize things in our minds. For reading to be fruitful, though, it must entail comprehension. Otherwise, we wouldn’t know what it is that we have read. That is, when reading (and hearing) something, we must understand and grasp the meaning of the words.

    Help students improve their reading skills by listening to lesson plans and documents online

    Struggling readers might be overwhelmed by all the information delivered to them in structured literacy programs, especially when we’re talking about early literacy.

    Reading science has made a lot of progress in the past few decades thanks to the vast body of research done in all areas, including linguistics, neuroscience, etc. Also, with all the assistive tech at our disposal, we can help most people learn the reading ropes.

    However, it is still easy for some learners to get discouraged and impair their own academic and professional development. That can be easily avoided with proper cueing and other teaching methods, but learners can also use text-to-speech (TTS) programs.

    Speechify is a TTS tool developed explicitly with those suffering from dyslexia and other reading difficulties in mind. The man behind the program, Cliff Weitzman, struggled with dyslexia himself, and so he drew from his personal experiences when designing the ultimate tool for others in a similar situation.

    Speechify is powered by sophisticated machine-learning algorithms, so its AI voices can analyze and replicate human voices with utmost accuracy, making it the perfect tool for building alphabetic and phonological awareness and supplementing literacy instruction, especially in foreign language classes.

    The app can also turn anything into audio files (including printed texts, thanks to its OCR capabilities), so students can use it to read their lesson plans, study materials, and online documents without having to resort to traditional reading methods.

    FAQs

    What is the first rule of reading?

    It is often said that the first rule of reading is to keep your eyes on the words. That might be funny, but it is true — being focused on the words in front of you is crucial. If your mind starts to wander, your reading comprehension will be diminished. Unless you are using audiobooks, that is.

    What are the different types of reading?

    Reading can be done in many ways. You can skim (read rapidly), scan (look for specific facts), and read a text in-depth (that is, focus on the text entirely). A balanced literacy demands you be able to do all of that, with or without explicit instruction.

    What are the three components of phonics?

    In the standard literacy approach, phonics elements include consonants, vowels, and various combinations of those into diagraphs and patterns. Of course, that goes for the English language only.

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman

    Cliff Weitzman is a dyslexia advocate and the CEO and founder of Speechify, the #1 text-to-speech app in the world, totaling over 100,000 5-star reviews and ranking first place in the App Store for the News & Magazines category. In 2017, Weitzman was named to the Forbes 30 under 30 list for his work making the internet more accessible to people with learning disabilities. Cliff Weitzman has been featured in EdSurge, Inc., PC Mag, Entrepreneur, Mashable, among other leading outlets.

    Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify Dyslexia & Accessibility Advocate, CEO/Founder of Speechify

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