Facts about Illiteracy
Illiteracy has become such a serious problem in our country that 44 million adults are now unable to read a simple story to their children.
Three out of four people on welfare can't read.
School dropouts cost our nation $240 billion in social service expenditures and lost tax revenues.
Three out of five people in American prisons can't read and 85% of juvenile offenders have problems reading.
Many preservice teachers are not receiving the instruction they need to be able to teach reading effectively. We believe the solution to the reading dilemma is to go straight to the source: colleges of education/preservice teachers.
- Kirsch, Irwin S, et al. “Adult Literacy in America.” NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS, Apr. 2002, nces.ed.gov/pubs93/93275.pdf.
- Moats, Louisa. “Knowledge Foundations for Teaching Reading and Spelling.” Keys to Literacy, Springer Science Business Media B.V., 23 Jan. 2009, www.keystoliteracy.com/wp-content/pdfs/orc-genlit/Knowledge of foundations for teaching.pdf.
- Brady, Susan, and Louisa Moats. “Informed Instruction for Reading Success: Foundations for Teacher Preparation. A Position Paper of the International Dyslexia Association.” ERIC Institution of Education Sciences, 1997, files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED411646.pdf.
Teachers should no longer be taught that teaching is an exercise in personal philosophy and that learning to read is a natural, organic process" (Walsh et al., 2006)
Learn more about our solution
7 Pillars of Effective Reading Instruction
RISE supports teachers in bringing the best research-based instruction to emerging readers (K-3), struggling readers (grade 4-adult) and English language learners. RISE endorses both teacher-led direct instruction and software-based instruction. While nothing can match the level of learning that comes from hands-on, multi-sensory teaching lead by a skilled teacher, software-based instruction can also play an important role in the learning process.
What do excellent teachers know and do in the classroom? RISE assists teachers in creating classrooms where research in reading instruction is translated into practice. This includes the 7 pillars of effective reading instruction. The “pillars” are a framework developed by Reutzel and Cooper in 2011 to assist teachers in understanding all of the research about the teaching of reading.
- Have Teacher Knowledge - Each teacher of reading should understand the basics about phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. The teacher should understand how each of these important skills is related to the others, how the skills develop and how and when to teach them. The teacher should strive to continually stay abreast of the latest literacy research.
- Use Evidenced-Based Teaching Practices - Each teacher of reading should use strategies that are grounded in research. Using “evidenced-based” teaching practices means that the teacher will have excellent classroom management, teach the essential skills listed in the “teacher knowledge” section above, create a “print-rich” environment that includes lots of different reading materials, and have an interactive classroom where students are encouraged to engage in learning and talk to one another. Instructional programs should only include programs that have been proven to work through sound research.
- Apply Classroom Assessment - A excellent reading teacher is continually assessing the skills of each student. Real-time assessments provide the teacher with information needed to plan daily instruction based on what each student needs to learn or practice next. Assessments can include observations or performance measures that provide a specific understanding of a reader’s skill in a particular area.
- Employ Intervention Plans for Struggling and English Language Learners - When a reader is not progressing as expected, the teacher must provide additional support and assistance. Multiple interventions should be provided until the student has moved past the area of difficulty. Particular attention should be paid to students who are learning English for the first time. They will require additional time and support.
- Provide Motivation and Engagement - A student who wants to learn and participates actively in learning will progress much faster. A teacher can increase motivation and engagement by giving students choice, challenge and control over their learning. Students who talk to one another about their learning will be more engaged, so a collaborative classroom is ideal. The teacher can assist further by setting clear expectations coupled with meaningful feedback and consequences.
- Include Family and Community Connections - When parents, family and community are involved in the learning process, students learn more. Teachers who are able to provide strong connections to all of the people in the student’s world will likely have more success.
- Use Technology - Excellent teachers use and integrate technology into their daily reading and writing instruction. The use of software-based instruction can:
- individualize instruction so that each student learns exactly what is required at that moment in order to progress;
- maintain consistency so that reading instruction is organized, systematic and sequential;
- facilitate independence so that reading students can move forward as quickly as possible;
- extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom.
What type of instruction prevents and remediates reading problems?
Learning to read, like math and science, is a complex process. However, unlike math and science, very few people understand the complexities involved with learning to read. Because reading comes easily for some learners, including most teachers, many are unaware of the process required to learn to read - thus, few know how to explain it. This is one reason why teaching reading requires a knowledgeable, well trained teacher in order to provide effective systematic direct instruction to students.
For students who show gaps in sight word and decoding knowledge it is important that instruction include reading and rereading familiar texts where phonics rules can be applied and practiced. The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) recommends the following key components:
- Linguistics. Instruction should focus on assuring that the use of phonics patterns on the word and sentence level becomes fluent.
- Meaning-based. An emphasis on comprehension and composition should always be the end goal of instruction.
- Multisensory. During instruction and practice the simultaneous use of two or more sensory pathways (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, tactile) should be used.
- Phonemic awareness. Offer students reteaching in how to detect, segment, blend, and manipulate “sounds” in spoken language.
- Explicit direct instruction. Phonics instruction should be systematic (structured), sequential, and cumulative, and presented in a logical sequential plan that fits the nature of language (alphabetic principle), with no assumption of prior skills of language knowledge.
Students who do not initially receive systematic instruction in the sound structure system of English and letter/sound correspondences:
- take longer to become fluent readers (Johnston & Watson, 2006)
- are vulnerable to reading failure especially if they are not independently reading grade-level text by mid-first grade.
- are not reaching optimal levels of reading proficiency (this is emphatically true for students in high-poverty areas).
- are left to guess words from context which only works 10%- 25% of the time with content words (Foorman, 1995; Share & Stanovich, 1995) or memorize words by their shape, etc.
- are more likely to struggle with content words encountered in grades 3-12, preventing them from attending to meaning.
The importance of explicit and systematic phonics instruction
We now know that learning to read requires instruction in five critical areas; phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. It has been recently discovered that oral language, concept of print, and writing are also important skills necessary for proficient reading. Unfortunately in the recent past, the essential role of effective phonics instruction has been misunderstood and severely neglected. In order for phonics instruction to be effective, it should be explicitly taught and systematically organized in a sequence that moves from simple letter-sound correspondences to more complex patterns and rules (NICHD, 2000). These basic skills must be taught, practiced, and mastered so students can quickly and accurately identify words. When this happens, the brain is free to focus on comprehending what is being read. Repetition and practice in the fundamentals of decoding are necessary elements of effective reading instruction. In fact, overlearning the basics is critical. Overlearning the basics of decoding allows those basics to become automatic and reduces the amount of mental effort required to read. The energy that is saved is then used by the brain to focus on comprehension.
The complexity of the English Language
If you have not said it before, you have certainly heard people say something like, “English is so complicated/confusing/inconsistent/crazy that it is amazing that anyone learns to read and write at all” or “There are so many rules and exceptions to the rules that it makes the teacher’s job difficult and just ends up confusing the students.” However, these sentiments are misconceptions. English, though it is a complex language, is not as complicated as people may think. There is order and consistency to the English language that becomes apparent with proper instruction. The problem is not with the language itself; rather the language instruction that the majority of students have experienced.
Louisa Moats (1995) pointed out that at least 20 sounds in the English language have spellings that are more than 90% predictable, and Steven Pinker noted that “for about eighty-four percent of English words, spelling is completely predictable from regular rules” (1994, p. 190). So the goal for teachers is to teach the very common letter-sound patterns and the history of as many irregular words as possible. When teachers and students understand the consistent patterns of written English, as well as the historical basis of words, they can better understand the regularities and the relatively few irregularities in English words (Henry, 2010).
Highly Effective Reading Teachers
A master reading teacher keeps up with cutting-edge developments in the field. They are constantly learning and somewhat dissatisfied even if they are getting good results in the classroom. They are constantly seeking out new ideas that are research-based that will help them support children in becoming strong readers. Decades of research has verified that basic skills must be learned in an approximate order. Master teachers know what those skills are and know when and how to teach them.
A master teacher of reading understands that skills must be taught directly, through hands-on, multisensory techniques. Additionally, they realize that teaching reading is not just skill based. Teaching reading also requires sensitivity to the child’s interests, motivation, and emotional responses.
A documented conclusion from a landmark report, Becoming a Nation of Readers: The Report of the Commission of Reading, way back in 1985, stated that the primary ingredient for reading success is a knowledgeable, skillful teacher who is articulate about their work. Since then, many other research projects have documented and verified this truth (Strickland et al., 2002; haskelkorn & Harrison, 2001; Ferguson, 1991; Rowan, Corretini, & Miller, 2002; Sanders & rivers, 1996; McCardle & Chhabra, 2004; Mosenthal, Lipson, Torncello, Russ, & Mekkelsen, 2004).
“An indisputable conclusion of research is that the quality of teaching makes a considerable difference in children’s learning." (Anderson, Hiebert, Scott, & Wilkinson, 1985, p. 85)
Learn how to explain the Reading Process to Students
One of our sponsors, Reading Horizons, provides 30-days of free access to an online training for teachers that reveals the underlying rules of the English language. The strategies taught in the workshop make providing systematic and explicit decoding instruction to beginning readers, struggling readers, and English language learners a simpler process. You can sign up for 30-days of free access by clicking here.