The Science of Reading in Action

Whether you are an educator new to the Science of Reading and preparing to make the shift or a literacy expert looking to strengthen your Science of Reading implementation, Savvas Learning Company has the resources, tips, and insights to help you on your Science of Reading journey.


What is the Science of Reading?

The Science of Reading is a large body of research on how children learn to read. Gathered over the past 40 years, this evidence-based body of knowledge highlights the most effective strategies for teaching children how to read. For example, the Science of Reading indicates that students need systematic, explicit instruction in the following critical elements of reading: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. When students are directly taught these essential skills while they are learning to read, they will have a better chance at becoming successful readers.

What are the Key Elements of the Science of Reading?

  • Science of Reading Components
  • Reading Instruction
  • Practices to Avoid

Science of Reading Components

  • Phonological Awareness
    Phonological awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the sounds in spoken language. Phonological awareness includes word awareness, rhyme awareness, syllable awareness, onset and rime awareness, and phonemic awareness.
  • Phonics
    Phonics is the ability to associate the sounds of spoken language with the letters of written text. Letter-sound correspondences, decoding, and encoding are skills that students learn and practice as they grow in their phonics abilities.
  • Fluency
    Fluency is the ability to read words at an appropriate speed, accurately, and with expression. These three components of fluency are often known as rate, accuracy, and prosody. Strong fluency requires that students are able to read with automaticity.
  • Vocabulary
    Vocabulary is the knowledge of the meaning of words and the ability to apply that knowledge to text. Vocabulary is often deeply intertwined with background knowledge. Content vocabulary is specific to a subject area, whereas academic vocabulary is used across multiple subject areas.
  • Comprehension
    Comprehension is the ability to read, process, and understand the meaning of written text. A common formula for comprehension is: Word Reading + Vocabulary + Background Knowledge = Reading Comprehension. Comprehension is a skill that grows throughout a person’s lifetime.

Reading Instruction

  • Explicit Instruction
    Explicit instruction is clear, direct instruction. The components of explicit instruction include articulating the skill, telling students why they’re learning the skill, applying the skill, scaffolding lessons in the gradual release model, providing feedback, and checking for understanding.
  • Systematic Instruction
    Systematic instruction is sequenced: lessons are carefully planned out and delivered in an order — or sequence — that builds upon the students’ prior knowledge and moves from simple to more complex skills or concepts.
  • Integrated Instruction
    Integrated instruction involves teaching a skill, and then giving students multiple subsequent opportunities to apply and practice that skill, especially in other content areas such as writing, science, or math.
  • Engaging Instruction
    Engaging instruction captures students’ interests and inspires a love of learning. Science of Reading research identifies student engagement as one of the critical components to effective reading instruction right along with explicit, systematic, and integrated instruction.
  • Multisensory Instruction
    Multisensory lessons incorporate multiple learning modalities, such as speaking, listening, moving, touching, reading, and writing activities. Combining visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning can activate different parts of the brain and stimulate growth.

Practices to Avoid

  • Avoid: Cueing Systems
    Cueing systems, such as the “3-cueing system,” encourage students to use “cues” (such as “picture cues” or “context cues”) to guess or infer the meaning of a word or phrase. With the Science of Reading, students should learn how to decode and encode words as part of phonics instruction.
  • Avoid: Rote Memorization of Sight Words
    Avoid using rote memorization to teach decodable “sight words.” Instead, with the Science of Reading, students should learn how to decode and encode words as part of phonics instruction. Note that students will need to memorize non-decodable words, such as “two” and “could,” but decodable words should not be memorized.
  • Avoid: Silent Fluency
    Avoid having students practice fluency skills primarily via silent reading. When instruction is aligned with the Science of Reading, students will have ample opportunity to practice fluency by reading aloud.
  • Avoid: Only Using Leveled Readers
    Use decodable readers to help build and reinforce students’ phonic skills when students are learning to read. Especially with beginning readers, avoid sorting students into reading groups based on reading ability and having them practice reading using leveled texts. Instead, make sure all students have the opportunity to practice their reading skills with rich, engaging grade-level texts.
  • Science of Reading vs. Balanced Literacy
    Balanced literacy is a loosely defined term that means different things to different educators. However, most forms of balanced literacy rely on implicit instruction (e.g., skills are not directly taught) for teaching foundational reading skills. However, without explicit instruction in these skills, most students will struggle to become strong, independent readers. Look for instructional programs that are rooted in the Science of Reading.

Why Does the Science of Reading Matter?


In Elementary

23% of third graders with below-basic reading skills do not graduate high school by age 19.1


In Secondary

82% of sixth graders who failed an English class did not go on to graduate high school. 2


Math and Science

70% more math and science questions are answered correctly by students with strong reading skills.3

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Explore the Research Behind the Science of Reading

  • Simplified eBook
  • Research Brief
  • Instructional eBook
  • Podcast

The Science of Reading Simplified eBook

Featuring award-winning researcher and author Dr. Sharon Vaughn, The Science of Reading Simplified eBook shares what every educator should know about the Science of Reading in simplified, straightforward terms. Get teaching tips for the classroom, explore activities to share with families and caregivers, and learn what to look for in teaching materials that use the Science of Reading most effectively.

Get Your Copy

Research Brief: The Science of Reading

Interested in the research behind the Science of Reading? Read this Research Brief to get an overview of the decades of studies that have contributed to our understanding of the Science of Reading, and learn how the Science of Reading differs from other instructional approaches.

Read Now

How to Align Your Instruction to the Science of Reading

What are the four main components of Science of Reading-aligned instruction, and how can teachers implement them in the classroom? Featuring Savvas author and literacy expert Dr. Lee Wright, this eBook provides actionable insights into what explicit, systematic, integrated, and engaging instruction looks like in the elementary classroom.

Coming Soon

Science of Reading Podcasts

Want to learn about the Science of Reading and other essential education topics directly from the experts? Listen to the Fresh Ideas for Teaching podcast! Check out episodes like The Science of Reading: Clarifying Misconceptions with researcher Dr. Sharon Vaughn or What is Systematic & Explicit Instruction? with author Dr. Elfrieda “Freddy” Hiebert. 

Listen Now

Take the Science of Reading Master Course


What is the Science of Reading?


What is engaging instruction?

Science of Reading in the Classroom


For Administrators

It’s important for education leaders to check in on the quality of the curriculum and instruction through direct observation. With our Science of Reading Classroom Observation Checklist, you can start to understand how well the curriculum and instruction in your school is aligned with the Science of Reading — which can help students become successful readers and ultimately increase student achievement.


For Teachers

This Setting Up Your Science of Reading Classroom guide was developed to ensure that your elementary classroom supports learning and instruction anchored in the Science of Reading. By carefully considering each area of your classroom’s layout, you can ensure that your physical space maximizes student engagement, allows for comprehensive monitoring, and makes it easy to implement the best practices for teaching reading.

Put the Science of Reading into Action


Classroom Resources

50 Fun Phonics Activities


Insights & Tips

Unpacking the Science of Reading


Insights & Tips

The Science of Reading: Clarifying Misconceptions


Insights & Tips

Tiny Steps to Incorporate the Science of Reading


Classroom Resources

3 Weeks of Free ELA resources


Classroom Resources

10 Ways to Word Sort


Insights & Tips

Strengthening Phonics and Vocabulary with Word Study Webinar

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School Stories

In these inspirational stories, you'll learn about what schools and districts from across the country are doing to help students succeed and shape the future of education.

Get Inspired

1. Balfanz, R., L. Herzog, & D. Mac Iver. “Preventing student disengagement and keeping students on the graduation path in urban middle-grades schools: Early identification and effective interventions,” Educational Psychologist 42, no. 4 (2007): 223-235.

2. Cromley, J. G. “Reading achievement and science proficiency: International comparisons from the Programme on International Student Assessment,” Reading Psychology 30, no. 89 (2009): 89-118.

3. Hernandez, D. J. “Double jeopardy: How third-grade reading skills and poverty influence high school graduation.” Baltimore, MD: The Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2012.

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