Almost ALL Students Can Learn to Read

We have a reading issue in our nation.

95% of students are not learning to read, even though about 95% have the cognitive ability to do so.

You see, even with decades of reading research, our curricular practices don’t yet match what the science of reading research indicates.

If you’re ready to start to increase the number of students who become good readers, the place to begin is with a reading curriculum/program based on the science of reading, a foundational tool for high-quality reading instruction.

Visual A shows a set of students in a classroom. Adorable, eh? These students come to school knowing they are going to learn to read. They’re excited to be in kindergarten to begin their reading journey, a journey that takes years to master. But, half the class is not learning to read even though the school has provided differentiated support.

Visual A

Most students have the cognitive capacity to learn to read

According to information provided in a research briefing by EAB, most students have the cognitive capacity to learn to read. Visual B shows my interpretation of the percentages provided in EAB’s research report, Narrowing the Third-Grade Reading Gap. The report indicates that while 95% of students have the cognitive capacity to learn, about half will only learn to read with explicit and direct instruction based on the foundational skills of reading.


Visual B provides EAB’s statistics related to the cognitive capacity of students in learning to read. Their data shows that about 30% of students are capable of learning to read regardless of instructional quality. Approximately 15% of students will require additional time and support to stay in or get back on track for Tier I instruction. About 50% of students will learn to read if they have Tier I explicit instruction in foundational skills of reading. Some students (about 5%) may have severe cognitive limitations and struggle with reading throughout their lives.

What is needed to ensure that more students learn to read?

The first step is to look at your curriculum/reading program. Do you have a balanced literacy program or a program based on the science of reading? Programs based on the science of reading provide all components of what students need to learn to read. These components are structured and substantial.

Visual C shows why a curriculum/reading program based on the science of reading is important. A curriculum/reading program based on the science of reading supports learning to read for all students, not just those who learn no matter the program.

Visual C

If we want almost all of our students to learn to read, we need to make smart choices when choosing a curriculum/reading program that supports all students in learning to read – and that means a curriculum/reading program based on the science of reading.

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Select Resources for Science of Reading

The resources that follow are organized into several categories: Books, Articles/Booklets, Media, and Blogs/Websites. I’ll continue to update this list of resources, but this is a pretty good start.



Association for Psychological Science. Beyond the reading wars: How the science of reading can improve literacy.

EAB. (2019). Narrowing the third-grade reading gap: Embracing the science of reading.

Fofaria, R.R. (2019). Can science knock down barriers to reading proficiency and rescue read to achieve?

Gentry, J. R. (2018). Bridging the gap between science and poor reading in America: Paying more attention to science can increase reading scores in America.

Hanford, E. (2018). Hard words. Why aren’t kids being taught to read? APMreports.

Linguist-Educator Exchange (2013). The history of the science of reading: Huey and the psychology of reading.

Opportunity Culture. (2019). Bring the science of reading into the classroom. A one-pager reference tool for the science of reading.

Ortiz, E. (2019). I embraced the science of reading and why you should too.

Reading Plus. (2019). The science of reading efficiency: 5 facts you can’t ignore.

Reyhner, J. (2020). The reading wars: Science versus whole language.

Sanchez, S. (2018). The gap between the science on kids and reading, and how it is taught. NPR-ED

Schwartz, S. and Sparks, S.D. (2019). How do kids learn to read? What the science says. Education Week.

Schwartz, S. (2019). Influential reading group makes it clear: Students need systematic, explicit phonics. Education Week.

Schwartz, S. (2019). Schools should follow the ‘science of reading,’ say national education groups. Education Week

Seidenberg, M. S. (2014). The science of reading and its educational implications.



The Science of Reading: The Podcast


The Science of Reading Instruction: Introduction

Chris Wimberly Science of Reading Presentation  

Learning to Read (Part 1) by Amplify. Both parts (Parts 1 and 2) of this set of booklets will become a go-to for those wanting to understand the science of reading.

Learning to Read (Part 2) by Amplify


The Science of Reading and School Leadership. Hosted by the Education Writers Association    

GTCS Webinar: The Science of Reading  

Kilpatrick Webinar Series. By the 95% group.

Science of Reading – Webinar Recording, December 2019.


The Science of Reading: An Overview by Dr. Jan Hasbrouck

Teaching Reading is Rocket Science – with Dr. Louisa Moats

What Teachers Should Know About the Science of Reading

College of Education Now Prepares Teachers in the Science of Reading 

Teacher Training and the Science of Teaching Reading 

Discovering the Reading Science

The Science of Reading

How Does Reading Change the Brain? [2:02]

Louisa Moats – Keynote Address at 2018 Reading League 

How Can We Bridge the Divide Between the Science of Reading and What Happens in Classrooms?  [2:27]

The Huge Misconception About Reading  [2:42]

The Reading League Conference 2017 

Science of Reading – Theoretical Models Including Scarborough’s Reading Rope

Science of Reading Learning Path Explained Arkansas Department of Education

Reading League Event David Kilpatrick

Reading IS Rocket Science with Donna Whyte [50:26]

Systematic Phonics Instruction: Ensuring Equity  Amplify

Research Behind Teaching synthetic Phonics  

Dan Willingham Talks Reading and the Mind  

The Reading League Live Event  September 2019

Leaders and Learning in Literacy The Tolman Hour

Brainwords: How the Science of Reading Informs Teaching

The Science of Reading – Code Emphasis vs. Meaning Emphasis 

The Science of Reading – Part 1 (RISE Arkansas)

How the Brain learns to Read by Professor Stanislas Dehaene

Can Science Help Bridge the Classroom Gap? MIT Science of Reading Symposium

What Science Says About How Kids Learn to Read  Education Week

Why We Teach Sounds Before Letters  

Sound Walls  

The Science of Reading: Auditory Processing  

Human Beings Were Never Born to Read: Science of the Reading Brain  

Orthographic Mapping: What it is and Why It’s so important 

Orthographic Mapping Explainer  

What is Phonological Awareness?   

Advanced Phonemic Awareness Pattan

Katie Garner – Science of Reading: Using Social-Emotional Learning to Fast-Track Phonics Instruction [1:06:40]

Cool Reading Facts – Preview  

44 Phonemes  

Blogs and Websites

APMReports. Featuring Emily Hanford.

Schools and Ecosystems.

The Science of Reading. by Timothy Shanahan

Learnography. This is a favorite of mine because of the insightful posts about how the brain transfers knowledge.

Voyager Sopris Learning.  Features Louisa Moats.

Louisa Moats blog.  You’ll find links to webinars, articles, and more. 

David and Meredith Liban website.  

ModEL Detroit. The new ELA curriculum is free and downloadable.  This link will take you to the FREE resources about teaching systematic, synthesized phonics.

Opportunity Culture. Provides numerous pieces about the science of reading.

Karen Vaites Blog. Karen does a terrific job curating materials and ideas for the science of reading.

Mike Schmoker’s Blog. Mike is the author of Focus.

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