Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science

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Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science
What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able To Do

The most fundamental responsibility of schools is teaching students to read.

Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science

What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able To Do

June 1999

Author note: This paper was prepared for the American Federation of Teachers by Louisa C. Moats, project director, Washington D.C. site of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Early Interventions Project, and clinical associate professor of pediatrics, University of Texas, Houston, Health Sciences Center. Her work is supported in part by grant HD30995, “Early Interventions for Children with Reading Problems,” funded by the NICHD.

Table of Contents
Preface Executive Summary Preventing Reading Failure: A Top Priority for Education Where We Are: Taking Stock of Teacher Preparation in Reading The Difficulty of Teaching Reading Has Been Underestimated / 11 Why Have Teachers Been Left Unprepared? / 11 The Knowledge Base for Teaching Reading Is Hidden, Extensive, and Complex / 11 Meaningful Professional Standards Are Absent / 12 Good Information Is Hard To Get / 14 Classroom Instructional Programs Are Uninformative / 14 Can We Do Better? / 14 Toward a Curriculum for Teacher Preparation and Inservice Professional Development Knowledge of the Psychology of Reading and Reading Development / 16 Basic Facts About Reading / 16 The Characteristics of Poor and Novice Readers / 18 How Reading and Spelling Develop / 18 Language: The Foundation for Reading Instruction / 20 Practical Skills of Instruction in a Comprehensive Reading Program / 21 Opportunities for Supervised Experience / 21 Use of Validated Instructional Practices / 21 Assessment of Classroom Reading and Writing Skills / 24 Where We Need To Go: Changing Teacher Preparation and Professional Development in Reading In Sum End Notes References Appendix A—Knowledge and Skills for Teaching Reading: A Core Curriculum for Teacher Candidates 5 7 9 11

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TEACHING READING IS ROCKET SCIENCE / 3

Teaching reading is a job for an expert.

Preface

R

eading is the fundamental skill upon which all formal education depends. Research now shows that a child who doesn’t learn the reading basics early is unlikely to learn them at all. Any child who doesn’t learn to read early and well will not easily master other skills and knowledge, and is unlikely to ever flourish in school or in life. Low reading achievement, more than any other factor, is the root cause of chronically low-performing schools, which harm students and contribute to the loss of public confidence in our school system. When many children don’t learn to read, the public schools cannot and will not be regarded as successful—and efforts to dismantle them will proceed. Thanks to new scientific research—plus a long-awaited scientific and political consensus around this research—the knowledge exists to teach all but a handful of severely disabled children to read well. This report discusses the current state of teacher preparation in reading in relation

to that research. It reviews and describes the knowledge base and essential skills that teacher candidates and practicing teachers must master if they are to be successful in teaching all children to read well. Finally, the report makes recommendations for improving the system of teacher education and professional development. In medicine, if research found new ways to save lives, health care professionals would adopt these methods as quickly as possible, and would change practices, procedures, and systems. Educational research has found new ways to save young minds by helping them to become proficient readers; it is up to us to promote these new methods throughout the education system. Young lives depend on it. And so does the survival of public education. The urgent task before us is for university faculty and the...
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