Science of Reading

What Is the Science of Reading?

Mark Seidenberg (2021): “The Science of Reading” is a body of basic research in developmental psychology, educational psychology, cognitive science, and cognitive neuroscience on reading, one of the most complex human behaviors, and its biological (neural, genetic) bases. This research has been conducted for decades in the US and around the world. The research has important implications for helping children to succeed, but it has not been incorporated into how teachers are trained for the job or how children are taught. The Science of Reading is not just “phonics”. It is about all of the types of knowledge that underlie skilled reading and how they are learned.”

Research on how people learn to read has been well established for decades. The scientific evidence refutes the idea that learning to read is a natural process (unlike learning to speak which is a natural process), and is of such magnitude that Stanovich (1994) wrote:
“That direct instruction in alphabetic coding facilitates early reading acquisition is one of the most well established conclusions in all of behavioral science. . . . The idea that learning to read is just like learning to speak is accepted by no responsible linguist, psychologist, or cognitive scientist in the research community.”


What Neuroscience Tells Us: Reading is an Acquired Skill

Video:  The Reading Brain (a great introduction)



Stanislav Dehaene – Neuroscientist: “Before the child learns to read, the major systems for speech recognition are already in place. Reading needs to create an interface between vision and language…our anatomical connections change when we learn to read.”


Dehaene’s Videos & Other Resources: (Videos are well worth watching!)

The Brain Prize (2016) Video

How the Brain Learns to Read (2013) Video

The Massive Impact of Literacy on the Brain and its Consequences for Education (2011) Article


National Reading Report – the 5 Pillars of Literacy

Following a comprehensive review of the research on the science of reading, the 2000 National Reading Panel Report stated that students need explicit instruction in the essential components of reading: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension.



Simple View of Reading

A well-validated concept that should underpin the design of instruction is called the Simple View of Reading. It states that reading comprehension is the product of word recognition and language comprehension.  Without strong skills in either domain, an individual’s reading comprehension will be compromised.

Developing strong reading comprehension requires the development of skills in two critical areas: (1) decoding words in texts accurately and automatically and (2) making sense of the language we hear and read. This is known as the Simple View of Reading.

The simple view of reading is a research-informed representation of how reading comprehension develops. It characterizes skilled reading comprehension as the ‘product’ of 2 separate but equally important ‘factors’ – word recognition skills & language comprehension ability.

1) Decoding = word recognition, or skills needed to recognize words in print accurately & automatically
2) Language comprehension; ability to derive meaning from written & oral language. Understanding what words, phrases, sentences, and text mean.

Video: Simple View of Reading (2 minutes)

Article written by David Kilpatrick (May, 202o): Research that Shaped the Science of Reading.  The article that originally introduced the Simple View of Reading.


LEARN MORE – Science of Reading.

Check in for more resources about the Science of Reading topics.


  • Reading in the Brain. the New Science of How We Read. By Stanislov Dehaene
  • Language at the Speed of Sight. By Mark Seidenberg
  • The Science of Reading: A Handbook 1st edition. Authors: Margaret Snowling, Charles Hulme