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Stories Grounded in Decades of Research: What We Truly Know about the Teaching of Reading

Catherine Compton-Lilly, Lucy K. Spence, Paul L. Thomas,  Scott L. Decker

The Reading Teacher 2 November, 2023

 This article recognises that reading is a complex and multidimensional process. It uses research to demonstrate that teaching reading must be responsive to the needs of individual children. The authors acknowledge that how children learn to read is affected by their cultural, educational, familial, and experiential backgrounds, which may in turn be affected by economic, social, and nutritional inequities. Significant research findings are shared, particularly focusing on the brain and reading alongside the importance of systematically observing early readers. The article demonstrates that reductive and singular models of reading do not recognise and honour the cultures, experiences, and diversity of learners. It argues that ‘how you teach must be determined by who you are teaching.’

Keywords: Reading process  Learning to read  Systematic observation  The brain and reading

ALEA Hot Topic- Reading research – beyond the media hype

 Dr Noella Mackenzie and Dr Martina Tassone

This ALEA Hot Topic has been written in response to some of the questions both authors have been asked over the last three years. The questions all relate to early reading instruction and have come from both teachers and community members. They have focused on four questions that seemed to be of particular concern. The first relates to how reading research is conducted and why different researchers come up with different answers to the question of how best to teach reading. Secondly, they address questions related to the science of reading, the Simple View of Reading, and claims that science has settled the debates on how reading should be taught (Hempenstall, 2016). Thirdly, they respond to questions about media coverage of the reading debates, and finally, they address questions about the National Reading Panel Report (NRPR, 2000) and how it fits into today’s reading discussions.
This article was first published by ALEA 2024 and has been provided to the FFLL to share.
Key words: reading instruction, reading research, science of reading
Links to Touchstones: 1, 2 ,3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10

Thinking Through the Science of Reading

Hiebert, E. H. October 2023 issue of Kappan, Vol. 105, No. 2, pp. 37-41.
This article outlines the importance of using evidence-based reading practices in classrooms. The author identifies and clearly illustrates with examples, three categories of evidence: research that provides unequivocal conclusions; research that holds promise for solving enduring problems and research that calls into question long standing assumptions. Knowledge gained from engaging with the article will raise educator’s and policy maker’s awareness of what research does and does not reveal. The key message is that educators and policy makers must be aware of the depth and breadth of research on reading; the complexities of classrooms; and the diverse range of learners, meaning answers are neither simple nor easily translated to practice.

Keywords: Science of reading   Reading research    Reading
Touchstones 1, 7, 9

Reading Recovery IS the Science(s) of Reading and the Art of Teaching

Rich, S. D. (2024) The Journal of Reading Recovery, 23(2).

The author, Debra Semm Rich, examines what she calls a media version of the Science of Reading (SOR) through a Reading Recovery (RR) lens. Rich provides a strong argument for the Art of Teaching as it is exemplified by RR teachers in an individual student’s RR lesson. She argues that a RR teacher uses her understanding of the Reading Process, and an individual student’s strengths to make ‘moment by moment decisions’. This is, according to Rich, ‘the “art” of teaching’ (p. 33). Rich contrasts the complexity of the RR program with the simplistic phonics-only scripted programs promoted by the SOR movement’ (p. 38).

Key words: Literacy, reading  Reading Recovery  Phonics  Science of Reading  Art of teaching  Scripted programs
Links to Touchstones: 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10

The Teacher's Toolkit for Literacy

The Teacher’s Tool Kit For Literacy is the free podcast for motivated teachers and school leaders who want the latest tips, tricks and tools to inspire their students and school community in literacy learning. Literacy experts and founders of Cue Learning, along with their special guests, provide practical literacy insights that you can apply in the classroom today.

'At Cue Learning, our literacy specialists draw on over 30 years of teaching and international consulting experience to deliver world-class learning solutions. We equip, empower and support teachers to become their authentic selves, using the fullness of the Australian curriculum'.

To find out about upcoming webinars, and about how Cue can help you and your school, visit And you can get  more amazing teaching resources at

Teachers' Knowledge of Children's Literature:  the Cornerstone of Reading for Pleasure  

Teresa Cremin, 2019.   Scottish Book Trust

Those who choose to read for pleasure are often high achievers in both literacy and numeracy.  In this article, Cremin discusses how important it is for teachers to develop a rich and wide knowledge of children's literature.  At the same time, they must be able to model their enjoyment of reading so they can nurture reading for pleasure in the classroom.  

Key words: Reading  Reading for pleasure  Children’s literature

Essential Elements of Fostering and Teaching Reading Comprehension

T.Duke, N. D., Pearson, P. D., Strachan, S. L., Billman, A. K. (2011). In S. J. Samuels & A. Farstrup (Eds.). What research has to say about reading instruction, 4th Edition (pp. 51-93). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

This is a comprehensive account of 10 major instructional practices that teachers of primary and secondary students might adopt to develop reading for understanding. Australian primary and high-school teachers are likely to be familiar with ideas such as building disciplinary and world knowledge, providing exposure to a volume and range of texts, providing motivating texts and contexts for reading, engaging students in discussion, building  vocabulary and language knowledge, integrating reading and writing, observing and assessing, and differentiating instruction. They are likely to find the table, “What Good Readers Do When They Read”, useful and most useful the details in the section “Teaching Strategies for Comprehending”.

Key words: Reading  Meaning  Comprehension

Teaching Decisions That Bring the Conditions of Learning to Life

Debra Crouch and Dr Brian Cambourne

The authors have collaborated to discuss the eight Conditions of Learning that Brian has been describing for teachers for quite some time. They also discuss the importance of the Four Processes that Enable Learning in relation to the effectiveness of the conditions. Detailed explanations of the conditions and the processes are described as they would occur in classrooms in the teaching of reading and specific examples are provided to explain what would occur in Read-aloud, Shared Reading, Guided Reading and Independent Reading. Teachers will find this article extremely helpful as they think about their theory and practice about the teaching of reading. For more detailed information educators will be pleased to know that Brian and Debra have written a book,  Made for Learning - How the Conditions of Learning Guide Teaching Decisions, published by Richard Owen, 2020.

Keywords: Conditions of learning  Reading 

Principles for Working with Struggling Readers and Writers - Advice for teachers across primary and secondary schools

August 2020

This Foundation for Learning and Literacy published article is one of two partner articles on supporting struggling readers and writers and expands on Touchstone 6. The partner article is Meeting the needs of struggling readers and writers, particularly in the later primary years and secondary years.

This article outlines principles aimed to assist teachers in adjusting their literacy teaching for individual students who are experiencing some difficulty with reading and writing. They are based on what research tells us about struggling readers and writers.

Key words: Reading  Writing  Engagement  Support

Meeting the Needs of Struggling Readers and Writers 

August 2020

This Foundation for Learning and Literacy published article is one of two partner articles on supporting struggling readers and writers and expands on Touchstone 6. The partner article is Principles for working with struggling readers and writers- advice for teachers across primary and secondary schools.

This article draws on research and practice in order to provide teachers and school leaders with research evidence and informed instructional and organisational practices to meet the needs of those students who are struggling as readers and writers.

Key words: Reading  Writing intervention  Engagement  Support  Strategies  Expectations

Reading for Pleasure

Rosen, Michael.   Blogspot- Friday, 26 February 2021

In this blog, well-known author Michael Rosen unpacks the question How does Reading for Pleasure produce this seemingly magic effect without direct instruction? To answer that question, Rosen looks at the process of reading and how children and young people respond. Rosen has a check list for teachers to discuss, adapt, argue with in whatever ways they choose. The checklist includes reading for pleasure creates a space for readers to interpret; to experience empathy; to leap from the oral code of English to the written code; to learn knowledge and wisdom; to learn about stylistic devices and to learn about possibility and change.

Rosen concludes this blogpost with “There is a lot of talk in the air about how to help children 'catch up' because of the pandemic. Helping children to read widely and often for pleasure will help them ... This is a kind of education in a holistic way.

Key words: Reading  Pleasure  Choice  Research  Lifelong reading

What Really Matters When Working with Struggling Readers

Richard Allington: Reading Teacher Vol. 66 Issue 7 pp 520-530 International Reading Association 2013

This article argues that we have a research base demonstrating that ‘virtually’ every child could be reading at grade level by the end of first grade. The author links his arguments to US schools but the compelling arguments on teaching reading based on evidence are applicable anywhere. The author raises issues such as not having expert teachers working with struggling readers, providing texts that are too difficult and the observation that struggling readers often spend more time doing worksheets than reading. The article calls the teachers to rethink current approaches with struggling readers for better outcomes.

Key words: Reading  Struggling readers  Independent reading  Support  Research  Text difficulty  Intervention

What the Phonics is the Science of Reading

Hruby, G. J.

In this video clip the presenter outlines why literacy educators should beware of how and when the term the Science of Reading is used in an informative and humorous manner. He takes the claims about the Science of Reading and provides evidence as to why the branding requires caution. Perhaps the Science of Reading is more about advocacy than science.

Key words: Reading   Phonics  Science of reading  Research  Program

Kiwi kids who read for pleasure do well in other ways - it's everyone's responsibility to encourage them

The Conversation 2 December 2021 by Ruth Bovask, Celeste Harrington and John Milne

This article reports on the first comprehensive review of the many positive aspects of encouraging children and young people to read for pleasure in Aotearoa, New Zealand.  While much reading research concentrates on developing children’s literacy, this research documents the relationship between children’s enjoyment of reading, better mental health improved school achievement. It also links children’s reading for pleasure with sound decision-making, the demonstration of empathy and the valuing of both others and their environment. Practical strategies to help parents and caregivers encourage children’s reading for pleasure are also included.

Keywords: Reading for pleasure  Benefits for children who enjoy reading  Strategies to encourage reading for pleasure

Books offer a healing retreat for youngsters caught up in the pandemic

Margaret Kristin Merga in The Conversation August 9 2021

This Conversation article  by Margaret Kristen Merga from Edith Cowan University outlines the  from a research project on school libraries and well-being provide insight into how books and reading can help young people deal with the well-being challenges of the pandemic. The findings suggest books can not only be a great escape during this challenging time, but also offer further well-being benefits. Parents, teachers, school librarians and school leaders will appreciate this article.
Key words: Reading research  School libraries  Reading for pleasure  Fostering empathy  Well-being  Pandemic,
1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11

5 Benefits of Reading Poetry

Newman, L. Read Poetry blog 24 April, 2020

This blog post from the Read Poetry site, outlines five different ways that poetry can be a positive part of our children’s lives.
Touchstones 3,4,5,7,11
Key words: Poetry  Reading  Creativity Imagination

The Benefits of Reading for Pleasure

Wilhelm, Jeffrey D.  Edutopia October 30 2017

This article summarises a study by Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith that finds reading for pleasure has many forms, and each form provides distinct benefits that are outlined in the article. It concludes; “Make no mistake, the next generation standards worldwide require profound cognitive achievements. Meeting such standards and the demands of navigating modern life will require student effort and the honing of strategies over time. Promoting the power of reading for pleasure is a proven path there."
Key words:  Reading  Pleasure  Choice  Research  Lifelong reading

A Brief History of 'The Reading Wars'

Brian Cambourne, University of Wollongong, April 2021

Brian Cambourne provides a summary of the history of the debates about reading instruction dating from as far back as 1779 and outlines the debates that have occurred, and reoccurred through the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s and continue to resurface every decade since. Cambourne’s history  begs the following question: 'Why is reading education pedagogically confused? The answer to this question lies in history as well as different understandings about what reading is. This short paper published by the Foundation for Learning and Literacy provides a very useful perspective with Cambourne concluding that‘ Such theoretical arguments are not helpful for the teaching profession or the teaching of reading. To date, not enough attention has been paid to educators’ experiences and their evidence in helping children learn to read in classroom contexts.’  

Key words: Reading  Reading wars  Reading research  Reading pedagogies

What Matters Most? Towards a Robust and Socially Just Science of Reading

Maren Aukerman and Lorien Chambers Schuldt

Reading Research Quarterly, 2021 56(s)

This is a very important article. The authors have drawn on research from all sides of the debates about the Science of Reading . As they state Science of Reading is a term that has been used variously, but its use within research, policy and the press has tended to share one important commonality: an intensive focus on assessed reading proficiency as the primary goal of reading instruction. They argue such a focus is problematic as it leads to a very narrow slice of reading. They propose a different framework that draws on a wide range of research and has implications for all grade levels and literacy more widely. It is a most useful article and strongly based on a wide range of evidence.
Key words: Science of reading  Textual dexterity  Critical reading  Student reading proficiency  Socially just

The Critical Story of the "Science of Reading" and Why Its Narrow Plotline Is Putting Our Children and Schools at Risk

NCTE 24 October 2020 by Dorothy C. Suskind

There is a critical story behind “the science of reading,” one whose players and plotlines have been misconstrued by political agendas. As a former classroom teacher and reading specialist and current literacy professor, Suskind interrogates four themes threading this narrative.

 Key words: Engagement in reading  Teacher knowledge

 Foundation touchstones: 1,3 and 7

But just what is explicit, systematic phonics instruction? 

Heidi Anne E. Mesmer & Priscilla L. Griffith. (2005) Everybody’s selling it—International Reading Association (pp. 366–376) 

Very experienced K-3 teachers from across the United States, who were members of the ‘International Reading association’, responded to a questionnaire which was used to gauge their perceptions about explicit and systematic phonics instruction. There were 382 respondents, a 38.2% return rate, which “was in line with other U.S. surveys.” Six common phonics strategies were considered: “(1) songs, (2) word sorts, (3) making words, (4) scripted teacher directions, (5) worksheets, and (6) games”. The strategies, which required teacher-student interaction,’ word sorts’ and ‘making words’, were most often identified as ‘highly explicit and systematic’. The strategy ‘worksheets’ was least often identified and the researchers concluded that: “teachers seemed to demonstrate that explicit, systematic phonics instruction should be engaging and responsive.

Key words: Phonics   Explicit  Systematic phonics instruction

Getting started teaching poetry in primary classrooms

Robyn Ewing AM 2021

In this short article Robyn provides useful information about what poetry is and why we should be teaching it. Robyn provides classroom examples as well as a list of resources to help teachers get started with the fun and joy of reading and writing poetry in the primary classroom.
Keywords:  Poetry  Teaching poetry  Responding to poetry  Writing poetry

Teachers' Knowledge of Children's Literature:  the Cornerstone of Reading for Pleasure  

Teresa Cremin, 2019.   Scottish Book Trust

Those who choose to read for pleasure are often high achievers in both literacy and numeracy.  In this article, Cremin discusses how important it is for teachers to develop a rich and wide knowledge of children's literature.  At the same time, they must be able to model their enjoyment of reading so they can nurture reading for pleasure in the classroom.  

Key words: Reading  Reading for pleasure  Children’s literature

Seven Rules of Engagement: What’s Most Important to Know about Motivation to Read

Gambrell, Linda B. (2011) The Reading Teacher Vol.65 Issue 3 pp 172-178

International Reading Association

Linda Gambrell shares the findings from a major international study – that interest in reading predicted students’ reading comprehension and that students who enjoyed reading the most performed significantly better than students who enjoyed reading the least. Then Gambrell gives clear guidelines and practical tips about research-based classroom experiences that help all students to be intrinsically motivated to read. ‘Clearly, instruction that provides students with decoding and comprehension skills and strategies is not sufficient’ but Gambrell’s guidelines help teachers to fill the gap. It is refreshing to read about the importance of motivation and engagement in reading.

Key words: Reading  Comprehension  Engagement  Motivation  Sustained reading  Classroom libraries 

Hark! Hands up who really loves their classroom reading program? TRI this: three approaches to reading instruction 

Green, M (2022) Australian Journal of Language and Literacy,

In this article Green discusses the important role of reading for enjoyment in teachers’ reading instruction. In light of growing concerns around students’ reading attainment and the place of contemporary children’s literature plus the release of the Australian Curriculum: English Version 9.0, this article is well timed.
Keywords: Reading engagement Reading enjoyment Reading instruction

Teachers' Knowledge of Children's Literature: the Cornerstone of Reading for Pleasure 

Teresa Cremin, 2019. Scottish Book Trust
Those who choose to read for pleasure are often high achievers in both literacy and numeracy. In this article, Cremin discusses how important it is for teachers to develop a rich and wide knowledge of children's literature. At the same time, they must be able to model their enjoyment of reading so they can nurture reading for pleasure in the classroom.

Key words: Reading Reading for pleasure Children’s literature

The Passion, Pedagogy and Politics of Reading

Wyse, D., & Bradbury, A. (2022). The passion, pedagogy and politics of reading. English in Education, 56(3), 247-260.
This article is a very useful piece that provides evidence for educators and researchers about the politics of current debates about reading. While Wyse and Bradbury discuss the case of England, the article has much to say that is relevant to educators in Australia, as it provides a balanced view of what we know about teaching phonics and reading in the contemporary literacy field. Interestingly there is a strong discussion about assessment of reading, and how this is positioned within broader debates about reading and literacy teaching and learning. The overarching message provided is one of the importance of balance. Children’s progress in learning to read is reliant on educators, researchers and political commentators making progress toward reconciling the evidence we have about quality early reading instruction and moving beyond notions of ‘warring’ in the pursuit of one best method. This article provides an evidence-informed foundation to support this goal.

Keywords: Teaching Early reading Phonics debates

Using the translanguaging space to facilitate poetic representation of language and identity

Dutton J, & Rushton K. (2021) Language Teaching Research 25(1): 105-133  doi10.1177/1362168820951215

This research explores the use of the translanguaging space (Li Wei, 2017) in confirming identity and student agency and developing a creative pedagogy. It offers insights into how the translanguaging space can be used to support English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) students from low socio-economic backgrounds to develop and use all their linguistic and cultural resources in the production of Identity texts (Cummins & Early, 2011; Cummins, Hu, Markus & Montero, 2015). Ancan be an oral, written or multimodal text but it will be a text that connects to the students’ community and disrupts a transmission pedagogy that views the student as a blank slate (Freire,1975). By producing identity texts in the translanguaging space, students are able to choose which language or languages they will use. 

 Key Words: English  Literacy  Translanguaging  Cultural Identity

Touchstones 1, 3, 4, 6, 8 and 10.

The Trouble With Binaries: A Perspective on the Science of Reading 

David B. Yaden, Jr; David Reinking; Paul Smagorinsky in Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1) pp.S119-S129 2021 International Literacy Association.
In this article, we critique the science of reading when it is positioned within the reading wars as settling disagreements about reading and how it should be taught. We frame our argument in terms of troublesome binaries, specifically between nature and nurture. We interpret that binary in relation to Overton’s distinction between split and relational metatheories, with the latter suggesting a more integrative view of nature and nurture. Focusing on the nature side of the binary, which predominates when the science of reading is promoted in the reading wars, we argue that its singular focus limits the range of scientific inquiry, interpretation, and application to practice.
Specifically, we address limitations of the science of reading as characterized by a narrow theoretical lens, an abstracted empiricism, and uncritical inductive generalizations derived from brain-imaging and eye movement data sources. Finally, we call for a relational metatheoretical stance and offer emulative examples of that stance in the field.

Supporting Readers 

Diane Stephens

Diane Stephens retired from the University of South Carolina where she received the College of Education’s awards for teaching service and research. Throughout her career, she has worked with individuals who do not yet find reading pleasurable.

In this article Diane outlines what is needed to support young readers. She begins with outlining the goals needed by the support team of caregivers, parents, and teachers. Diane argues we want them to be life-long readers and learners who read widely, think deeply and take a critical stance. This positions readers to experience success in their lives, schools and workplaces and thus makes possible an informed citizenry which is necessary to a functioning democracy.

These goals are set out under five headings which encompass how children learn oral language, how children learn written language, the reading process, characteristics of readers and finally how to help every child develop all five characteristics. The article draws on references of well-regarded researchers to support the arguments.

Key words: Supporting readers Oral language Written language Five characteristics of a reader.

A Confluence of Complexity: Intersections Among Reading Theory, Neuroscience and Observations of Young Readers 

C. Compton-Lily, A. Mitra, M. Guay & L. Spence. 2020
Reading Research Quarterly
This article examines a range of evidence that demonstrates the complexity of reading. The authors argue that multiple factors, processes, and sources of information inform reading. They support this with research findings including emerging research related to the brain and reading coupled with observations of emerging readers and conclude that singular reading models do not account for the individual needs of learners.
Keywords: Reading processes Reading research Complexity of the reading process Processes, factors and information informing reading

Interpreting the images in a picture book: Students make connections to themselves, their lives and experiences

Mantei, J. & Kervin, L. (2014). Interpreting the images in a picture book: Students make connections to themselves, their lives and experiences. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 13 (2), 76-92.

In this article Mantei and Kervin report on the use of a picture book to promote Year 4 students’ making text-to-self connections, which are expressed through their visual art. They argue for a pedagogical approach that creates opportunities for children to respond to picture books through visual art, identifying artworks as powerful avenues of insight into children's funds of knowledge that can inform literacy pedagogy. They demonstrate their views through research findings with Year 4 students using Jeannie Baker’s picture book.
Keywords: Picture books  Making connections  Image interpretation  Cultural diversity

Ontario Human Rights Commission Right to Read Report: Sincere, Passionate, Flawed

Jim Cummins University of Toronto Journal of Teaching and Learning 2022

In this article Jim Cummins argues that the basic premises that the Right to Read report are based on are incorrect as he states that the claims are not supported by scientific evidence. He compares Canadian  PISA results with other English speaking international schools, namely US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand demonstrating the flaws in the data analysis in the report. Second, Cummins explores the ‘myths of phonics as panacea’ providing alternative experimental evidence for the efficacy of a contextualised/balanced literacy program in the first year of schooling. Finally, he offers the reader with a way forward arguing that instruction should focus simultaneously on ‘ensuring that all students are supported in developing decoding and other foundational skills, while at the same time immersing them into a print-rich, engaging, and communal literacy environment that extends beyond the classroom into children’s homes’.
Keywords: Reading instruction  PISA international analyses  Canadian and Ontario PISA analysis  Balanced literacy program  Literacy crisis?  Phonics instruction  Reading comprehension.

A systematic literature review of decodable and levelled reading books for reading instruction in primary school contexts: an evaluation of quality research evidence

Rachel Birch, Heather Sharp, Drew Miller, Denyse Ritchie, Susan Ledger  2021

This report presents a review of selected articles that were published between 2000 and 2021 and that report on teaching reading with decodable or levelled reading books. Interestingly, the authors note that the majority of research in this area has been focused on those children who had been identified as having lower reading proficiency levels. As well as providing a brief coverage of different models of reading, a history of recent curriculum history in Australia, and definitions of some key terms including decodable and levelled texts, the review presents key findings about teaching reading using decodable and levelled texts. These findings foreground the importance of teachers and teaching in the learning to read process of children, and the importance of providing children with variety of reading material as well as the opportunity to engage with multiple approaches and texts. 

Keywords: Reading  Teaching reading  Learning to read  Decodable texts  Levelled readers

Stereotypes Impact Reading Outcomes-Study

The Educator November 30, 2020

This article discusses a study carried out by Associate Professor Laura Scholes, Barbara Comber and Nerida Spina .

The study challenges the belief that boys choose to read mainly non-fiction texts and that this has changed since the early 2000’s.  The article stresses the important place of fiction in developing long term reading skills, highlights the place of digital texts, and also challenges teachers to expand their knowledge of literature that may be engaging for boys.

 Key words: Boys’ education  Engagement in reading  Teacher knowledge about literature  Digital texts

 Foundation touchstones: 1,3 and 7 in particular

Why is reading imaginative literature important?

Robyn Ewing July 2021

In this short piece Robyn Ewing draws on the work of key researchers to explain why reading imaginative literature is so important for early childhood, primary and secondary classrooms. Stories, she argues, are central to our meaning-making processes. Robyn cites several key points from articles that demonstrate critical learnings such as vocabulary development, language structures of different genres and intellectual challenges. An over privileging of contrived texts she further argues will fail to nurture children’s imaginations. Therefore, we must be sure rich literature is at the heart of every classroom.
Key words: Imaginative literature  Contrived texts  Imagination

Picture Books, Imagination and Play: Pathways to Positive Reading Identities for Young Children

Niland, A. (2023). Picture Books, Imagination and Play: Pathways to Positive Reading Identities for Young Children. Education Sciences 13(5), 511.
In this article, Niland puts forward an argument about the importance of positive reading identities for young literacy learners, and makes a clear statement about the place of children’s literature in quality early literacy pedagogy. Four children’s books by Australian children’s authors – My dad is a giraffe (King, 2015); Big dog (Gleeson & Greder, 1991); Patricia(King, 1997); and Clancy and Millie and the very fine house (Gleeson & Blackwood, 2009) – are used to consider messages enabled through child characters who use their imaginations. Each of the books is analysed utilising qualitative content analysis, with multimodal analysis also used to support consideration of images and formatting decisions and how these interact with words. The overarching message given is about the importance of children’s literacy in young children’s reading development.

Keywords: Reading Imagination Children’s literature

Widening Teachers' Reading Repertoires: Moving beyond a Popular Childhood Canon

Teresa Cremin, Sarah Jane Mukherjee, Juli-Anna Aerila, Merja Kauppinen, Mari Siipola, Johanna Lähteelä

‘Children's literature is widely used in schools, but do teachers have sufficiently rich repertoires of relevant, diverse, and contemporary children's texts to nurture recreational reading?’ This question was explored by eminent researchers from England and Finland. The research team examined groups of English and Finnish preservice teachers and sought to understand more about their knowledge of children's literature. The findings show that future teachers from both these countries are entering their preservice education with very limited knowledge of children's author-artists; they draw on an extremely narrow range of well-known writers. They argue that ‘responsibility, rigor, and relevance represent the three Rs of reading for pleasure and are key characteristics of Reading Teachers. It is not just a professional responsibility for preservice and practicing teachers to develop a rich and constantly updated knowledge of children's literature and other texts, it is a moral and social one.’ This research has implications for pre-service education in Australia.
Key words:
Children’s literature  Reading for pleasure  Preservice teacher education
Touchstones: 1, 3, 4, 7, 9, 11

Reading and Writing for Pleasure: A Framework for Practice

The Mercer's Company 2023

Research reveals that the habit of reading in childhood is associated with academic, social and emotional outcomes and can mitigate educational disadvantages associated with gender and socio-economic status (OECD, 2021; Torppa et al., 2020). Writing research also evidences strong associations between motivation, self-efficacy and writing performance (Graham, 2017). Additionally, reading and writing for pleasure play a pivotal role in supporting all children’s learning and development, particularly the less advantaged.
Reading and writing for pleasure urgently require a higher profile in education, both to raise attainment and achievement and to increase children’s engagement as motivated and socially engaged readers and writers.
The Reading and Writing for Pleasure: A Framework for Practice research was commissioned by the Mercers’ Company, developed by The Open University and draws together insights from the international research literature and data from six London-based literacy programmes. The research found multiple approaches that are effective in inspiring and encouraging children and young people to read and/or write for pleasure.
The Framework is presented as a visual diagram and is a powerful tool to guide policy and practice.

Key words: Reading for pleasure Writing for pleasure Volitional writing Communities of readers and writers

Touchstones: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11

What are 'decodable readers' and how do they work?

Misty Adoniou, Brian Cambourne and Robyn Ewing  The Conversation Nov 12 2018

Money for books must surely be a good thing. But what exactly is a “decodable reader”? After all, surely all books are decodable. If they weren’t decodable they would be unreadable.

Key words: Decodable readers  Decoding  Quality texts  Phonics  Teaching reading  Books

Children's Right to Read

The International Reading Association has published this useful and important list for teachers and parents to keep in mind.

Explicit and Systematic Teaching of Reading - A New Slogan

Brian Cambourne The Reading Teacher; Oct 1999; 532; eLibrary pg.126

This is an interesting article given the date of publication and what it says about explicit and systematic learning. These words are widely used so a reminder of the use of these terms in the mid-80s and 90s will be of interest to many educators as they reflect on the use of those terms today. The author discusses the inclusion of two other dimensions; mindfulness —>mindlessness, contextualised—> decontextualised. The article will raise some thoughts for educators about programs claiming to be"explicit and systematic" and whether they are in fact mindless and decontextualised.  

Key words: Explicit  Systematic  Reading

Reading Like a Writer

Frank Smith, Language Arts, 1983 Vol 5, No 5 pp558-567

In this seminal article Frank Smith questions ‘the myth that one could learn to write to diligent attention and practice’ (p.558). Smith asks: ‘Where do people who write acquire all the knowledge they need?’ The conclusion Smith reaches is that it can only be through reading that writers learn all the ‘tangibles that they know’. He claims that ‘to learn to write, children must read in a special kind of way’ (p558). Smith clearly and logically shares his reasoning, discussing the complexities of writing, learning as a collaborative activity and how readers collaborate with the author whose writing they are reading. Finally, he outlines what this means for teaching writing.

Key words: Reading  Writing  Reading/writing connection

Conversation About the Reading Wars

NEPC Newsletter, 29 November 2018

Q&A with Elizabeth Moje, Dean of the University of Michigan School of Education in the National Education Policy Center 

 The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions.  This conversation between a member of the NEPC and Elizabeth Moje provides expert insights into some of the key issues regularly debated regarding effective literacy instruction. The conversation is set out with a Q&A style and provides the clarity,  perspective and research that educators, policy makers and parents need to understand some of the polarising debate that arises from time to time and restores confidence in the important and complex work of teachers in supporting young readers and writers.

Key words:   Reading  Reading wars  Balanced literacy  Literacy instruction  Phonics  Research

Building a Knowledge Base in Reading

Jane Braunger and Jan Patricia Lewis,  pages 124-128, 1997. 

This extract is from a book that provides a research baseline for teachers, policy makers and anyone interested in helping all children learn to read. Although it was published in 1997,  and there has been a great deal more research in this field since that time, the content is still extraordinarily helpful in guiding the best practices in the teaching of reading and what influences children's success as readers. This part of the book distills the knowledge base about beginning reading into 13 core understandings and one of those is that ‘students need many opportunities to read, read, read’.  It provides extensive details of the research supporting that particular core understanding.  In recent times the main discussion about the teaching of reading tends to focus on approaches used to teach reading, but the importance of students having time to read, plus all of the practical issues relating to that, receives little attention. This extract is extremely important to read in that context.

Key words:   Beginning reading  Core understandings  Reading  Choice  Texts  Assessment

The Science of Adolescent Literacy

George Hruby and Leslie Burns in Critical Perspectives on Literacy Policy and Practice Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy Vol 3 No6 pp. 693-696

In this paper Hruby and Burns critique the use of the phrase ‘science of reading’. Their main concern is that the assumptions made by the proponents of this ‘science’ are made without direct evidence from the students of classrooms. Further, they are concerned that these assumptions will be transferred into adolescent literacy instruction where even less evidence can be found of deficient decoding skills as the most pressing issue. They particularly question the use of the term ‘science’ as being something that is fixed and never changing. Science, they argue is never ‘settled’ or fixed. It is an ongoing process of conjecture, testing and discovery. Moreover, they critiqued the term ‘adolescent’ as if it too is some fixed ‘time’ in one’s life. It is an interesting short paper that would be useful for discussion by teachers of older students who may be disengaged or struggling with reading.

Key words: Literacy  Science  of reading   Adolescent

The Science of Reading Progresses: Communicating Advances Beyond the Simple View of Reading

Nell Duke and Kelly B. Cartwright

Reading Research Quarterly S6(1) pp. S25-544 (2021)

The simple view of reading is commonly presented to educators in professional development about the science of reading. The simple view is a useful tool for conveying the undeniable importance – in fact necessity – of both decoding and linguistic comprehension for reading. Research in the 35 years since the theory was proposed has revealed additional understandings about reading.

(Duke & Cartwright, 2021, p. S25)

This paper by researchers who work in the field of the science of reading presents a logical argument about the utility of the Simple View of Reading (SVR), first proposed by Gough and Tunmer 35 years ago in 1986 (see Gough & Tunmer, 1986), while also providing a clear and convincing justification about the importance of providing teachers with access to the benefits of research conducted since the SRV was first proposed.

The paper accurately reviews the research literature to propose that three, well-researched and evidence-based dimensions of what we know about how ‘reader’ factors influence reading and learning to read should now be included in models of reading. These are:

1)     Reading difficulties are the result of a diverse range of issues and cannot be explained by merely attending to decoding or linguistic/language comprehension complications. Citing multiple research projects that have detailed a rich array of reader profiles for those children who experience difficulties with learning to read, Duke and Cartwright (2021) rearticulate what many reading and literacy experts have argued for decades – reading difficulties can have causes beyond word recognition (resulting from delays in phonic knowledge acquisition) and language comprehension. As one example the authors explicitly suggest the importance of drawing teachers’ attention to the important role of content knowledge and cultural understandings in children’s learning to read. The result of this would be a clear instructional focus on building children’s knowledge as part of learning to read.

2)     The elements of word recognition and language/linguistic comprehension are neither separate nor sequential. Again, by providing a well-rounded review of research in this field, Duke and Cartwright (2021) demonstrate the inaccuracy of the assumption that word recognition (through decoding) and linguistic/language comprehension - the processes focused on in the SVR - are separate and hierarchical. This unfounded assumption has led to popular – although unfounded - beliefs that decoding must be taught first and in isolation, before instruction moves to other elements of learning to read such as comprehension. According to evidence cited in this paper, there is considerable overlap between word recognition (via decoding) and language comprehension, and there are several other skills and capacities that bridge these two factors as well. “Presenting practitioners with models that depict word recognition and language comprehension as entirely separate is inconsistent with the research” (p. S30). The authors also demonstrate that research has identified important constructs, including but not limited to vocabulary, fluency, and morphological awareness that bridge children’s development of word recognition and language comprehension in critical ways. Research has also demonstrated that constructs such as vocabulary, fluency and morphological awareness are highly susceptible to focused teaching and can support the development of reading.

3)     Good readers are active, strategic and engaged and these executive skills can and should be taught to young learners. The authors detail a large body of research that demonstrates that executive functioning skills such as cognitive flexibility and working memory contribute to young learners ability to engage in the complex process of reading and as such should be featured in teachers’ approaches to teaching children to read. Duke and Cartwright (2021) also successfully argue for the importance of motivation and engagement, and a flexible repertoire of strategies for young learners of reading. Based on this research the authors argue that any model of reading for practitioners “must include these elements” (p. S32).

As well as providing the evidence for these arguments against providing teachers with access to a simplified and inadequate model of reading to inform their teaching of children, this paper also provides succinct and clear explanations of a diverse range of models of reading including:

·       The Simple View of Reading (Gough & Tumner, 1986) and more current updates such as that proposed by Nation (2019) and Hoover and Tumner (2020).

·       The Rope Model (Scarborough, 2001)

·       The DIME and DIER Models (Ahmed et al., 2016; Kim, 2017)

·       The Componential Model of Reading (Joshi & Aaron, 2000)

Duke and Cartwright (2021) also offer their own model which attempts to build on the latest understandings that result from research in the field of the sciences of reading, and explains the ‘reader’ factors involved in reading. They clearly state that what they call the Active View of Reading only considers the ‘reader’ factors of the reading process, and as such does not address how “texts, tasks and sociocultural context impact on reading” (p. S38). A final important consideration put forward by Duke and Cartwright (2021) is that the model they propose is based on current research evidence, and they “fully expect that as research on the science of reading continues, [the] model will need to be updated or replaced” (p. 38).

Key takeaway:

Duke and Cartwright (2021) acknowledge that while their model helps to explain some dimensions of how people read and how young children can be supported to learn to read (the reader factors), they expect the model will need to be adapted or rejected as science learns more and our understandings move on. The Simple View of Reading was first proposed 35 years ago, and it is imperative that educators, researchers and policy writers are open to the latest evidence, and flexible enough to work with those new understandings.

Full article here:


Ahmed, Y., Francis, D.J., York, M., Fletcher, J.M., Barnes, M., & Kulesz, P. (2016). Validation of the direct and inferential mediation (DIME) model of reading comprehension in grades 7 through 12. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 44(45), 68–82.

Duke, N., & Cartwright, K. B. (2021). The science of Reading progresses: Communicating advances beyond the Simple view of Reading. Reading Research Quarterly 56(1) S25-S44.

Gough, P.B., & Tunmer, W.E. (1986). Decoding, reading, and reading disability. Remedial and Special Education, 7(1), 6–10.

Hoover, W.A., & Tunmer, W.E. (2020). The cognitive foundations of reading and its acquisition. Springer.

Joshi, R.M., & Aaron, P.G. (2000). The component model of reading: Simple view of reading made a little more complex. Reading Psychology, 21(2), 85–97.

Kim, Y.S.G. (2017). Why the simple view of reading is not simplistic: Unpacking component skills of reading using a direct and indirect effect model of reading (DIER). Scientific Studies of Reading, 21(4), 310–333.

Nation, K. (2019). Children’s reading difficulties, language, and reflections on the simple view of reading. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 24(1), 47–73.

Scarborough, H. S. (2001). Connecting early language and literacy to later reading (dis)abilities: Evidence, theory, and practice. In S.B. Neuman & D.K. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook of early literacy research (vol 1) (pp. 97-110). Guilford.

Children's audiobooks are growing in popularity. How useful are they for kids learning to read?

ABC News on line 4 July 2021 by Sarah Scopelianos

This short online article provides insights for parents and educators into the benefits of using audible books with children alongside reading aloud to them. The article cites research undertaken by the UK National Literacy Trust that found “benefits to listening to audio that mirror those of reading, and [these] really helped legitimise their place as part of a child's reading journey”.

Advice from Australian literacy expert Misty Adoniou was sought. She advises parents to read to their children, not only to build their relationships but also for greater learning outcomes. Dr Adoniou, an adjunct associate professor in literacy and language at the University of Canberra and a principal fellow at the University of Melbourne, says reading isn’t just about sounding out words. She describes it as “gaining meaning”. Misty Adoniou acknowledges that some of the benefits of reading aloud carry over into audiobooks, like exposing young readers to harder books they can’t read yet. “If we leave it, we’ll just have kids reading what they’re able to read by themselves [and] then they’re stuck on low-level, low-interest books in the beginning,” Dr Adoniou says. More complex stories increase a child’s vocabulary, which is a huge benefit. "We know that the size of your vocabulary is the best indicator of success at school; not just in reading, in every curriculum area," Dr Adoniou says.

Key words: Reading  Vocabulary  Audible books

Reading Between the Lines:  the benefits of reading for pleasure

A Study of Benefits to Adults of Regular Reading for Pleasure

A report from Quick Reads, in partnership with Dr Josie Billington, Centre for Research into Reading, Literature and Society at the University of Liverpool

This report is a valuable evidence-based document which shares some definitive benefits of developing a culture of reading for pleasure, especially when these benefits are understood by teachers, educational leaders and parents. The conclusions and recommendations include information that reading for just 30 minutes a week:
- Produces greater life satisfaction;
- Enhances social connectedness and sense of community spirit;
- Helps protect against and even prepare for life difficulties.

Key words: Reading  Reading habits  Reading for pleasure