How Do Kids Learn to Read? What the Science Says
How do children learn to read?
For almost a century, researchers have argued over the question. Most of the disagreement has centered on the very beginning stages of the reading process, when young children are first starting to figure out how to decipher words on a page.
One theory is that reading is a natural process, like learning to speak. If teachers and parents surround children with good books, this theory goes, kids will pick up reading on their own. Another idea suggests that reading is a series of strategic guesses based on context, and that kids should be taught these guessing strategies.
But research has shown that reading is not a natural process, and it’s not a guessing game. Written language is a code. Certain combinations of letters predictably represent certain sounds. And for the last few decades, the research has been clear: Teaching young kids how to crack the code—teaching systematic phonics—is the most reliable way to make sure that they learn how to read words.