According to Emily Solari, a professor of reading education at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and Human Development, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic may amplify the gap in reading. While some evidence-based practice has shown how to efficiently teach reading, much of it has yet to find its way to both teachers and students. Emily Solari explains how to boost early literacy skills.

The science of reading is a body of research harvested over five decades from various disciplines such as neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, etc. It's a major field since the good understanding of the cognitive processes needed for successful reading acquisition can be translated into improved learning strategies. The problem is that what we know about the science of reading is not yet applied enough in schools.

Research suggests that reading comprehension can be classified in two categories of competencies: the decoding skills (the capacity to read words) and the oral language skills (or language comprehension skills). And we end up with two opposing groups of people, those who support a concept called the whole-language method, and the proponents of a more systematic and cracking-the-code method, often referred to as phonics, or structured literacy.

With the whole-language approach, students are immersed in literature experiences and are supposed to learn to read intuitively by reading whole words. On the other hand, with the phonics-based approach, students have first to understand the relation between letter sounds and their orthographic representation, in order to be able to decode and build whole words.

So, which option is better? Well, so far, science has revealed that the most effective way to learn to read is the explicit and structured phonics method, beneficial to all children and even more for the most exposed to reading difficulties.

Picture: New Fairy Tale, by Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky (Wikimedia Commons, w/Effects)