Teaching Tuesday: Explaining the Science of Reading to Parents

Woman reading book about the Science of Reading

The term "Science of Reading" is a hot topic in the field of education, and teachers will likely reference this term in conversations or presentations with students' families. How can classroom teachers provide parent-friendly context for the meaning of this term? More importantly, how can teachers engage families to support their children at home in the Science of Reading practices?

How the Science of Reading Accounts for Reading Comprehension

The Science of Reading is based on the cognitive process of reading, meaning some parents may find it interesting to understand what is happening in their child's brain when learning to read.1 It is easy to assume that reading occurs automatically. Yet, the reality is that, unlike the natural development of hearing and speaking words, learning to read is a cognitive challenge and requires more than just exposure to good books.

Supporting the Experience of Students Learning to Read

Many families desire to support their child's reading experience at home, making it incumbent on the professional to ensure that families have access to the knowledge and opportunities to help their children become better readers. In addition, with many districts updating or replacing the reading curriculum to align with the Science of Reading, this is a good time for educators to reevaluate the techniques and tools given to parents to use outside of the classroom.

How To Explain Reading Instruction Tools to Parents

A tool often used to engage parents is meaningful dialogue about the academic environment of the classroom. Although sharing information is essential, the effects of creating an ongoing dialogue with parents yield even greater results. For example, are we ensuring that parents are empowered to ask questions and provide feedback about their child's reading instruction? Also, intentional conversations to clearly explain literacy language, diagnostic screenings, and reading assessment results will help families understand how they can best support their child's literacy development. Welcoming families to the classroom, and purposeful exchanges about the Science of Reading practices in the classroom, positively contribute to a student's learning experience.

New Literacy Practices To Use at Home

If a school or classroom is transitioning to new reading practices aligned to the Science of Reading, offering a literacy event to explain the changes, the rationale, and how instruction may look different is a win-win for the teacher and families. For example, the terms phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics, and 'simple view of reading' will most likely be used in a classroom that applies the principles of the Science of Reading.

Rather than send home an article that explains each one, invite the parents to an interactive presentation to introduce them to the terminology and provide examples. Use resources, such as Reading Rockets, to show short video clips or model reading practices that parents can emulate at home.2 Combining knowledge, resources and modeling will build parents' confidence to contribute to their child's reading experience at home.

A final suggestion for welcoming families into the literacy practices of the classroom is offering ongoing communication about the reading practices a student experience during the school day. Social media, classroom websites, emails or newsletters give families a consistent window into their child's learning experience. Designate a section within your communication tools for information about the Science of Reading, and consistently use this space to share literacy terminology, instructional practices, classroom application, and tips for supporting a student at home.

Although establishing a positive and productive relationship with families takes time and effort, applying these recommendations at the start of the school year will pay significant dividends as the year progresses. When parents are informed and empowered about the academic activities of their child's classroom, they will feel like a welcomed team member (teacher, family, student) and become strong advocates for their child's academic success.  

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Retrieved from:

1 District Leadership Forum, How Our Brains Learn to Read in August 2022.

2 WETA, Reading Rockets in August 2022. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.