March 01, 2019

Improving Reading Instruction: Harvard Research

Improving Reading Instruction Research

Harvard University Research

JEANNE S. CHALL, Ph.D. - Harvard University

Professor of Education and Director of the Reading Laboratory at the Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Jeanne Chall, author of Learning to Read: The Great Debate, published updated research in a March 1989 Phi Delta Kappan article.

Quoting Peter Freebody and Brian Byrne of Australia:

"The authors suggest that word-specific associations may serve a student adequately up to about second grade, but that failure to acquire and use efficient decoding skills will begin to take a toll on reading comprehension by grade 3. In contrast, Phoenicians (those who have learned phonics) may be hindered in comprehension performance in the early years, but begin to improve comparatively as they progress through school."

Study of Reading Disabilities:
"Students 'at risk' of reading failure have long been thought to be deficient in phonological processing. According to Isabelle Liberman, 'The results of research have, I think ... justified our assumption ... providing evidence that deficits of phonological processing do, indeed, underlie many of the difficulties that poor readers and spellers have."

Poor readers of all ages and in many different countries have difficulty with 'segmental analysis of speech/the apprehension of the phonological structure of words.' Furthermore, dyslexic students are often unaware of how the written symbols map onto speech. But these students CAN be trained to segment and blend."

Conclusion of the Report – "Becoming a Nation of Readers"
"What does the research indicate about the effectiveness of phonics instruction? Classroom research shows that, on average, students who are taught phonics get off to a better start in learning to read than students who are not taught phonics."

Quoting Marilyn Adams of the Reading Research and Education Center at the University of Illinois:

"Perhaps the most influential arguments for teaching phonics are based on studies comparing the relative effectiveness of different approaches to teaching beginning reading. Collectively, these studies suggest, with impressive consistency, that programs including systematic instruction on letter-to-sound correspondences lead to higher achievement in both work recognition and spelling, at least in the early grades, and especially for slower or economically disadvantaged students."

Phonics leads to early use of good literature and writing skills.
"Currently, the anti-phonics movement has taken unto itself a pro-literature, pro-writing, and pro-thinking stance, as if those who teach phonics and decoding are opposed to these obviously excellent aims. And yet the history of reading instruction teaches us that literature, writing, and thinking are not exclusive properties of any one approach to beginning reading.

Indeed, the change in the early 1970s to an earlier and more systematic teaching of phonics in basal readers brought with it enlarged reading vocabularies that made possible the earlier use of better, more-mature literature.

"The same is true of writing. A code emphasis leads to earlier—rather than later—writing. Those students who know the letters of the alphabet write earlier. Also, early readers who know phonics use it for writing and for reading."

***The research above analyzes reading skills taught in the Reading Horizons® explicit phonics instruction. Learn more about the complete Reading Horizons® reading curriculum here.***