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What does the Science of Reading mean for parents?

A family of four reading a book

Reading instruction in Arkansas has made a big shift over the last several years due to growing evidence in the field of cognitive brain research. Educators in our state are now using the Science of Reading to help inform policies, strengthen instruction and utilize assessments to align with what we know about how the brain learns to read.

We have also launched R.I.S.E. (Reading Initiative for Student Excellence) Arkansas which encourages a culture of reading by coordinating a statewide reading campaign with community partners, parents, and teachers to establish the importance of reading in homes, schools, and communities. 

Here are a few ways education has changed and what parents need to know to help their children as they learn to read:

In the past...

...if students showed early signs of difficulties in reading instructions, parents might have been advised to take a "wait and see" approach to determine if they would eventually catch up.


...students were expected to memorize large numbers of high frequency words to help them read leveled texts.

...students practiced reading using predictable leveled readers. These follow a pattern which students have memorized. Students use pictures to guess the words they don't know, which doesn't help them become stronger decoders.

...parents and teachers thought students would learn to read simply by reading to the student or by providing literature-rich environments.


...spelling lists were created many different ways. Word lists may have contained words from science or social studies lessons, monthly theme words, or words at random.


...it was thought there were many different ways to teach a child to read.

Now we know...

...Early intervention is a must! The gaps don't close as time goes by, they get larger. We know three things work to help students close those gaps: phonemic awareness, step-by-step phonics and reading texts that contain the phonics patterns covered in their instruction.

...words are not stored based on how they look, so the use of flash cards for word learning is not encouraged.

...most words can be read if students are familiar with the letters or letter patterns contained in that word. If a student comes to a word that doesn't follow familiar patterns, they can focus on the decodable parts and memorize the part that is irregular.

...that while reading to your child has many beneficial outcomes, decoding is not one of them. Learning to speak is natural, learning to read is not. Students must be taught to decode the words on the page and then, how to understand what is being read.

...lists should contain words that follow consistent phonics rules and patterns. For example, when students are studying the v_e syllable pattern, a good spelling list would contain lots of words such as: like, bake, rope, and cube.

...all children learn to read the same way. Students build pathways in the brain that connect speech sounds to print and are able to understand the meaning of words.


Fun ways parents can help their child learn to read


Expert Answers to Questions About Phonemic Awareness, Phonics and Fluency

Parents Area of Seussville Featuring Activities, Crafts, and Printables to Engage Children

Expert Answers to Questions About  Vocabulary and Comprehension

K-8 Learning Targets

The Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education has prepared guides for parents or guardians which outline essential learning targets for students in grades K-8 for literacy, science, math, and social studies. Parents and guardians may print out these guides and post them on the refrigerator or keep one in the car for road trips. Educators may use these guides to provide parents with activities to work on with students at home.

The curriculum guides also have companion guides which provide one or more activities for each learning target. View the guides:

Grades K-2 Grades 3-5 Grades 6-8

Three children holding books

Kindergarten Readiness Indicator Checklist for Parents

To learn about typical milestones and simple activities that help your children develop their reading and writing skills, visit Reading 101: A Guide for Parents.

More Information and Resources for Families


For more information, please contact:

Learning Services
Arkansas Department of Education
Division of Elementary and Secondary Education
Four Capitol Mall, Room 202-B
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Phone: 501-683-5764
Sandy Shepard, Lead Regional R.I.S.E. Specialist
Arkansas Department of Education
Division of Elementary and Secondary Education
Four Capitol Mall, Room 202-B
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201
Phone: 501-682-9961

Email: Sandy.Shepard@ade.arkansas.gov

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