Orwell Award Announcement SusanOhanian.Org Home

Five Missing Pillars of Scientific Reading Instruction

Susan Notes: Here is a good place to start in critiquing Reading First.

by Richard L. Allington, Ph.D., University of Tennessee, USA

In the U.S., the National Reading Panel report (2001) set forth five pillars of scientific
reading instruction: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and
comprehension. While there is little disagreement these are critical aspects of reading
acquisition, the NRP report has been criticized for its narrowly focused research review.
Below I list five additional pillars of scientific reading instruction based on the available
evidence concerning what really matters for learning to read. Each of these five pillars
seems absolutely essential elements of "scientific' reading instruction. I provide citations
for the most recent and powerful papers pointing to the scientific evidence supporting
these additional pillars.

1. Access to interesting texts and choice.
Guthrie, J. T. and N. M. Humenick (2004). Motivating students to read: Evidence for
classroom practices that increase motivation and achievement. The Voice of Evidence in
Reading Research. P. McCardle and V. Chhabra. Baltimore, Paul Brookes Publishing:

2. Matching kids with appropriate texts.
Making it different makes the difference. International Reading Association. Available at
O' Connor, R. E., K. M. Bell, et al. (2002). Teaching reading to poor readers in the
intermediate grades: A comparison of text difficulty. Journal of Educational Psychology
94(3): 474-485.

3. Writing and reading have reciprocal positive effects.
Tierney, R. J. and T. Shanahan (1991). Research on reading-writing relationships:
Interactions, transactions and outcomes. Handbook of Reading Research. R. Barr, M.
Kamil, P. Mosenthal and P. D. Pearson. New York, Longman. 2: 246-280.

4. Classroom organization: Balance whole class teaching with small group and
side-by-side instruction.

Taylor, B. M., P. D. Pearson, et al. (2000). "Effective Schools
and accomplished teachers: Lessons about primary grade reading instruction in low
income schools." Elementary School Journal 101: 121-165.

Allington, R. L., & Johnston, P. H. (Eds.). (2002). Reading to learn: Lessons from
exemplary 4th grade classrooms. New York: Guilford.

5. Availability of expert tutoring.
D'Agostino, J. V. and J. A. Murphy (2004). "A meta-analysis of Reading Recovery in
United States schools." Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 26(1): 23-38.
Allington, R. L. (2004). Setting the record straight. Educational Leadership 61(6): 22-25.

— Richard Allington



This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of education issues vital to a democracy. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information click here. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.