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Teachers have the power to make literacy education exciting and fun, while at the same time increasing its effectiveness by integrating evidence-based teaching practices (National Strategy for Early Literacy, 2008).

The aim of this resource is to provide teachers with a review of recent findings from well-designed research studies on the teaching of reading and writing. This kit can be used as a reference tool in daily practice. Teachers may already be familiar with some of the research findings presented here, but this resource can supplement and enhance their knowledge. Staying informed on the latest developments in reading and writing is not an easy task, given all of the teacher’s commitments. The goal is to encourage teachers to continue to be research-informed. This kit is designed to review what is known about development of reading and writing skills, to identify what needs to be taught, and how it can be taught to ensure that all children succeed.

This kit does not cover all the grades discussed in great detail (Kindergarten through Grade 6). In addition, it does not cover specific curricula as the requirements vary from one province to another. Instead, this resource highlights the best research knowledge in reading and writing development. This knowledge will positively affect teaching practices in reading and writing across the country. The information presented here is explained and integrated with examples on how to bring evidence into classroom practice. In addition, the kit provides access to useful related resources.
The preferred use of the kit would be to include it as a complement to a comprehensive course in reading and writing instruction in faculties of education in Canada. The kit is divided into sections that provide the flexibility to select specific parts appropriate for differing university curricula. Moreover, this kit can be a valuable resource for practicing teachers both as part of professional development training courses and as a reference tool.

"Teachers have the power to make literacy education exciting and fun, while at the same time increasing its effectiveness by integrating evidence-based teaching practices (National Strategy for Early Literacy, 2008). Check the DVD-ROM or this website for the link.
“It is not just that the teaching of reading is more important than ever before, but that it must be taught better and more broadly than ever before. We are witnessing an explosion in both information and technology.
Alongside, the social and economic values of reading and writing are multiplying in both number and importance as never before.” (Marilyn Jager Adams, 1990)

What you will find in this kit

This resource kit is divided into three major sections. The first covers what a teacher needs to know about types of research in order to keep informed and knowledgeable about language as it relates to reading and writing instruction. The second section covers the child’s development of reading and writing skills and provides practical classroom examples of activities to teach these skills. The third section covers effective instruction techniques.

At the end of these three sections, a list of references is provided along with an extensive glossary of terms used in literacy instruction. This is followed by a province-by-province listing of various library services available to alumni of faculties of education at Canadian universities.

The Ancillary sections below the sections of the resource kit include a PowerPoint presentation on the ideas presented in the kit, along with all of the video clips of classroom demonstrations illustrating effective techniques and interviews with expert Canadian researchers about recent research findings that are available on this website. This companion website includes downloadable print materials, links to online resources/videos, a glossary of terms, and charts of key supporting resources.

How the resource kit is organized

The first section begins with part of a K-W-L chart (the “What do I know” and the “What do I want to learn”) with suggested questions for teachers. The purpose of this chart is to help teachers organize their thoughts. At the end of the resource kit, teachers can reflect on how the information from this resource can be used in their practice by answering the questions of “What am I going to do next?” and “How will I apply this knowledge in a classroom?”

The second section on reading and writing development covers not only the reading skills studied by the National Reading Panel (2000) (e.g., phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and fluency) but also print awareness, letter knowledge, and writing. The graphic “Framework A” from SEDL (formerly the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2008) is presented as a reference for understanding the building of literacy skills. Each subsection within the model of reading development and writing section begins with a definition of the skill, followed by the evidence (i.e., research findings), examples of instructional techniques based on that evidence, and assessment examples for each skill.

The pop-out margin notes provide extra information on a topic or lead the reader to supporting resources.

The importance of teaching reading and writing

“Given the pivotal role reading plays in and out of school and the cumulative long-term cost of illiteracy, early literacy intervention is critical.” (Al Otaiba & Fuchs, 2002)[1]

The foundation of language and literacy skills is laid in early childhood. Early learning situations are critical to lifelong development. Teachers are undertaking a challenging and exciting role in establishing these skills. For example, in any given classroom, teachers may be faced with 25 students, each with their own strengths and challenges. These are students whom they are expected to enrich, educate, and inspire. Some students will be grade levels ahead of their classmates, while others will not be as prepared for school due to lack of experience at home. Some will have cognitive and behavioural challenges while others may not speak English well (if at all).

Canadian researcher Willms (2002)[2] notes that 28 percent of Canadian 6-year-olds have cognitive or behavioural problems, which make them unprepared for the challenges of Grade 1. When students have cognitive and behavioural problems, it may be more challenging for them to learn how to read and write. Much evidence shows that with effective instruction from the beginning, most reading problems can be prevented and “all children can learn to read” (Mathes & Torgeson, 1998)[3]. What becomes apparent in studies on effective reading interventions is the importance of identifying risk factors early (Fletcher & Foorman, 1994)[4].

There are huge economic savings to society when the teaching of reading is guided by scientific evidence. According to a Statistics Canada study by Coulombe, Tremblay, & Marchand (2004)[5], a 1 percent increase in literacy (relative to other countries) produces a 2.5 percent increase in the level of labour productivity and a 1.5 percent rise in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per person. In Canada, this equates to an increase of $32 billion in national income for every 1 percent increase in literacy scores.

Therefore, teaching children to read and write using effective instruction is of tremendous importance to society. Teachers have a significant role to play.

Exploding reading myths

Parents, teachers, students, and society in general, may be heard repeating myths they have encountered related to the acquisition of reading skills such as those listed below. Many of these myths, which are not based on scientific research, have been passed on and continue to be prevalent in homes and classrooms. No matter what the source of the myths, students deserve research-based teaching practices that have been proven to work. Included below are research findings that explode some common myths.

MYTH 1: Learning to read, like learning to talk, is a natural process.
Reading was once thought to develop naturally, when a child was mature enough (Twyman, 2007)[6]

Response from research: Findings of decades of research challenge the belief that children learn to read naturally (Lyon, 1998)[7]. While oral language develops naturally from birth, and exposure to native speakers’ language is sufficient to trigger language acquisition in infants, literacy is not acquired in the same fashion. Reading is a cultural adaptation that must be learned.

MYTH 2: With time, all children will eventually learn to read.
Children who do not learn to read in the primary grades may be overlooked due to the belief that they will learn in time.

Response from research: Since reading is not biologically innate in the same way that oral language is, it is unlikely that all children will learn to read without the proper instruction. Over time, the achievement gap becomes wider between children who have well-developed literacy skills and those who do not (Wren, 2002a)[8]. Rather than waiting for a child to catch on to reading, real progress can be made with intervention and tutoring that promote decoding skills (Pressley, 2006)[9]

MYTH 3: Genetics rule: if the child is dyslexic, he or she can’t be helped.
It has been argued that when disparity exists between intelligence and reading skills, the person should be categorized as having “dyslexia”. This term became overused as a catch-all description for those who failed to learn to read despite a normal intellectual capacity (Wren, 2002a)[8].

Response from research: Although dyslexia, a language-based learning disability that originates with poor phonological skills, is influenced by genetics, most children with dyslexia can learn to read. Genetic and environmental factors have about equal influence on reading achievement at all levels of reading ability (Fletcher, Lyon, Fuchs, & Barnes, 2007[10]; Olson, 2006[11]). Early intervention and code-based, systematic and comprehensive instruction enable most individuals with dyslexia to achieve satisfactory reading levels. However, spelling and fluency will likely continue to be difficult for children with dyslexia.

MYTH 4: If you start at a disadvantage, you’ll never catch up.
It is clear that each child will come to school with different exposures to books, print, and stories. Some may believe that nothing can be done for a child who is behind in reading and writing skills.

Response from research: Many students may enter Kindergarten at risk for reading failure due to lack of exposure to, or experience with, print, books, and stories. Research demonstrates that children in supportive classrooms with effective instruction make academic gains. Studies indicate that at-risk students who have skilled literacy teachers for two years in a row are very likely to become strong readers (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998)[12].

MYTH 5: After Grade 3, children are done learning how to read.
Some people believe that specific instruction in reading skills is not needed after Grade 3 and that children have all the skills they need to work with in order to become successful readers.

Response from research: Not every aspect of reading can be taught before a child completes Grade 3. Most have not yet mastered decoding by the end of Grade 3; therefore there is still much more instruction and learning involved in the development of vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency (Pressley, 2006)[9].

MYTH 6: Children can learn to read by relying heavily on context cues.
Oral story telling should not be confused with reading ability. This is often the case when a child uses pictures to retell a story effectively.

Response from research: It has been shown that context can facilitate comprehension after words have been read (Phillips, Norris, & Vavra, 2007)[13]; however, it is not useful as an initial decoding strategy. When children encounter a word they have not seen before, they need to use decoding skills to sound it out.

MYTH 7: Students can master reading comprehension if they just read, read, and read.
The notion exists that reading comprehension is learned independently and achieved by simply placing a book in a child’s hands, encouraging them to read, and then read more.

Response from research: There is substantial evidence showing that if students are explicitly taught effective reading comprehension strategies they will become much better at comprehension than those who are not taught to use these strategies (Pressley, 2006)[9].

MYTH 8: English has so many irregular spellings and inconsistencies that it is impossible to teach.
Many believe that teaching decoding, spelling, and writing is difficult because there are no clear language patterns.

Response from research: For reading and writing purposes, English is 80 percent regular (Bowey, 2006)[14]. The continuum of learning the patterns in English begins with the basic Anglo-Saxon words (e.g., common words such as bump, get, right) and expands to prefixes, suffixes and Latin and Greek roots from Grade 3 or 4 onwards (Henry, 2003)[15]. This continuum presents the student with logical patterns. The teacher must be knowledgeable about language in order to present these patterns clearly.


The goal of this kit is to prevent the perpetuation of these myths; this is accomplished through a review of recent and well-designed research findings on the teaching of reading and writing. The research examined and explained throughout the kit is multidisciplinary; it comes from the fields of education, psychology, neuroscience, and speech-language pathology. Teachers can draw implications for their classroom practice from this kit.


  1. Al Otaiba, S., & Fuchs, D. (2002). Characteristics of children who are unresponsive to early literacy intervention: A review of the literature. Remedial and Special Education, 23(5), 300-316.
  2. Willms, J. D. (2002). Vulnerable children: Findings from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth. Edmonton, AB: University of Alberta Press and Human Resources Development Canada, Applied Research Branch.
  3. Mathes, P., & Torgesen, J. (1998). All children can learn to read: Critical care for the prevention of reading failure. Peabody Journal of Education, 73(3/4), 317-340.
  4. Fletcher, J. M., & Foorman, B. R. (1994). Issues in definition and measurement of learning disabilities: The need for early intervention. In G. R. Lyon (Ed.), Frames of reference for the assessment of learning disabilities: New views on measurement issues (pp. 185-200). Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing
  5. Coulombe, S., Tremblay, J.-F., & Marchand, S. (2004). International adult literacy survey: Literacy scores, human capital, and growth across fourteen OECD countries. Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada. Retrieved April 23, 2008, from:
  6. Twyman, J. (2007). Learn to read #1: Facts and myths for parents. Part One: Read to success series: What parents need to know to help their kids learn to read.Education Articles. Retrieved June 4, 2008,
  7. Lyon, G. R. (1998). Why reading is not a natural process. Educational Leadership 55(6), 1-7, Retrieved 13 May, 2008, from:
  8. 8.0 8.1 Wren, S. (2002a). Ten myths of reading instruction. SEDL Letter 14(3). Retrieved 13 May, 2008, from:
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Pressley, M. (2006).Reading instruction that works: The case for balanced teaching. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
  10. Fletcher, J. M., Foorman, B. R. (1994). Issues in definition and measurement of learning disabilities: The need for early intervention. In G. R. Lyon (Ed.), Frames of reference for the assessment of learning disabilities: New views on measurement issues (pp. 185-200). Baltimore, MD: Brookes.
  11. Olson, R. K. (2006). Genes, environment, and dyslexia. The 2005 Norman Geschwind Memorial Lecture. Annals of Dyslexia 56(2), 205-238.
  12. Snow, C. E., Burns, M. S., Griffin, P. (Eds.) (1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
  13. Phillips, L. M., Norris, S. P., & Vavra, K. L. (2007). Reading comprehension instruction. Encyclopedia of Language and Literacy Development. London, ON: Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network. Retrieved April 23, 2008, from:
  14. Bowey, J. A. (2006). Need for systematic synthetic phonics teaching within the early reading curriculum. Australian Psychologist, 41(2), 79-84.
  15. Henry, M. K. (2003). Unlocking literacy: Effective decoding and spelling instruction. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

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