By synthesizing findings from more than 300 research studies, book chapters, and academic journal articles published across a variety of scientific fields, they hope to create an evidence-based account of how children learn to read.
The "reading wars" are between teachers, parents, and policymakers who champion a phonics-based approach (teaching children the sounds that letters make) and those who support a "whole-language" approach (focused on children discovering meaning in a literacy-rich environment).
Although teachers, parents, and policymakers recognize literacy as an essential skill that all children should learn, existing policies and practices often fail to incorporate the most effective strategies for learning and teaching reading. As a result, low literacy remains a pressing issue in developed and developing nations around the world.
Phonics is an essential basis for becoming a good reader, but it isn't enough on its own. To acquire sophisticated literacy skills, for example, children must progress from identifying individual sounds to recognizing whole words. They must also be able to pull forth the meaning of different words quickly within a particular context in order to comprehend a whole unit of text, whether it's a sentence, a paragraph, or an entire page.
By highlighting the specific processes by which early phonics instruction allows children to gain understanding and reading experience over time, the authors hope to push back against two common misconceptions that often stymy evidence-based approaches to reading instruction: that reading to children teaches them how to read and that children learn to read though independent discovery.