5 Ways Assistive Technology Supports Science of Reading Initiatives

Our mission at Texthelp is to make sure everyone can understand and be understood. That’s why we’re thrilled to see the Science of Reading gain attention in schools and states across the country.

The Science of Reading teaches learners how to read with methods that research studies have proven to be effective, and it works. In Mississippi, for example, fourth grade reading scores have increased dramatically since 2013, when they were ranked second to last in the country. The difference? They passed legislation requiring the Science of Reading to be taught in schools.

In this blog, we’ll explore why phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency are essential to the Science of Reading. Then we'll learn how assistive technology tools support these Science of Reading components.

The Five Science of Reading Components

The Science of Reading says teaching these five main components is essential to creating strong readers:

  1. Phonics

    Phonics teaches the relationship between letters and the sounds they represent. By understanding these connections, learners can decode words, which is essential for reading and spelling. Phonics instruction helps learners read and spell words correctly.
  2. Phonemic Awareness

    This skill helps students recognize and manipulate the small individual sounds that make up words. Phonemic awareness lays the groundwork for understanding how letters and sounds work together in reading and spelling.
  3. Vocabulary

    Teaching a variety of words and their meanings is important for building learners' comprehension and communication skills. A rich vocabulary helps learners succeed in school and beyond.
  4. Comprehension

    The ability to understand the meaning of what is being read is the main goal of reading. Comprehension skills allow learners to grasp the main ideas, make connections, and draw conclusions from a text. These skills are important for learning across all subjects and for critical thinking.
  5. Fluency

    Fluent reading means reading smoothly, at an appropriate speed, and with expression. When learners read fluently, it shows they’re able to recognize words easily. This is important to reading because when learners don't have to struggle with individual words, they can focus on understanding the meaning of the text.

These five components work together to form a strong foundation of reading skills that is necessary for learning from any kind of text. 

That’s why using evidence-based Science of Reading curriculum, Science of Reading strategies, and Science of Reading instruction not only helps reading scores. It helps our learners across multiple content areas and enables them to become lifelong learners.

How Assistive Technology Supports Science of Reading Strategies

Assistive technology can lend a hand in teaching learners to read through the Science of Reading in several different ways. Here’s how:

  1. Text-to-speech models fluent reading.

    When staff aren’t available to read aloud, when a learner prefers to work independently, or when a student is learning at home, text-to-speech can model fluent reading. In Read&Write, Texthelp’s literacy tool, learners can select from different voices and reading speeds to suit their preferences.
  2. Word prediction improves understanding of words, phrases and grammar.

    The word prediction available in assistive technology tools like Read&Write shows learners a list of possible words to choose from, while they’re writing. 

    Co:Writer, Don Johnston by Texthelp’s specialized writing support tool, word prediction that can be pre-set to predict vocabulary related to specific topics. These options build vocabulary and help shape writing skills.
  3. In-line dictionaries build vocabulary and word recognition, and increase comprehension. 

    The Read&Write toolbar travels with learners through digital spaces. When they come across a word they aren’t familiar with, they have a few options. Learners can highlight the word and click the dictionary button in their toolbar and a definition will appear.

    They can also click to have the definition read aloud to them. Or, they can choose the picture dictionary button. The picture dictionary will show images representing the highlighted word. Both of these options help learners add to their vocabulary and understand what they’re reading.
  4. Speak As I Type helps learners gain phonemic awareness.

    Learners can turn on the “Speak on each word” option in Read&Write to help gain phonemic awareness. Then, every time a learner types a word, Read&Write will read it aloud back to them right away. This helps to build their understanding of how letters create the individual sounds that make up words.
  5. Assistive technology helps learners with reading disabilities understand text.

    Explicitly teaching the Science of Reading is one of the best ways to teach learners with dyslexia, a learning disability that impacts reading, to read. 

    But studies show that dyslexic learners often understand text better when it’s read aloud to them. That’s because dyslexia can affect word recognition, phonological awareness, and working memory.  

    Dyslexic brains must work harder than non-dyslexic brains to decode text. It’s more difficult for them to understand what they’re reading. 

    Many of the support tools listed above help learners with dyslexia learn from, work with, and show their knowledge of grade level content. If the goal of reading is comprehension and learning, it is more equitable to give a learner with dyslexia access to assistive technology

These are just some of the ways Texthelp tools can support your Science of Reading initiative.

To learn more, join Universal Design for Learning (UDL) specialist and former secondary language arts educator Joni Degner in an on-demand Science of Reading webinar, linked below.