The Science of Reading in Practice: 3 Tips to Improve Foundational Literacy Skills Instruction from Dr. Julia B. Lindsey

pgodbole  //  Apr 17, 2024

The Science of Reading in Practice: 3 Tips to Improve Foundational Literacy Skills Instruction from Dr. Julia B. Lindsey

Following the recent launch of Scholastic Educations' Literacy Framework, the team has kicked off a new six-part "Science of Reading in Practice" series to provide educators best practices for implementing evidence-based strategies into their reading instruction.

Each of the six Scholastic Professional Authors will share evidenced-based strategies rooted in classroom experiences that build the foundational skills students need to become successful, confident readers. To kick off the series, Dr. Julia B. Lindsey, author of Reading Above the Fray joined Dr. Amanda Alexander, Chief Academic Officer at Scholastic, to discuss simple instructional routines that can transform an educator’s approach to teaching foundational reading skills.

1. Use precise language while teaching

  • Tell students exactly what they need to know in a logical order while covering necessary curriculum. This can benefit children as they learn foundational reading skills, and can even prevent future reading difficulties. 

  • Use precise instructional language, which can be broken down into four key components:

                 1.Think about the information children need.

                 2. Be concise. Say only what the students need to know and nothing more. 

                 3. Be precise. Make sure not to leave anything out. Use routine language so that students are hearing the same things over time.

                 4. Overall, keep in mind that precision and explicit instructional language lead to learning efficiency, and are key parts of implementing the science of reading in any classroom.

2. Incorporate “high impact practice” into phonics lessons

  • Strive to increase students’ responses to words and their sounds by using body motions and vocal instruction to create an engaging environment. 

  • Phonics practice should be the loudest time of day in any classroom. By giving students the ability to talk, they’ll be able to lean into a high practice, high impact phonics routine. 

  • They say practice makes perfect, and once an educator makes their instructional language more precise, they’re able to devote even more time in a phonics lesson to focus on practice. A study found that children benefited the most from phonics classes where there were at least 1.8 practice opportunities per minute.

3. Engage children in decodable texts

  • Select a decodable text that includes high frequency, familiar words that students can understand, and repetition to help them practice. 

  • By making sure that decodable texts used in classrooms are meaningful and culturally relevant, an educator can uplift their students’ experiences in their communities and world.

  • Overall, decodables used in classrooms should be cohesive with other texts and literacy experiences, so that students can have some connection points to further their understanding. 

Check out the full webinar here and stay tuned for more tips and strategies from our “Science of Reading in Practice” webinar series! Be sure to follow @ScholasticEdu on X for more engaging educational content. 


Julia B. Lindsey, Ph.D., is an expert in early literacy development, curriculum, and instruction. She has worked with teachers, districts, curriculum developers, and other organizations to help translate reading research into practice. Her previous partnerships include collaborating with the Boston Public Schools and the District of Columbia Public Schools to create content-connected decodable texts, working with the Center for Black Educator Development to design and pilot a new Freedom Schools model focused on early literacy, and advising publishing companies on research-based reading instruction. Dr. Lindsey holds a BS in Psychology from Davidson College, a MAT from Relay Graduate School of Education, and a Ph.D. in Educational Studies, specializing in Literacy, Language, and Culture, from the University of Michigan. She is a proud former elementary school teacher. She is currently the Early Literacy Manager for Reading Reimagined, an inclusive research and development program.