Dual Language Researcher Fact-checks SoR

Fact-checking 10 Science of Reading Claims: A Multilingual Education Perspective 

Jill Kerper Mora
San Diego State University 

The format for this fact-checking of the Science of Reading (SoR) from the perspective of multilingual learner education and the description of the SoR claims are based on the book by Robert Tierney and P. David Pearson titled Fact-checking the Science of Reading: Opening up the Conversation. The book is available for free access from Literacy Research Commons.


Explicit systematic phonics instruction is the key curricular component in teaching beginning reading.

Bilingual educators teach phonics in two languages. Spanish phonics is much easier to learn than English phonics because Spanish has a transparent orthography. On average, it takes one to three years for a Spanish speaker to learn to read Spanish (Alegría & Carillo, 2014: Jiménez & Ortiz, 2000). Contrarily, it takes from three to five years for an English speaker to learn to read English (Seidenberg, 2013; Share, 2004).

The question of how explicit and systematic phonics instruction needs to be is not a question that research can answer. This determination depends on the linguistic and cultural characteristics of the students receiving the instruction. For example, Spanish-English bilingual learners who are biliterate and have learned to read in Spanish need much less explicit instruction in English phonics when learning to read in English as a second/additional language (Fedeli, et al., 2021: Petito, et al., 2012). This is because many letter-sound correspondences are directly transferable across languages (Mora, 2016; Mora & Dorta-Duque de Reyes, in press; Thonis, 1983). These students have mastered alphabetic decoding. Their phonological/phonemic awareness is well developed and also transfers across languages. There is no fixed sequence for English phonics instruction needed for these students because, as fluent readers of Spanish, they already have a full repertoire of phonetic decoding skills (Jiménez, García & Pearson, 1996; Kovelman, et al., 2015; Marks, et al., 2022).

The features of effective phonics instruction for multilingual learners must include contextualization of word recognition skills in relationship to word meanings (semantics) to enhance vocabulary development. This requirement is supported by empirical research in second language reading on the construct of lexical inferencing (Haastrup, 2009; Nassaji, 2006; Raudszus, Segers & Verhoeven, 2021; Wesche & Paribakht, 2009). Explicit instruction is an issue of effectiveness for metalinguistic learning where the objective is to make explicit the knowledge of how language(s) work that undergirds multilingual learners’ first and second language competence (DeKeyser, 2003; Ellis, 2005; Francis, 2011). Isolated and decontextualized phonics instruction is counter-indicated for multilingual learners because vocabulary is retained in memory through word-context associations are made at the conceptual level rather than the word-form level (W.S. Francis et al., 2019).

The San Diego Office of Education published the Common Core Standards Translation Project. The translation included a linguistic augmentation to specify Spanish-specific orthographical and grammatical knowledge needed for decoding and comprehending Spanish text. A project of the Council of Chief State School Officers, the California Department of Education, and the San Diego County Office of Education, the Common Core en Español Spanish translations and linguistically augmented versions of the CA CCSS to support equitable assessment and curriculum development.

The parallels to metalinguistic concepts and skills between English Language Arts and Spanish Language Arts are articulated in this standards document. This curriculum document presents a sequence of metalinguistic knowledge concepts, known as the Common Core en Español Standards (2012). The standards’ scope and sequence reflect a progression of linguistic competence and demands of academic tasks. The grade-by-grade articulation of metalinguistic concepts categorized by language subsystems to illustrate how knowledge of how language works is applied to students’ performance of academic language and literacy tasks in English and Spanish across the elementary grades.

The use of decodable texts for Spanish literate students is not recommended because decodables are modified and artificial English language that decreases students’ ability to utilize natural English syntax and grammar for meaning making.

English learners who are not literate in their first or primary language (L1) and are in English-medium classrooms may need to develop phonological awareness of English phonemes and blends that do not exist in their L1, such as English vowel sounds (Anthony, et al., 2009; Fabiano, et.al, 2010) . They also may need explicit instruction in English spelling patterns such as blends, digraphs, silent-e patterns, etc.(Goodrich & Lonigan, 2016; Zutell & Allen, 1998). It is essential to consider these learners’ English oral language proficiency when assessing their progress in literacy learning since expected gains in the four domains of the language arts (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) exhibit different learning curves according to L2 language proficiency (Ardasheva, et al., 2012; De Avila, 1997; Thompson, 2017; Umansky & Reardon, 2014).  

The foundational research on literacy acquisition in Spanish focuses on metalinguistic awareness and knowledge development. The progression of metalinguistic knowledge development in Spanish literacy learning is based on the features of the language-specific characteristics (forms and functions) of the subsystems of language: phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics (Koda & Reddy, 2008). Effective literacy instruction for emergent bilingual learners requires teachers to make the distinction is made between language and literacy universals and language-specific features of the language of the text that students are reading and writing.  A metalinguistic transfer facilitation approach to language and literacy instruction is recommended for emergent bilingual learners (Ke, Zhang & Koda, 2023). 


The Simple View of Reading provides an adequate theoretical account of skilled reading and its development over time. 

The Simple View of Reading proposes that reading is the product of decoding and listening or linguistic comprehension. Decoding, in this model, refers to the ability to obtain a representation from print to remember the meaning of a word. Language comprehension refers to the ability to take the meaning of words to obtain meaning at the sentence and word level of input that have been presented orally. Reading comprehension requires the combination of both processes to derive meaning from text (Hoover & Gough, 1990).  The “language comprehension” component of the Simple View of Reading states a formula to describe the process required for reading comprehension:  “Decoding X Language Comprehension = Reading Comprehension.” The Simple View of Reading is based on this definition of decoding:

Decoding: For the simple view, skilled decoding is simply efficient word recognition: the ability to rapidly derive a representation from printed input that allows access to the appropriate entry in the mental lexicon, and thus, the retrieval of semantic information at the word level. (p. 130)

Nonetheless, the result is important in demonstrating the separate contributions of decoding and linguistic comprehension to reading ability, as the trend is consistent with the view that for skilled reading, skill in both components is required, while a weakness in either component is sufficient for less skilled reading. (p. 147)

Under the simple view of reading, linguistic comprehension and reading comprehension in this individual are equivalent; with respect to current linguistic skill, such a person is fully literate (for reading) since whatever can be comprehended by ear can likewise be comprehended by eye, and vice versa. Simply increasing the decoding skill of such an individual will not increase reading comprehension as the meaning of any words that can now be decoded given the newly expanded skill will still be absent from the internal lexicon. (p. 155)

Cervetti, et al. (2020: S161) on behalf of the Reading for Understanding Initiative, describe reading comprehension as “… a complicated constellation of skills and knowledge...” that is not reflected in the Simple View of Reading. These researchers criticize the Science of Reading advocates for not giving sufficient attention to the research evidence of the significance of listening comprehension in young readers and the importance of early oral language skills that support both decoding and listening comprehension. 

Foorman and Pescher (2018) argue the following regarding the Simple View of Reading: 

Conceptually it makes sense that decoding and linguistic comprehension would share variance in predicting written language because word recognition entails the linguistic skills of levels phonology, semantics, and discourse at the sentence and text levels. Similarly, linguistic comprehension must be connected to orthographic representations of phonemes, morphemes, words, sentences, and discourse if text is to be understood. Regression results for linguistic comprehension showed a fairly constant picture of L contributing substantial proportions of variance to reading comprehension across the grades, 36% in grade 1 to 54% in grade 10. However, when the method of decomposing the variance was used, the unique contribution of linguistic comprehension over the grades showed a dramatic increase from 17% in grade 1 to 28% in grade 7, to 42% in grade 10. The amount of common variance that decoding and linguistic comprehension together explain in predicting reading comprehension, especially in the elementary grades, suggests that more instructional emphasis should be placed on the integration of linguistic knowledge at the word level.

Research on literacy development of multilingual learners reading in their second language based on the Simple View of Reading (SVR) finds that the most salient obstacles to reading comprehension for English learners are not decoding skills, but rather, are linguistic comprehension factors (Cho, et al., 2019; Jeon & Yamashita, 2014). Jeon and Kamashito define decoding as a process during which a reader converts letters (graphemes) to sounds (phonemes) and, essentially, to language. In a meta-analysis of research on the Simple View of Reading theoretical framework, these researchers found that overall, the developmental pattern of young L2 readers’ decoding ability and its relationship with reading largely mirror that of L1 children with only a slight delay or with an almost synchronous rate. Jeon and Yamashita (2014) found in a meta-analysis of SVR that the variance in comprehension measures for English Learners was attributable to second language (L2) grammar knowledge (72%) and L2 vocabulary knowledge (62%), while language-general variables and decoding were low-evidence coordinates.

The obvious conclusion that must be drawn from a coherent view of reading is that the same knowledge and skills are necessary for comprehending the language of a written text as are required for comprehending speech orally. To understand speech, the listener must understand the semantics meaning of the words used by the speaker. Many of these words have meanings that depend on the linguistic context in which they are used. This context includes the syntax of the phrase or sentence in which the word is used. Words are not understood in isolation in the flow of speech. This is the essence of the Simple View of Reading. Many experienced teachers use a mode of assessment called an informal reading inventory (Ascenzi-Moreno, 2016; Kabuto, 2016). A part of an informal reading assessment is to read a passage to a student and then ask comprehension questions about the passage. If the student can understand the language of the passage read orally, then the probability that s/he can decode the passage is high. The teacher is engaging in assessment practices to discern the correlation between a student’s listening comprehension and his/her reading comprehension. Thus, this assessment procedure is an enactment of the Simple View of Reading. 

As teachers of students who are second language learners of English and are in the process of learning to comprehend oral English, teachers need to be knowledgeable about semantics as vocabulary knowledge. This involves an understanding of the grammatical and syntactic meaning and functions of words within sentences and discourse, the whole linguistic context of written text. The broader implication of the Simple View of Reading is this: Whatever the learner learns that enhances linguistic comprehension, also enhances decoding, and vice versa. Whatever the learner learns that enhances decoding, enhances linguistic comprehension. These two components are not in competition with each other. The notion that instruction in meaning-making strategies “dilutes” decoding instruction is logically incoherent. Consequently, attempts to discredit or ban instructional strategies that focus on the prompting students to focus on any of the subsystems of language.

SoR CLAIM 3 (Analysis to be posted soon)

Reading is the ability to identify and understand words that are part of one’s oral language repertoire.

SoR CLAIM 4 (Analysis to be posted soon)

Phonics facilitates the increasingly automatic identification of unfamiliar words.


The Three-Cueing System (Orthography, Semantics, and Syntax) has been soundly discredited.

Tierney, R. J., & Pearson, P. D. (2024). Fact-checking the Science of Reading: Opening up the conversation. Literacy Research Commons. https://literacyresearchcommons.org

Jumping on the Science of Reading Banned Wagon

On May 10, 2023 Sarah Schwartz of Education Week published an update on the fate of “three-cueing” in Science of Reading mandates. Schwartz reports state legislatures in Arkansas, Louisiana and Indiana   “cueing” is now officially banned in public schools. See ‘Science of Reading’ Mandates (edweek.org)

Most of these laws promote the adoption of evidence-based practices. But some legislation also bans methods that researchers have called into question. The new Indiana law takes aim at one particular instructional practice—a technique often referred to as “three cueing.”  … The term refers to one method for reading instruction and assessment that’s included in popular curriculum materials and often taught to teachers in preparation programs. It teaches that students can rely on multiple sources of information, or cues, to figure out words. They might look at the letters to sound the word out, but they could also rely on context or pictures to make a guess.  … Many reading researchers have warned against the practice, saying that it can discourage children from putting their phonics knowledge into practice and teach them to rely on ineffective strategies.”

The lack of identification of the “many reading researchers” who have warned against “cueing” and “three-cueing” that is allegedly a theoretical model of reading is itself problematic. This is because other researchers cannot challenge their claims since we are unable to access the empirical studies on which they allegedly base this “warning.” Nor can their fellow researchers dialogue with these “many reading researchers” to offer their own perspective on logical coherence of these warnings, which they allegedly base on scientific research themselves. So perhaps these “many reading researchers” are simply using the term “science” as a metaphor to lend credibility to their ideological assertions. 

AB 2222 (Rubio) Science of Reading introduced on February 7, 2024. This bill states that its purpose is …” to ensure compliance with effective means of teaching literacy, as defined, and adherence to the science [of] reading, as provided.” (p. 2). The bill defines the “science of reading” in Section 10, Sec. 60011(p. 19-20) to be added to the CA Education Code. Section (5) outlines the proposed prohibited that were included in the legislation.

“(b) “Science of reading” means an interdisciplinary body of scientifically based research that includes all of the following:
(5) Does not rely on any model for teaching word reading based on meaning, structure and syntax, and visual cues, including a three-cueing approach, with the exception of instruction to pupils who are identified as deaf or hearing impaired, as defined in paragraphs (3) and (5), respectively, of subdivision (c) of Section 17 300.8 of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations.”

Click here for Dr. Mora’s analysis of the problematic definition of the Science of Reading and the AB 2222 bans on instruction that the legislation proposed.

Lack of Definition of Terms

Linguistics actually describes five or six language subsystems (cue sources): phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax, and pragmatics. Sometimes orthography (spelling) is considered a subsystem of language. Different researchers identify and investigate different subsystems of language using different labels (Babayiğit & Shapiro, 2020). For example, vocabulary and grammar are studied as components of language comprehension. Furthermore, these components are often further broken down into morphology and syntax to examine their contribution to the broader variables of vocabulary knowledge and grammatical skills. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of research studies based on the language subsystems that provide insights into the contributions of the components of language to decoding, word recognition and reading comprehension. This research is the deeper and broader study of how language works, called metalinguistics.

The use of the term “cueing” psycholinguistic research refers to how language conveys and encodes meaning through the subsystems of language: phonology, morphology, semantics, syntax and pragmatics. The multiple definitions of “three-cueing” and a “three-cueing approach” make it difficult to determine exactly what is banned through these legislative initiatives. The many popularized definitions of the term “three-cueing system(s)” in the media and among some literacy researchers are at the heart of the controversy over the bans of the so-called “three-cueing approach.” Take for example this definition of “three-cueing” from the Albert Shanker Report (Neuman, et. al, 2023:8): “Cueing systems in reading are the practices that aid in determining the meaning of unknown words. There are three cueing systems: grapho-phonetic cues (letters/sounds) s; /s/); syntactic cues (grammar); and semantics (comprehension). The view is that if one system fails, such as letters and sounds, the other systems might compensate, often leading students to use context, or guessing of words. The research evidence has shown that the approach does not give children the systematic and explicit teaching necessary for them to be able to make the connection between the spoken and the printed word.”

There are three variations on the definition of “three-cueing.” 1) Definition of the cueing systems as linguistic cueing as what language does through its subsystems; 2) Definitions of cueing systems as decoding strategies or what readers do; and 3) instructional cueing. ). In literacy research, a distinction is made in between linguistic cueing, which is how language conveys meaning versus instructional cueing, which is both language and literacy pedagogy. If cueing is defined as what language does, then why would instruction for the purpose of teaching students about how language works be prohibited, especially for multilingual learners who are developing second language proficiency? If cueing is a collective of decoding strategies that readers use, how did they learn them and are they effective for decoding and comprehending authentic continuous text? If cueing is an instructional approach or strategy that teachers employ, then why are they limited to only three of the language subsystems? Or are teachers limited to cueing students during instruction to features of the subsystem of phonology as it is graphically represented through the alphabet? Goodman (1971) asserts that both oral language and written language are codes. For literate people, two code forms complement each other–a written code and an oral code. Written text is an encoded message from an author to a reader. Decoding written text must move the language use from language to meaning. It is an evidence-free assertion by SoR proponents that any one of the subsystems of language required for comprehension of oral language is not utilized or is unnecessary for comprehension of phonologically recoded language.  

History of the Three-cueing Controversy

The first thing to understand about the three-cueing controversy is that it was fueled most recently by journalist Emily Hanford of American Public Media in her podcast series “Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went Wrong.” Emily Hanford of American Public Media has declared that teachers are teaching reading the wrong way because they are following “a disproven theory” of how students learn to read. Here are quotations from Emily Hanford’s Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong podcast that frame her argument against “three-cueing.”

“Teaching kids to read this way has become known as “three cueing.” It’s not a term Marie Clay used, as far as I know. But three cueing is based on her theory of how people read. An influential academic in the United States came up with the same basic theory at about the same time. The cueing theory provided justification for not teaching children how to sound out words…because the theory was that good readers don’t have to know how to do that. They have other ways to figure out what the words say.”

For Dr. Mora’s elaborated analysis of Emily Hanford’s argument, click here. Suffice it to say, Hanford’s sold educators and the public a story of her own that has resulted in state legislatures throughout the nation to ban educators from using what she called “three-cueing.” This successful media campaign against revered literacy scholars demonstrates the power of the media to distort and misrepresent decades of academic research that informs literacy instruction for millions of students. 

To understand the evolution of the concept of “cueing” among literacy scholars, here are three pivotal research articles that show how a research construct has become controversial. 

Step 1 Read Professor Ken Goodman’s “Psycholinguistics universals in the reading process” (1970). This is one of Goodman’s earlier and more comprehensive explanations of the concept of cueing. This article is important because it explains the rationale for this framing of the reading process based on how readers read regardless of the script the text is in. Goodman also emphasizes second/foreign language readers’ challenges. In his own words, Dr. Goodman describes how the concept of miscues emerged from his research: 

…. Just as young children learning to speak show their growing control over the grammar of their language by their “errors” … readers use the same process for producing their errors as they do for their accurate reading. By comparing their observed oral responses to the text with the expected responses that would appear accurate to a listener I had a continuous window on their reading. I could see the process of reading at work! … The errors my first subjects were making showed they were using their knowledge of language to make sense of the printed text. (p. v) But if I continued to use the term “error” teachers and other researchers might continue to think of them as simply wrong rather than resulting from the language strengths of the learners. In deciding to call them miscues, I did not coin the word “miscue.” I had already begun to talk about the cue systems of language. If language provides cues that readers use, then why not call these unexpected responses “miscues”? A simple definition of a miscue also emerged: A miscue is a point in reading where the expected response (ER) and the observed response (OR) are not the same. ER ≠ OR. Out of this work grew two assumptions that still underlie miscue analysis: 1) Miscues are never random. 2) Unexpected responses result from the same process as expected responses. Our goal was a better understanding of the reading process, a more complete theory of reading, and a taxonomy of miscue analysis appropriate to all readers.” (p. vi-vii)

Goodman, K. S. (1970). Psycholinguistic universals in the reading process. Journal of Typographic Research, 4(2 Spring), 103-11

Step 2 Read P. David Pearson A psycholinguistic model of reading (1976). This is also an early application of Ken Goodman’s three-cueing notion, early in the stages of data collection on miscue analysis. Professor Pearson proposes a model of how error patterns in readers’ oral reading performance inform language arts activities where they practice using phonics in context. 

“Receivers of language input (listeners or readers) use a variety of sources of information as they read or listen. Most prominent and ubiquitous for the reader are semantic-associational information, syntactic information, and symbol-sound information. (p. 309) Real reading occurs when all three kinds of information are utilized in concert. Efficient readers maximize their reliance on syntactic and semantic information in order to minimize the amount of print to speech processing (call this decoding phonic or grapho-phonemic analysis) they have to do. They literally predict what is coming and get enough grapho-phonemic information to verify their predictions.” (p. 310)

“Now, how does the model help us? By implication, what is happening is that the skills activities are concentrating on phonic information only. Then the children are asked to use the knowledge they have acquired in conjunction with context, for example, semantic and syntactic information. But we don’t show them how to do that! There is a critical intermediate step left out: practicing the phonics skill in conjunction with semantic and syntactic information; in short, we need to expose them to phonics in context. One can go a step further and use a decision rule which says that we will value most highly those phonics skill activities which allow children to utilize the most semantic and syntactic information while they are “cracking the code.” Conversely, we will value least highly those phonics skill activities which are most isolated from context.” (p. 311)

Pearson, P. D. (1976). A psycholinguistic model of reading. Language Arts, 53(3), 309-314. 

Step 3 Read Marilyn Jager Adams (1998) article titled “The three-cueing system.” This article explains the resistance that Adams encountered when she started to use a Venn diagram of the three-cueing system (or systems), noting that she describes it/them in both singular and plural. The important thing to take away from this article is that the push-back that Adams got was from teachers who simply thought that the semantic and syntactic systems were obvious so why the big deal? This is IMO the monolingual assumption at work. 

“Thus by depicting the meaning of a text in the intersection of its semantic, syntactic, and graphophonic cues, the Venn diagram succinctly asserts that the meaning of a text depends on all three; all three of these types of information are necessary, all three must be properly processed, and not one of them can be safely ignored or finessed except at the risk of forfeiting or distorting the meaning of the text.(p. 75)

Goodman’s thesis, in short, is that instruction should be designed with sensitive awareness that as readers gain in skill, their active attention is devoted less and less to sounding out words and more and more to the higher-order nuances and import of the text. In this spirit, he also provides more insightful and sophisticated discussion of the kinds of support warranted than I have seen in any recent text. (p. 81) They (teachers) had been operating on the belief that the semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic cues were straightforward and familiar to children, and, because of this, were wholly available for use in finessing the graphophonemic system, which was complicated and unfamiliar. It had never occurred to them that there was much to teach or learn about the semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic cues involved in skillful reading. What I was saying must have been totally disorienting to these people.” (p. 89)

Again, the simplifications and distortions that the three-cueing system has suffered are uncharacteristic of the fate of written information. My hypothesis is, instead, that the three-cueing system principally has proliferated through inservice sessions, workshops, and conferences, and that it is through that process that its interpretation has been changed and its heritage forgotten. Such forums have become a common mode of inservice education in recent years. While the enthusiasm of teachers teaching teachers is commendable the short-term nature of such training presents a unique problem; it virtually assures that only the rudimentary elements of these theories can be presented. (p. 90)

Adams, M. J. (1998). The three-cueing system. In J. Osborn & F. Lehr (Eds.), Literacy for all: Issues in teaching and learning (pp. 73-99). The Guilford Press. 

These three articles together provide what I find to be a coherent history of the early development of the controversy. I point out is an argument about the IMPLICATIONS of miscue analysis research, not a critique of the research itself. We also note that Marie Clay is never mentioned, so these articles refute the argument of Emily Hanford of American Public Media that Marie Clay came up with the idea. This blows a major premise of her “Sold a Story podcast out of the water.  

Alternative Theories and Evidence-free Assertions about Cueing

There are a number of alternative theories and evidence-free assertions about cueing and the “three-cueing approach” to reading instruction that are trotted out to justify SoR promoted bans on certain reading instruction strategies. Although these theories do not actually rise to the level of established literacy theories that have a strong empirical evidence base, they have garnered wide popular support through media campaigns and support from some “big-name” researchers. One evidence-free assertion is that the subsystems of language are in competition with each other. The alternative theory posits that when teachers prompt readers to pay attention to syntax or semantics, this detracts from their word recognition and decoding base on grapho-phonics and therefore, disrupting a more efficient “division of labor” where phonological decoding should be primary (Goldberg & Goldenberg, 2022; Seidenberg, 2017). ). SoR advocates complain about the three-cueing system Venn diagram because of its interpretation. For example, Professor Mark Seidenberg (2017: 310), criticizes the cueing schematic because it is “…open to many interpretations. In fact, it is compatible with every theory of reading. . . It is a Rorschach blot on which to project one’s beliefs about reading.” This complaint is surprising because most researchers believe that if a theoretical model of reading is compatible with every theory of reading, that indicates that it is a valid and widely applicable explanation of how reading (and how language) works.

Another alternative theory suggests that teacher’s prompting or cueing of subsystems of language other than grapho-phonics (phonology and orthography) are “direct” instruction, but that cueing of linguistic subsystems or non-linguistic cueing are “indirect” instruction and therefore “…leave too much to chance.” (Lyon, 2024) Reid Lyon lists this theory as a “maxim” meant to guide reading instruction. Maxim 7: Direct, systematic instruction helps students develop the skills they need to become strong readers. Indirect, three-cueing instruction is unpredictable in its impact on word reading and leaves too much to chance. (Lyon, 2024)

Lyon’s (2024) claimed research studies that allegedly support his maxim fail to explain why instruction to raise readers’ awareness of how language conveys meaning through three of the subsystems of language is “indirect” instruction while teaching phonology and orthography is “direct” and “systematic” instruction. One might be inclined to believe that knowledge of how all subsystems of a larger system work interactively and in concert to accomplish the system’s purpose.

A third alternative theory about “cueing” is the notion that drawing emergent readers’ attention to linguistic (semantics, syntax) and non-linguistic cues (pictures, context) promotes “guessing” which is a strategy that struggling readers use but proficient readers do not, or at least should not use (Shanahan, 2020). 

“Goodman (1967) was not the first to recommend this kind of guessing on the basis of minimum visual information, nor was he the first to do so without any instructional evidence showing that it conferred a learning advantage…Again, in Goodman’s (1967) case, his empiricism was sound. Readers, when distracted or struggling, try to compensate for this failure by inferring words that might make sense in context. However, no one has shown that teaching students to compensate in this way improves reading achievement, and other basic research has weakened the original claim because proficient readers look at pretty much every letter during reading, and where they look is not affected by semantics or syntax (Rayner, Binder, Ashby, & Pollatsek, 2001).” (p. S239)

The stance against “guessing” as a feature of fluent decoding and comprehension of text ignores the ample body of neuroscience and cognitive science research on linguistic prediction. It also fails to acknowledge Science of Reading research that names “prediction” as one of several decoding strategies that readers use (Ehri, 2017).

The third strategy for reading unfamiliar words is by prediction. Readers use initial letters plus context cues in the sentence, the passage, or pictures to anticipate what the word might be. Once a word is predicted, then its pronunciation is matched to the spelling on the page to verify that the sounds fit the letters. (p. 128)

Actually, if the objectors to “guessing” as a reading process merely substitute the neurological term “guessing” for the neuroscience evidence of the ordinary linguistic process of prediction, the controversy surrounding “guessing” is resolved (Bonhage et al., 2015):

“It is widely agreed upon that linguistic predictions are an integral part of language comprehension. Yet, experimental proof of their existence remains challenging. Here, we introduce a new predictive eye gaze reading task combining eye tracking and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that allows us to infer the existence and timing of linguistic predictions via anticipatory eye-movements. Word-specific predictions were specifically associated with more widely distributed temporal and parietal cortical systems, most prominently in the right hemisphere. Our results support the presence of linguistic predictions during sentence processing and demonstrate the validity of the predictive eye gaze paradigm for measuring syntactic and semantic aspects of linguistic predictions, as well as for investigating their neural substrates. Language comprehension involves the continuous decoding of highly structured sensory information within very short time. One way to efficiently handle the ensuing cognitive demands is to process language in a proactive way by relying on predictions, for example of upcoming words but also of structural features of the expected linguistic input. Predictive processing is believed to be a fundamental principle of brain function.” (p. 33-34)

There is a lack of empirical evidence to support the claim and ample evidence to refute the claim that “guessing” as linguistic prediction is not something that fluent, expert readers do and that struggling readers can be taught directly and explicitly to do to improve their reading fluency and comprehension. Educators of multilingual learners look to the body of research literature on metalinguistic awareness and metalinguistic skills instruction to inform literacy and biliteracy curriculum and instruction (Apel, 2022; Ke, et al., 2023; Yaden, et al., 2021). Yaden and colleagues state the problem this way:

“We argue that its singular focus limits the range of scientific inquiry, interpretation, and application to practice. Specifically, we address limitations of the science of reading as characterized by a narrow theoretical lens, an abstracted empiricism, and uncritical inductive generalizations derived from brain-imaging and eye movement data sources. Unfortunately, we believe that in many cases, the cloak of science has been employed to elevate the stature of SOR work and to promote the certainty and force of its advocates’ preferred explanations for what reading is and how it should be taught (e.g., Gentry & Ouellette, 2019; Schwartz & Sparks, 2019). What we suggested in this article is that the SOR, when so used in the reading wars, is not science at all in its fullest sense. It neglects an entire domain that influences and shapes human experience. It does so with an unmitigated confidence that evidence from one side of a binary can establish a final truth and that such a truth creates a single prescription for all instruction. Taking that stance, however, is outside the pale of science and dismisses work that has both merit on its own terms and a critical role in advancing the aims motivating reading research and instruction.” (p. s119 & p. S126)

A particularly strident attack on cueing strategies and the term’s alleged originator, Dr. Kenneth Goodman is found in the work of Yaavac Petscher and his colleagues at Florida State University (Petscher et al., 2020).  Note the “lost learning trial” that is, according to these researchers, a negative effect of readers’ “guessing” at words and thereby “using alternative cueing systems” that impede the “building of automatic word recognition skill.” 

“Constructivists, such as Goodman (1967) and Smith (1971), believed that reading was a natural act akin to learning language and thus emphasized giving students the opportunity to discover meaning through experiences in a literacy-rich environment (Goodman, 1967, p. 126) in which readers use their graphic, semantic, and syntactic knowledge (known as the three-cueing system) to guess the meaning of a printed word…Other instructional practices go directly against what is known from the science of reading. For example, isolating the three-cueing approach to support early word recognition (i.e., relying on a combination of semantic, syntactic, and graphophonic cues simultaneously to formulate an intelligent hypothesis about a word’s identity) ignores 40 years of overwhelming evidence that orthographic mapping involves the formation of letter–sound connections to bond the spelling, pronunciation, and meaning of a specific word in memory. (p. S272) Moreover, relying on alternative cueing systems impedes the building of automatic word recognition skill that is the hallmark of skilled word reading (Stanovich, 1990, 1991). The English orthography, being both alphabetic-phonemic and morphophonemic, clearly privileges the use of various levels of grapheme–phoneme correspondences to read words (Frost, 2012), with rapid context-free word recognition being the process that most clearly distinguishes good from poor readers (Perfetti, 1992; Stanovich, 1980). Guessing at a word amounts to a lost learning trial to help students learn the orthography of the word and thus reduce the need to guess the word in the future (Castles et al., 2018; Share, 1995).” (p. S272-273)

This competition theory about cueing systems is frequently expressed using the terms “rather than” or “instead of” to convey the sense that readers who respond to semantic or syntactic cues in language do not engage in orthographic mapping. Contrarily, other researchers point out that a significant percentage of English words cannot be decoded correctly in isolation but must be used in a phrase or sentence for the meaning of the word to be signaled. Bowers & Bowers (2017) assert that 16% to 20% cannot accurately be decoded outside of the context of a sentence. Examples are words like bow (rhymes with toe) and bow (rhymes with how) or read (present tense) and read (past tense). Other examples of the need for using context for word recognition is where the stressed syllable of the word signals meaning (CONtract/conTRACT). In fact, although the meaning of nouns can be recognized in isolation, but verbs require the context of a sentence for readers to discern their meaning regarding tense, direct and indirect objects, types of action, etc. These researchers emphasize the importance of the language subsystem of morphology, which seems to be one cueing system that is infrequently banned, perhaps because morphology is a sublexical meaning cueing system.

The Attack on Syntax

The word “cues” in literacy research means the signals that language provides through speech and written text to communicate meaning. Therefore, “cueing” is what language does, not what teachers do. Where there are “cues” in reading, there are also miscues. Miscues are mismatches between the exact words of the text and what the reader said in reading orally. The Science of Reading movement’s most frequently banned language subsystem is syntax. A review of many hundreds of research studies by fellow literacy scholars, syntax is a very important subsystem (cueing system) of language for students to know and be able to use for comprehending both oral and written language. In fact, the mandates promoted by the SoR movement seek to deprive teachers of language minority students of the pedagogical knowledge and skills that they need to support high levels of achievement for multilingual learners. Commercial language arts programs, methods, approaches, and strategies do not teach students to read and write. Teachers do. Here is what A.W.F. Huggins and Marilyn Jager Adams had to say on the subject in 1980 (and still true today): 

“There are several aspects of syntax that children must acquire. First, they must learn how single words are combined to form larger syntactic units, such as a noun and a verb to make a sentence, or later, a determiner, an adjective, and a noun to make a noun phrase. Then they must learn simple syntactic rules, such as those used to generate the passive or the negative, which modify the order of constituents or introduce auxiliary verbs or function words where necessary. Later still, they must learn how single syntactic rules are combined to generate complex sentences. In addition to learning each construction, they must learn to restrict the construction to appropriate contexts… In spoken language, the prosodic pattern of what is said (pitch, stress, timing, and pauses) contains many clues about how spoken words should be grouped and how the resulting groups of words are related. In written language, this information is not explicit, except minimally as punctuation. … [Poor readers] seem not to understand the concept of a “sentence,” … but when shown explicitly what to do, they catch on very quickly. Thus, some of the difficulties faced by poor readers can perhaps be ascribed to the lack of instruction (as opposed to practice) in reading after a child has mastered word decoding skills. For, in addition to recognizing the words in a text, the reader must divine their syntactic function.” (p. 87-89)

Implications for Literacy Instruction for Multilingual Learners

In summary, the research in linguistics, psycholinguistics, second language acquisition and second language reading, as well as the research paradigm of metalinguistics are the foundations of the pedagogical knowledge base for literacy instruction for multilingual learners (Mora, 2024). The pedagogical knowledge base for L2 is informed by neuroscience research into the way language and print are processed in the bilingual brain (Gambi, 20The knowledge base for language teacher education as a transdisciplinary framework that reflects distinctive, yet compatible theoretical perspectives that together bridge the theory-practice divide. The view of pedagogical content knowledge as transdisciplinary justifies teachers’ opposition to critics who attempt to invalidate certain methods of inquiry and empirical databases for educating multilingual students. Research into the characteristics of effective literacy teaching provides a perspective on how teachers interpret and integrate theoretical models of literacy instruction to promote high levels of student achievement. Alternative theories about “cueing” and how language subsystems work are refuted by research on the bilingual. (Jasińska, et al., 2017; Kovelman, Baker & Petitto, 2008; Kroll & Bialystok, 2013; Marks, et al., 2022). 

“The acquisition and use of two languages embedded in a mental conceptual structure that is at the center of human thought and behavior necessarily results in a different configuration from that found for single language minds. Bilingualism alters the structure and function of the mind. As we will argue, bilingual minds are different not because bilingualism itself creates advantages or disadvantages, but because bilinguals recruit mental resources differently from monolinguals. The point is that a more comprehensive cognitive network is required for bilinguals, making both linguistic and cognitive processing proceed differently than they do for monolinguals. Reducing performance to a few measurable components fails to capture the most crucial outcome of the experience, namely, the reconfiguration of these networks.” (p. 1 & p. 3)

“What is even more surprising about the emerging picture of an open language system in which there are persistent cross-language influences is that these interactions are present for learners and for highly skilled bilinguals, they occur even when the two languages are markedly different in form, and they are observed at every level of language processing, from the lexicon and phonology to the grammar. The observation here, consistent with what we have seen in our review of cross-language lexical interactions, is that the grammar of each language is influenced by the bilingual’s experience with the other language. The evidence that we have reviewed and the rapidly emerging findings on the consequences of bilingualism make clear that the bilingual is indeed a mental juggler at all levels of language processing and that there are a host of consequences that result, many of which can be characterized as benefits.” (p. 16)

These interpretations of reading research overlook second language acquisition and second language reading research on the construct of lexical inferencing (Bernhardt, 1998; Ke, et al., 2023; Wesche, & Paribakht, 2009). Academic research into metalinguistic skills and lexical inferencing confirms the value of instruction in the subsystems of language to develop students’ explicit awareness of how language works as a coordinated system comprised of operational subsystems. In fact, wherever teachers encounter the term “awareness” as in phonological awareness or phonemic awareness, this refers to metalinguistic knowledge that enables speakers and readers to extract meaning from linguistic structures. In his research on the Simple View of Reading, Apel (2022) identifies metalinguistic skills as the “common thread” between decoding and linguistic comprehension. Furthermore, metalinguistic knowledge is key to cross-linguistic transfer for bilingual learners (Koda & Reddy, 2008; Mora & Dorta-Duque de Reyes, in press). Metalinguistic skills instruction makes learners’ implicit knowledge of how language works explicit to gain automaticity and control over the surface structure of language to access the deep structure, which is meaning (DeKeyser, 2003: Ellis, 2005). Metalinguistic awareness is the capacity to bring to consciousness the knowledge of the structural characteristics of language for their application by speakers and readers of their own language-processing activities for purposes of selection, coordination and control of inherent linguistic competencies (Gombert, 1992). 

Teachers’ knowledge of the structures and functions of the subsystems of language is invaluable in instruction and assessment. For instance, teachers use this knowledge for identifying the possible origin of readers’ miscues in their oral reading performance through the application of running records (Briseño and Klein; McGee, et al., 2015). Miscue analysis enables teachers to draw on students’ linguistic strengths by distinguishing language-related approximations from traditional reading errors. Second language acquisition research informed teachers’ ability to direct instruction toward enhancing L2 readers’ language proficiency and reading fluency (Baxter et al., 2021; Bernhardt, 1998; Birch, 2007; Carrell, 1991).

In conclusion, we multilingual educators must challenge attempts to narrow our knowledge base of coherent theoretical constructs and valid empirical databases based on spurious claims that this research is untrustworthy. Teachers must reaffirm the value of the transdisciplinary research that shapes our theoretical orientation toward literacy instruction and, in turn, our pedagogical practices to ensure that all students gain access to the linguistic and cognitive benefits of their multilingual repertoires. We must demand access to undistorted science and relevant empirical research that enhances our expertise for educating multilingual learners.   


Learning to read is an unnatural act.

An argument about whether or not something is “natural” or “unnatural” hinges entirely on how the term “natural” is defined. I find this to be one of the more puzzling arguments coming from SoR gurus such as Reid Lyon (1998). This is because science is known as a systematic methodology for studying natural phenomena. This means that to declare reading to be “unnatural” would make the Science of Reading a science of the unnatural.

Here is a description of how the reading brain functions in children’s literacy learning by Don Holdaway (1986) from a book edited by David Yaden and Shane Templeton that supports the premise that literacy and literacy learning are in fact, natural.

“In alphabetic writing, each letter, rather than each word or name, is regarded as an irreducible entity… Young children have no experience of perceptions which have been reduced or abstracted into ultimately contrastive bits, such as letters. Indeed, even mature writers and readers seldom regard letters in this elemental way, although they have the competence to do so. Normally, however, they attend to complex wholes which have been integrated by the brain from the suggestively spaced and punctuated bits. The actual difficulties experienced by young children, especially under the influence of naïve and oversimplified instruction, strongly support the contention that the great modal leap from auditory to visual language presents predictable problems. …” (p. 88)

“Flexibly viewed by a reading brain, this file of bits forms a generally adequate bank of cues from which language can be recreated. By no stretch of the imagination is the print language: It is merely the potential for language—a highly suggestive husk. It is not surprising that the brain must provide much of the information from its own experience of language and the world in order to make the system yield sense. (p. 89)

Holdaway (1986) elaborates on the centrality of knowledge about language that is entailed in both language and literacy learning. Oral language acquisition and literacy learning both require the brain of the speaker/reader acquire a system of arbitrary symbols that signal meaning. The systems (referred to in linguistics as subsystems of language) in which both oral language and written language signal meaning are the same. The difference between the two resides in the modality in which language is delivered for the purposes of communication between interlocutors: auditorily through speech or visually through written text.  

“Considering that language depends on a system of quite arbitrary symbols, there is a sense in which all language is marvelously artificial, as there is sense in regarding that all human culture is artificial. If we are to use the term “natural” for any human behavior, we must use it to imply the distinctively human and enabling activities such as language and the learning of language without which the species would not be human….It would appear that the differences between learning spoken and written language may be accounted for most correctly and useful in terms of their modal differences rather than in terms of a spurious unnaturalness or artificiality… but there is no evidence to suggest that the principles of “natural” developmental learning do not apply to literacy, or will not operate efficiently if applied. Nor is there evidence that the teaching of literacy needs to be as curiously artificial as it has become, particularly in the last decade or more. “Natural learning” as eminently displayed in the mastery of speech, encompasses the great complexity of language, cognitively, emotionally, and neurologically. We cannot perfectly explain how we learn or engage in language, but the brain can be trusted to do it well when human curiosity and interactiveness are sustained in natural ways.” (p. 89-90)

Linguistically, the familiar, known world of young children is auditory, but they maintain cognitive clarity by an uncompromising closeness between concrete operations in the real world and their language development. Their style of learning is concrete and demands “hands-on” interaction with the real world. Our task is to help them see a reflection of those forms of intelligibility in the visual display of print.” (p. 92) 

Modality is an important concept for language and literacy educators to understand because there are different modalities for transmitting language to the brain. Oral language is transmitted to the brain through the auditory modality. But for a person who is deaf, language is transmitted through a visual modality. Sign language is language. A person who has been deaf from birth does not have access to an auditory modality for language. To someone who is blind, both the auditory and tactile modalities for language are available, but for a person who is both blind and deaf, like Helen Keller, the tactile senses, such as through finger spelling and Braile are the modality for transmission and processing of language in the brain.

Remember the scene in movie “The Miracle Worker” where Helen Keller’s teacher Anne Sullivan drags Helen out to the water pump to fill a pitcher because Helen had thrown the water in her teacher’s face during a temper tantrum. In the process of getting Helen to work the pump, Sullivan finger spells the word “water” in Helen’s hand. In that dramatic moment, Helen “gets it” that the finger spelling represents the word “water” for the actual object that she is sensing. This is the moment in which Helen Keller discovered language. The importance of this scene for language and literacy educators to think about is the concept of modality. Helen Keller could only process and learn language (and later to read and write) through a tactile modality. Anne Sullivan had worked for months with Helen teaching her the finger spelling of common objects in her environment: a glass, an apple, a doll, etc. But Helen was not connecting the symbolic representation of these objects with the finger-spelled word that named the object. Until she made this mental connection, Helen did not have the mental concept of language. If Helen Keller was able to learn to read and write language despite the fact that she could hear no sound nor visually capture language through grapho-phonics, then how can anyone argue that learning to read is unnatural?


Balanced Literacy and/or Whole Language is responsible for the low or failing NAEP scores we have witnessed in the U.S. in the past decade.

Models of Reading

In the current debate regarding approaches to literacy instruction, one often sees the term the “three-cueing system model” of reading. I question the rationale behind considering the linguistic descriptors of subsystems of language that researchers such as Ken Goodman used to categorize miscues as a “model” of reading. The three categories of miscues that are used in miscue analysis (graphophonics, semantics and syntax) are components of written language. The underlying hypothesis behind this categorization is that miscues occur because a discrepancy or mismatch between a reader’s response to the language of a text and the actual written text may be explained by a lack of knowledge of how that particular subsystem of language works. In other words, a reader’s lack of graphophonetic knowledge, or semantic knowledge, or syntactic knowledge, is the possible cause of the miscue. The miscue is not caused by a “cueing system” but rather, the reader’s lack of knowledge of the cueing system is the proximal cause of the miscue. The use of “cueing systems” as categories of possible sources of miscues is important to keep in mind when we are assessing the logical coherence of claims against “three-cueing” as an instructional strategy, since categories are not strategies. It is also important to remember that the data on readers’ oral reading performance reveals both successful use of cueing systems (subsystems of language) and unsuccessful or incomplete use of cueing systems, all in pursuit of deriving meaning from language represented graphically in written text. 

There is no modern research that I know of that refutes or invalidates any aspect or component of Ken Goodman’s Transactional Sociopsycholinguistic Model of Reading (1970). Critics of his research find fault with his work for ideological reasons and other reasons that have nothing to do with the value of his comprehensive body of work in enhancing our understanding of how readers make meaning from text. Goodman states this foundational principle: “The reading process cannot be fractionated into sub-skills to be taught or sub-divided into code-breaking and comprehension without qualitatively changing it.” (Flurkey & Yu, 2003:252). Those who reject a database from systematic qualitative and quantitative analysis of reading behaviors are discounting a valuable and informative source of scientific knowledge about how language and literacy work without any scientific basis (Smith, 1999).

Ken Goodman has presented and explained his theories using a complex and comprehensive theoretical model that he calls a Transactional Sociopsycholinguistic Model of Reading. The model is based on the convergence of theories about reading from several disciplines, including linguistics, psycholinguistics, constructivism, cognitive theory, sociolinguistics, systemic functional grammar, neurocognitive theories and research and eye movement studies. Goodman’s greatest contribution is the database for his model from miscue analysis procedures from hundreds of readers. His database is a comprehensive and extensive base of systematic observations of reading behaviors. Consequently, it is not experimental research. Goodman’s theoretical model (Flurkey & Yu, 2003:55-56) describes 11 steps that are involved in a reader’s process of making meaning from text. Here is a paraphrased summary of these steps, which Goodman explains are not necessarily sequential, but that comprise a description of the processes involved in making meaning of text.

  1. The reader scans the text, left to right and down the page, line by line.
  2. The reader fixes at a point to permit eye focus, which creates a central and a peripheral field.
  3. The reader begins the selection process, picking up graphic cues, guided by prior choices and the reader’s knowledge, cognitive style and learned strategies.
  4. The reader forms a perceptual image based on cues that s/he sees and expects to see.
  5. The reader searches his/her memory for related syntactic, semantic, and phonological cues. Semantic analysis leads to selection of more graphic cues and to reforming the perceptual image.
  6. The reader makes a prediction or tentative choice consistent with the graphic cues.
  7. If no prediction is possible, the reader checks the perceptual input to gather more graphic cues.
  8. The reader makes a decodable choice from testing for semantic and grammatical acceptability within the context (language) of the text.
  9. If the tentative choice is not acceptable grammatically or syntactically, the reader regresses to locate the point of semantic or syntactic inconsistency, or the reader moves on in the text to find cues to reconcile the inconsistencies.
  10. If the choices are acceptable, decoding is extended and assimilated into prior meaning. Expectations are formed about input and meaning that lies ahead.
  11. The cycle continues, using both long-term and short-term memory.

See Flurkey and Yu, 2003, pages 56-57 for Figure 2-1 A Flow Chart of Goodman’s Model of Reading. This figure is a visual description of the 11 steps of the reading process.

Goodman authored 131 research articles, 26 books and monographs and 86 book chapters, along with six national research reports, several of which were funded by the U.S. Government (Flurkey &. Xu, 2003). Miscue analysis and eye movement research comprise a valuable empirical base for effective practices in reading and writing instruction and assessment that should not be disregarded based on the fallacious arguments of journalists in agenda-driven articles and podcasts. Miscue analysis and the knowledge base for Whole Language are science. To denigrate miscue analysis’s validity and utility for assessment and instruction of multilingual learners is contrary to science and prejudicial against the equity and access of these learners to effective literacy instruction.

The question for Goodman’s fellow researcher and practitioners is this: Do you believe that Goodman’s data base of direct observations of reading behaviors of readers during oral reading of real, authentic text is sufficient to support the elements of his theoretical model to render a valid explanation of how readers read to make meaning from text? Claims in the media and critics/opponents of Goodman’s research and the pedagogy that it has influenced are made that Goodman’s “theory” of reading has been “disproven” (MacPhee, et al., 2021). For this disproven theory claim to be true, every one of the theories on which Goodman based his theoretical model and all of the steps and elements of his model would have to have been disproven. Of course, the journalists who make this claim never cite an authoritative source for their proclamation because this claim is patently false. We researchers and educators challenge our fellow researchers, as well as Emily Hanford and other journalists, who claim that the entirety of the theoretical framework of Whole Language has been “disproven” or “debunked” to provide empirical data to refute each and every step of Goodman’s Model of Reading. Otherwise, their claims must be rejected.

Whole language does not fragment reading into isolated and disconnected subskills. Rather, WL emphasizes the holistic interrelationships between subsystems of language (aka: cueing systems) that are utilized by readers themselves to construct meaning from text. We must not allow uninformed, ideologically biased journalists to make sweeping false claims and fallacious arguments with the intent of scapegoating respected researchers who have informed and enhanced literacy instruction for many of our most vulnerable students and all literacy learners through their empirical scientific research.

Kabuto (2016) offers a perspective on the use of miscue analysis as an assessment tool with multilingual learners:

Miscue analysis is a diagnostic instrument that provides both quantitative and qualitative data on readers’ oral reading performances and retellings. The in-depth procedure allows for the extensive investigation of individual oral reading miscues in conjunction with other miscues at the sentence and text levels. …Miscue analysis can be a descriptive evaluative tool that does not privilege reading in English over reading in other languages. …These findings extend the current research on miscue analysis that calls for an awareness of readers’ reading patterns and proficiencies in both languages, rather than privileging one over another. …The use of miscue analysis was a culturally relevant assessment that provided a multidimensional perspective on the ways in which these readers constructed meaning. Very few reading assessments are able to move among the languages of the text, the languages of the readers, and the languages of the social context in which the assessment is embedded. Miscue analysis is an evaluative instrument capable of doing so. (p. 38-39)

An examination of miscue analysis as a research methodology, in conjunction with eye movement research and neuroscience research entails the broadest and most comprehensive evaluation of miscue analysis data base regarding its contribution to teachers’ knowledge base and theoretical orientation toward literacy instruction for all learners (Noguerón-Liu, 2020). Noguerón-Liu, 2020: S312-S313) states the following:

“One of the arguments for structured literacy is related to the three-cueing systems framework (meaning/semantic, structure/syntactic, and visual/graphophonic cues) that can be found in models of balanced literacy. “Structured literacy” proponents have argued that the use of semantic context (e.g., asking a student if a miscue makes sense) can be detrimental for students to decode independently; instead, when following a “structured literacy” approach, students should be encouraged to use their decoding skills first, not to guess words based on context (Kilpatrick, 2015). In this section, I caution against the implications of discrediting the three-cueing systems and a related assessment tool (miscue analysis using the semantic, graphophonic, and syntactic categories), by explaining how language-related theories, including translanguaging, can help expand miscue analytic approaches. For emergent bilinguals, an oral reading assessment is not just a literacy test; it is a language test, and its validity is compromised if the linguistic and bilingualism factors shaping the performance are not accounted for. Because miscue analysis is a qualitative categorization of errors, it can provide teachers with nuanced insights on both the language and (bi)literacy development of students.”


Evidence from neuroscience research substantiates the efficacy of phonics-first instruction.

Dr. Steven Strauss, Ph.D. and M.D. says this about the neuroscience of reading (Strauss, 2013):

“Reading must be described within a meaning construction psychological paradigm. It is an executive process beyond the technical resolution capacity of fMRI. Its neuroanatomic basis lies in feed-forward cortical–subcortical tracts. Emerging concepts from the neuroscientific study of brain function both support and are supported by psycholinguistic research on the reading process. These concepts challenge the claim that brain imaging studies have demonstrated the primacy of phonological processing in reading. The emerging concepts from this research clearly indicate that the higher cortical structures control the transmission of information from the deeper structures. Eye movement analysis, a widely used reading research tool for over a century, simultaneously supports the emerging neuroscientific view of cortical control and the meaning construction model of reading. We conclude that emerging neuroscience provides evidence for the meaning construction view of reading, and that the transactional socio-psycholinguistic character of reading is an instantiation of the memory-prediction model of brain function.”

Neuroscience research provides scientific evidence to support interpretations of the process of constructing meaning from text (Goodman, Fries & Strauss, 2016). SoR researchers who challenge the validity of constructivist perspectives on reading in the brain fail to consult the body of neuroscience research on the construct of linguistic prediction (Kuperberg & Jaeger, 2016; Ryskin & Nieuwland, 2023). These researchers assert although review of the literature led us to the conclusion that different subfields and different researchers have critically different conceptions of what it means to predict during language comprehension that language comprehension is predictive. If literacy educators substitute the term “guessing” for “prediction” the controversy over “cueing” in reading is resolved. Consider this claim from Strauss, Goodman and Paulson (2009):

“In order to explain a range of puzzling facts, they are beginning to recognize that the higher structures of the brain, those involved with thought and reasoning, actually control the lower structures, those involved in collecting sensory input from the environment. This is contrary to traditional teaching in neurology, which instead sees sensory input as triggering the activation of higher, cortical structures. The emerging view is that the brain can first activate the higher structures, and only afterwards use the psychological entities generated by these structures to guide the selection of sensory input collected and made available by the deeper structures…. Eye movement analysis, a widely used reading research tool for over a century, simultaneously supports the emerging neuroscientific view of cortical control and the meaning construction model of reading. Since the most conspicuous motor behavior in silent reading is eye movement, studying it allows us to “see” the silent reading process. When combined with miscue analysis from oral reading, it is clear that cortical instructions tell the eyes where to look for cues from the signal, lexico-grammatical, and semantic levels of language. We conclude that emerging neuroscience provides evidence for the meaning construction view of reading, and that the transactional socio-psycholinguistic character of reading is an instantiation of the memory-prediction model of brain function.”

Bilingual Brain Research

Click here for a list of references for first author and co-author research articles by Ioulia Kovelman on the bilingual brain.

SoR CLAIM 9 (Analysis to be posted soon)

Sociocultural dimensions of reading and literacy are not crucial to explain either reading expertise of its development.

SoR CLAIM 10 (Analysis to be posted soon)

Teacher education programs are not preparing teachers in the Science of Reading.


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