Key Principles of a High Quality Reading Program

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There are many programs available for teaching reading. How do you decide if a program has ‘scientific’ validity and is likely to be effective, especially from an intervention perspective?

Nayton and colleagues (2022) identify some core components of high quality reading programs:

  • Systematic and sequential teaching of the phoneme-grapheme code.
  • Cumulative, beginning with simple concepts and building to more complex concepts.
  • Content taught at a brisk pace.
  • Includes both blending (the basic skill underpinning reading) and segmenting (the basic skill underpinning spelling), as well as introducing higher-order phoneme manipulation skills such as adding, deleting and changing sounds.
  • Application of phonic knowledge to reading and spelling words individually, then in sentences and passages.
  • Active involvement in the learning process including hearing, saying and writing.

Arguably, there are a few components missing from this list. Once students have mastered the basic alphabet code and some of the more complex codes, they also need to be systematically introduced to the orthographic components of language – morphology (prefixes, root words, suffixes), spelling rules and patterns, syllabification, syntax (e.g., parts of speech), etymology, etc. This is particularly true once students are trying to decode (read) and encode (spell) more complex words where you cannot rely solely on the phoneme-grapheme correspondence (see Ehri, 2020; Gotlieb et al., 2022).

Nayton et al. identified the following key elements in an effective lesson:

  • Review: Regular repetition strengthens learning.
  • Teach: The direct explicit teaching of new material, including making links to previously learned material and providing a range of specific memory retention strategies.
  • Practise: Sufficient repetition to ensure information is stored in long-term memory, with the level of scaffolding gradually reduced.
  • Apply: Transference of the skills and concepts at the word and passage level from both a reading and a spelling perspective.

Monitoring is also an important component of the teaching process:

  • Ongoing, incidental assessment/monitoring not only provides a way of reinforcing concepts taught but also provides an opportunity for teachers to provide targeted feedback and support.
  • Formal assessments at the commencement and conclusion of a program of work indicate the student’s current knowledge and therefore the best starting point and a student’s progress, to ascertain concepts mastered, continued areas of weakness and to inform subsequent teaching focus.

The Cracking the ABC Code Multisensory Reading programs meet all of these criteria and are provided in a format that can easily be followed and implemented by teachers and parents.


Ehri, L. (2020). The science of learning to read words: a case for systematic phonics instruction. Reading Research Quarterly. 55. 10.1002/rrq.334.

Gotlieb, R., Rhinehart, L., & Wolf, M. (2022), The ‘reading brain’ is taught, not born: Evidence from the evolving neuroscience of reading for teachers and society. The Reading League Journal, 3 (3), 11-17.

Nayton, M., Bloor, K. Boyle, G., Collins, P., & McNally, C. (2022). High quality synthetic phonics instruction: A guide for teachers. The Bulletin. 58, 2-10.