Most states in the US have dyslexia laws that mandate how schools should address dyslexia. Not every state’s dyslexia laws are the same, but they all require that teachers use evidence-based reading instruction. What is evidence-based reading instruction for dyslexia and what does it look like? Here is everything you need to know including research, strategies and how teachers can implement it.

The Definition of Evidence-Based Reading Instruction

Evidence-based reading instruction can be defined as a particular approach, a specific strategy, or an instructional method which has had a record of success. There is reliable, trustworthy, and valid evidence to suggest that when this instruction is used with a particular group of children, the children can be expected to make adequate gains in reading achievement. Sometimes the terms “research-based instruction” or “scientifically based research” can be used to express the same idea. ( International Reading Association, 2002 )


The Five Major Components of Evidence-Based Reading Instruction for Dyslexia

The National Reading Panel (2000) identified five essential components of reading instruction outlined as evidence-based strategies by the National Reading Panel’s report of 2000 and the National Early Literacy Panel Report of 2008.

Instructional support for students with dyslexia must include these core strategies and practices:  

1. Phonemic Awareness Instruction

Recognizing that words are comprised of individual sounds that can be blended together for reading and pulled apart or segmented for spelling is what the National Reading Panel refers to as phonemic awareness.

Phonemic awareness instruction helps all types of children improve reading. This includes normally developing readers, children at risk for future reading problems, disabled readers, preschoolers, kindergartners, 1st graders, children in 2nd – 6th grades who are disabled readers, children across various socioeconomic levels, and children learning to read in English as a second language.

Phonemic awareness is a crucial skill for all those students learning to read and there is a greater emphasis for phonemic awareness in kindergarten and first grade.

2. Systematic Phonics Instruction

Understanding that individual sounds are represented by letters or groups of letters and the ability to use those sounds to decode words is what the National Reading Panel refers to as systematic phonics.  

Systematic phonics is taught in a planned sequence with the most common phonograms occurring at the beginning. Each phonogram is taught in isolation with repetition and enough time in between each phonogram for learning and mastery. It includes reviewing and integrating past lessons. Reading and spelling are taught simultaneously. The systematic phonics will begin with the most basic levels of phonics and develop into the most advanced spelling rules and morphological concepts.  

Here is an example of a Scope and Sequence using systematic phonics:

 >>>PRIDE Reading Program Scope and Sequence<<<

3. Fluency Instruction

Reading text with sufficient speed and accuracy to support comprehension is what the National Reading Panel refers to as reading fluency.  

The practice of developing fluency in children includes reading accuracy, reading rate and reading expression. Accuracy is listed first because if a child cannot read accurately they will not develop reading fluency. Accurate reading is first developed through systematic phonics. Instruction in reading fluency should include assisting students in developing their ability to use typical speech patterns and appropriate intonation while reading aloud.

Teaching students to read fluently helps support comprehension.

4. Vocabulary Instruction

Understanding of individual word meanings in a text is what the National Reading Panel refers to as vocabulary.  

Reading comprehension depends heavily on vocabulary development. Teachers should develop student’s vocabulary knowledge through direct and indirect methods of teaching and students should be exposed to vocabulary both orally and through reading.  

5. Comprehension Instruction

Understanding connected text as the ultimate goal of reading is what the National Reading Panel refers to as comprehension.

In carrying out its analysis of the research in reading comprehension, the National Reading Panel noted three predominant themes in the research on the development of reading comprehension skills:

  • Reading comprehension is a complex cognitive process that cannot be understood without a clear description of the role that vocabulary development and vocabulary instruction play in the understanding of what has been read.
  • Reading comprehension is an active process that requires an intentional and thoughtful interaction between the reader and the text.
  • The preparation of teachers to better equip students to develop and apply reading comprehension strategies to enhance understanding is intimately linked to students’ achievement in this area.

There are Still 4 More…

Evidence based-reading instruction for dyslexia must include all 5 components outlined by the National Reading Panel mentioned above. But…there are still 4 more components of evidence-based reading instruction for dyslexia!   

These 4 more are systematic, explicit, multisensory and diagnostic instruction. The International Dyslexia Association refers to this as Structured Literacy Instruction.

Systematic Instruction

A carefully planned sequence for instruction is what the International Dyslexia Association refers to as systematic instruction. This plan is carefully thought out, strategic and designed before activities and lessons are developed. Lessons are built on previously taught information, from simple to complex, with clear, concise student objectives that are driven by ongoing assessment. In other words, teachers will teach a new concept using a scope and sequence, review that concept, review it even more, then test before moving to another concept.

In Systematic instruction:

  • Skills are broken down into component parts
  • As specific skills are mastered, they are applied into meaningful text that students can read.
  • Students learn the elements or building blocks of more complex skills, such as how to divide a two or three syllable word to facilitate reading, or how to recognize prefixes and suffixes in multi-syllable words, before they are expected to read those words in content areas.

Instruction across all five components of reading is integrated and decoding skills are practiced in words, sentences, and passages working toward fluency. Vocabulary and comprehension instruction are integrated into each lesson.


Explicit or Direct Instruction

Clearly teaching the skills a student needs to know is what the International Dyslexia Association refers to as explicit and direct instruction. For example: Does the student know the letter-sound correspondences, syllable structures, or morphemic elements (prefixes and suffixes) needed to decode or spell an unknown word? Explicit and direct instruction is what keeps a student from guessing words when reading.

Research indicates that explicit or direct instruction is the most effective teaching approach for students with reading difficulties (Arden & Vaughn, 2016; Simmons, et. al, 2008; Weiser & Mathes, 2011)

Explicit instruction includes modeling, guided practice, and independent practice of the skill being taught. (Archer & Hughes, 2011; Carmine, et. al, 2010).  The teacher will first present a lesson demonstrating the target concept and model the lesson for the student. The teacher will then do the lesson together with the student, then finally ask the student to do it without guidance.

In other words –  I do, we do, you do.

The teacher will also provide a lot of practice opportunities for the student in both reading and spelling words with the target concept so that feedback and reinforcement can be delivered. The teacher will ask the student to form words of syllable types and then ask questions that elicit student responses in explaining the target concept.


Multisensory Instruction

The use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways simultaneously to enhance memory and learning of written language is what the International Dyslexia Association refers to as multisensory instruction.

Links are consistently made between the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic-tactile pathways in learning to read and spell.

For example, when a student is shown the letter card b, the student says the letter b, then the keyword balloon, then the sound /b/ while writing a b in the air or while tracing the letter b on a bumpy surface.   


Diagnostic Teaching

The teacher must be adept at individualized instruction is what the International Dyslexia Association refers to as diagnostic teaching. That is instruction that meets a student’s needs. The instruction is based on careful and continuous assessment, both informally (for example, observation) and formally (for example, with standardized measures). The content presented must be mastered to the degree of automaticity. Automaticity is critical to freeing all the student’s attention and cognitive resources for comprehension and expression.

In Summary

Evidence-based reading instruction for dyslexia must include all 5 components outlined by the National Reading Panel. These 5 components are phonemic awareness, systematic phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension instruction.

And…evidence based reading instruction for dyslexia outlined by the International Dyslexia Association must also include:

  • Systematic Instruction
  • Explicit or Direct Instruction
  • Multisensory Instruction
  • Diagnostic Teaching


I Have a Resource For You!

Thank you for reading my post today! You might also enjoy reading my previous posts:

The Science of Reading: What All Teachers Should Know

What is Structured Literacy?


Please don’t leave without checking out the PRIDE Reading Program. The PRIDE Reading Program is an Orton-Gillingham curriculum that is used by teachers, tutors, and homeschooling parents worldwide with great success.

PRIDE Reading Program

evidence based reading instruction dyslexia

Karina Richland, M.A., is the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers and homeschoolers of struggling readers. Karina has an extensive background in working with students of all ages and various learning modalities. She has spent many years researching learning differences and differentiated teaching practices. You can reach her by email at info@pridereadingprogram.com or visit the website at www.pridereadingprogram.com