Literacy: Systems Matter. An Infrastructure Approach To Reading Achievement

Concerns about reading instruction, with attempts to convert schools towards evidence-based practice, are not new. Proponents of the “Science of Reading” (SOR) are now focusing on the need for teachers to concentrate on specific strands using particular instructional methods (e.g., phonics, explicit instruction). The assumption is that reading is not being taught in preferred ways because of deficits in individual teacher knowledge or the absence of appropriate instructional materials and tools. Thus, most discussion on the state of reading instruction neglect the structures, conditions, and leadership – or infrastructure – that enables improvement in schools and classrooms.

This panel unpacks the pillars of this reading infrastructure – namely, resources for professional development, the alignment of available tools, principals’ communication about a reading curriculum, and teachers’ working conditions for collaborating to learn about different forms of reading instruction – reflecting on how a lack of attention to them can hamper science-based reading interventions. Panelists emphasized the need to move away from blaming (or praising) the individual teacher and offer recommendations to create the conditions that support effective reading interventions leading to successful, lasting outcomes.


Sarah L. Woulfin, Associate Professor, Department of Educational Leadership and Policy, College of Education, University of Texas at Austin. @sarahlouwou 

Rachael Gabriel, Associate Professor; Director, Reading/Language Arts Center, NEAG School of Education, University of Connecticut. @RacheGabriel


Nelver Brooks, Multilingual Educator, Nahed Chapman New American Academy (NCNAA) at Roosevelt High School, St. Louis Public Schools.

Katina Johnson, Literacy Coach and K-2 Intervention Assessment Teacher at Riverside Elementary School, Toledo Public Schools.

Susan B. Neuman, Professor of Childhood and Literacy Education, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, New York University. @SusanBneuman


Evelyn DeJesus, Executive Vice President, American Federation of Teachers. @AFTEVPDeJesus 


Related Materials

Constructing and Animating the Infrastructure for Reading Instruction by Sarah Woulfin and Rachael Gabriel (Shanker Blog)

Interconnected Infrastructure for Improving Reading Instruction by Sarah Woulfin and Rachael Gabriel (Reading Research Quarterly)

Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science (American Educator)

Reading Opens the World: A Community for Literacy (American Federation of Teachers)

Reading Resources (American Federation of Teachers)