Decoding the Script

Decoding the Script

Title- Language and Reading: Convergences and Divergences

Authors- Alan Kamhi and Hugh Catts

Source- Kamhi, A. G., & Catts, H. W. (2012). Language and reading disabilities. Boston: Pearson.

Year- 2012

Suitable Audience- Students, Literacy Educators, Language Teachers.

Difficulty Level- Moderate

Link- None

Though there are many similarities between spoken and written language, and reading shares many of the processes and knowledge with talking and listening, reading is not a simple derivative of spoken language. There are fundamental and key differences between reading and speaking. Knowledge of the similarities and differences between the two is critical to understand how children learn to read and why some children have a difficulty in learning to read. The most fundamental differences between spoken and written language is the perceptual and biological/social bases of spoken language and the explicit phonological awareness required to become a proficient reader. Since reading is not an ability that comes naturally like speaking does, factors like attention, instruction, and motivation play a critical role in learning to read. This chapter, while defining language and reading, makes an in-depth comparison of the processes and knowledge involved in understanding spoken and written language. It introduces the reader to the nuances of language and reading, making clear some distinctions between spoken and written language.

Title- Reading Instruction that Works - Chapter 2 - Skilled Reading.

Author- Michael Pressley

Source- Pressley, M. (2006). Reading instruction that works: The case for balanced teaching. New York: Guilford Press.

Year- 2006

Suitable Audience- Literacy Educators, Language Teachers, NGO Practitioners.

Difficulty Level- Moderate

Link- None

How does one develop powerful elementary instruction? What does skilled reading mean, and what do skilled readers do? What does one need to understand about the nature of skilled reading, and what insights would that give into what the goal of reading instruction should be? This chapter is for those who wish to understand why many researchers and reading educators are keen on increasing the number of decoding and comprehension strategies instruction in the elementary curriculum. A variety of methods have been used by researchers to understand how good readers process letters and words, and the chapter details these processes.

Title- Becoming Literate: The Construction of Inner Control - Chapter 7 - Attention to Concepts About Print

Author- Marie Clay

Source- Clay, M. M. (1991). Becoming literate: The construction of inner control. Portsmouth, N.H: Heinemann.

Year- 1991

Suitable Audience- Students of Education, Literacy Educators, Language Teachers.

Difficulty Level- Moderate

Link- None

This chapter gives us insights into why paying attention to the concepts of print is vital for success in developing the skill of reading. Do children beginning to read come with an understanding of the nuances involved in reading a word? Do they know that a word is built out of letters? Do they know that one goes left to right when they read some kinds of scripts (like English) and right to left when they read other kinds of scripts (like Arabic)? Why is this knowledge important? Are teachers prepared to address the challenges a child faces as he/she learns how to read? 

Title- The Role of Phonemic Awareness in Learning to Read

Authors- Linnea C. Ehri and Simone R. Nunes.

Source- Ehri, L., & Nunes, S. (2002). The role of phonemic awareness in learning to read. In A. E. Farstrup & S. J. Samuels (Eds.), What research has to say about reading instruction (pp. 110–140). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Year- 2002

Suitable Audience- Teacher Educators, Teachers, NGO Practitioners.

Difficulty Level- Moderate.

Link- None

This chapter deals with Phonemic Awareness as a concept with much depth. The purpose of this chapter is to help teachers understand what Phonemic awareness teaching involves and what the evidence of some studies shows. What is the difference between Phonemic Awareness and Phonological awareness? What is the difference between Phonemic Awareness and Phonics? Why is it important to understand Phonemic Awareness and what does research have to say about it is elaborated upon in a careful manner. The chapter illustrates some of the studies conducted to show that PA is a direct cause in helping children to read, with evidence from experimental studies with treatment and control groups. To know more about Phonemic awareness and why it is considered the leading predictors of how well children learn to read in kindergarten and first grade, and how teaching PA significantly improves beginners’ success in learning to read, we recommend that you read this chapter.

Title- Creating Strategic Readers - Chapter 2 - Phonemic Awareness

Author- Valerie Ellery

Source- Ellery, V. (2014). Creating strategic readers: Techniques for supporting rigorous literacy instruction.

Year- 2014

Suitable Audience- Students of Education/Literacy Pedagogy, Teacher Educators

Difficulty Level- Easy to Moderate.

Link- None

This chapter illustrates the difference between Phonemic Awareness, Phonics and Phonological awareness and helps the reader understand the key differences between these terms. What makes it even more interesting is the representation of the relationship between  Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness and Phonics. It highlights phonemic awareness in the context of phonological awareness, showing how phonological awareness is the umbrella term that encapsulates phonemic awareness, among other key concepts. It also provides several strategies and techniques for rhyming, isolating and identifying phonemes, blending phonemes and so on.

Title- Supporting Phonemic Awareness Development in the Classroom

Authors- Hallie Kay Yopp and Ruth Helen Yopp

Source- Kay Yopp, Hallie & Helen Yopp, Ruth. (2000). Supporting Phonemic Awareness Development in the Classroom. Reading Teacher - READ TEACH. 54. 130-143. 10.1598/RT.54.2.2.

Year- 2000

Suitable Audience- Teachers, Teacher Educators

Difficulty Level- Easy to Moderate

Link- Click Here

This paper addresses the ‘how’ of teaching Phonemic Awareness by suggesting playful and appealing activities that focus on the sound structure of language to support literacy development. The 14 activities provide useful guidelines for planning phonemic awareness instruction for children in preschool, kindergarten, and standard 1 classrooms. Some activities focus on rhyme, syllable manipulation, and onset and rime manipulation. The idea is to encourage teachers to look at phonemic awareness instruction in thoughtful and conscious ways. Teachers and teacher educators would find this very handy.

Title- Words their way - Word Study for Phonic, Vocabulary, and Spelling Instruction

Authors- Donald R. Bear, Marcia Invernizzi, Shane Templeton, Francine Johnston

Source- Bear, D. R. (2004). Words their way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Year- 2004

Suitable Audience- Teachers, Teacher Educators, NGO Practitioners

Difficulty Level- Easy to Moderate

Link- None

Becoming fully literate is entirely dependent on fast, accurate recognition of words in texts, and fast, accurate production of words in writing so that readers and writers can focus on meaning making. This book suggests practical ways to study words with students. It helps understand the importance and purpose of word study and gives a clear idea of the different stages of spelling development in children, with actual examples and writing samples to back this up. Based on research on developmental spelling and word knowledge, this book takes readers through five stages and instructional levels to complement the use of existing phonics, spelling and vocabulary curricula.

It helps in understanding the nature of word study and the type of classroom organisation and environment that enhances its implementation. It suggests developmentally appropriate activities and games based. This book acts as a guide for anyone interested in understanding the different stages of spelling development and how children transition from one stage to another, and how one can help make these transitions smooth for the children.

Title- Beyond Alphabetic Processes - Literacy and its Acquisition in the Alphasyllabic Languages.

Authors- Sonali Nag, Margaret Snowling.

Source- Nag, S, Caravolas, M, Snowling, MJ (2011) “Beyond alphabetic processes: literacy and its acquisition in the alphasyllabic languages”, READING AND WRITING. 24(6) 615-622.


Year- 2011

Suitable Audience- Academics, Teacher Educators.

Difficulty Level- Moderate

Link- None

An alphasyllabary is a writing system that represents sound at the level of both the syllable as well as the phoneme, simultaneously. For example, the Indic scripts, which have their roots in India are alphasyllabaric. Research on the alphasyllabaries is in its early stages but promising progress is being made. In an effort to bring our attention to the work, this paper gives us an overview of a special issue that brings together a collection of papers dedicated to understanding languages that are alphasyllabric in nature. It informs us about the various efforts that have gone into researching and understanding more about this writing system. It briefly introduces the reader to the question of what it means to teach an alphasyllabaric script that does not fall under the tripartite classification - of logographic, syllabic and alphabetic languages - that has dominated the discussions about writing systems among reading researchers.

In order to know more about what research on alphasyllabaries is being undertaken and what the findings suggest, we recommend that you read this paper.

Title- Early Reading in Kannada - the Pace of Acquisition of Orthographic Knowledge and Phonemic Awareness.

Author- Sonali Nag

Source- Nag, S (2007) “Early reading in Kannada: The pace of acquisition of orthographic knowledge and phonemic awareness”, Journal of Research in Reading. 30(1) 7-22.


Year- 2007

Suitable Audience- Teacher Educators, Academics

Difficulty Level- Moderate to Difficult

Link- None.

Acquisition of orthographic knowledge (the knowledge of the conventional spelling system of a language) and phonemic sensitivity are processes that are central to early reading development in several languages (more so when it comes to alphabetic scripts). However, in the case of alphasyllabaries the language specific characteristics challenge the commonly held constructs of these processes. This paper reports a study of 5-10 year olds in Kannada, an alphasyllabary that represents prints in units called Akshara. It was hypothesised that in Kannada, when compared with the developmental pace reported in English early reading, the Akshara knowledge acquisition would take longer and the phoneme awareness would be slower to emerge. The study found the hypothesis to be true across grades in both low-achieving schools as well as effective schools. The paper discusses the nature of the cognitive demands in Akshara reading and the Akshara specific characteristics that set a pace of acquisition of orthographic knowledge and phonemic sensitivity that is quite different from what has been documented in alphabetic scripts.

In order to understand what is the real reason behind the pace at which children acquire an alphasyllabaric script, we recommend that you read this paper.

Title- The Universal Grammar of Reading

Author- Charles Perfetti

Source- Charles A. Perfetti (2003) The Universal Grammar of Reading, Scientific Studies of Reading, 7:1, 3-24, DOI: 10.1207/S1532799XSSR0701_02

Year- 2003

Suitable Audience- Academics, Teacher Educators, Students of Literacy Pedagogy/Education.

Difficulty Level- Difficult.


This article is based on a Presidential Address to the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading, Boulder, Colorado in June 2001. A highly academic piece, it considers how reading has universal properties that can be seen across the world’s writing systems. The main focus of this paper is to discuss the most important universal language constraint, that “All writing systems represent spoken languages” and that, this is a universal, which has consequences for reading processes. The author draws on particular observations and research from Chinese and Korean to examine these universal writing specific aspects of reading and considers the implications of the universal language constraint for learning to read.

Title- Exploring word recognition in semi alphabetic script: The Case of Devanagari

Author- Jyotsna Vaid and Ashum Gupta

Source- Vaid, J., & Gupta, A. (2002). Exploring word recognition in a semi-alphabetic script: The case of Devanagari. Brain and Language, 81, 679-690.

Year- 2002

Suitable Audience- Teacher Educators, Academics.

Difficulty Level- Moderate

Link- Click Here

Generalisations about reading processes derived from the studies of English alone has time and again proven to be limiting if we are to understand how children learn to read the scripts of Indian languages. The distinct nature of Indian languages and their respective scripts which come under what we call alphasyllabries has to be understood better in order to do justice. It is only recently that an alternative view has emerged that argues, reading processes can be understood better when a variety of languages or scripts provide points of reference. This has resulted in an upsurge of cross-linguistic research on word recognition, involving languages such as Chinese, Japanese kanji, and Korean hanja and the like. This paper gives us a peek into a study that sought to expand the scope of this enterprise by making a case for the study of an under-explored writing system - that of Devanagari - an ancient writing system that is still widely used in South Asia, which is a region marked by a diversity of languages and scripts. The study was designed to examine the processing implications of one particular property of the Devanagari writing system, that of the consonant-vowel positioning. The paper provides details of a number of experiments conducted, followed by a discussion of implications for children’s learning of these scripts. Read on to find out more.

Title- Reading difficulties in Kannada, an Indian Alphasyllabary

Author- Dr Sonali Nag and Prof Margaret Snowling.

Source- Nag S. and Snowling M.J. (2010) Cognitive profiles of poor readers of Kannada, Reading and Writing: an Interdisciplinary Journal, Springer Science, doi:10.1007/s11145-010-9258-7

Year- 2010

Suitable Audience- Academics, Teacher Educators.

Difficulty Level- Moderate

Link- None

It has been consistently observed that largest child populations struggling with literacy are doing so in the Akshara languages. Majority of research on reading development and dyslexia has been undertaken in alphabetic languages where the letters of printed words directly map to the speech sounds of the spoken words at the level of the phonemes. We do not have enough research that informs us about reading acquisition in non-alphabetic, alphasyllbaric languages where the basic symbol unit is called the Akshara. This paper summarises a study that was conducted by Professor Maggie Snowling and Dr. Sonali Nag. The main aim of which was to specify the cognitive skills that underpin proficient orthographic development in young readers of Kannada and to characterise the difficulties that are associated with poor reading (dyslexia). It also gives pointers for what might be more effective and efficient means to Akshara literacy. Read on to find out more about the complex nature of the Kannada script and the difficulties that children face while learning to spell in Kannada.

Title- Fluency: the neglected reading goal.

Author- Richard L. Allington

Source- Allington, R. (1983). Fluency: The Neglected Reading Goal. The Reading Teacher, 36(6), 556-561. Retrieved from

Year- 1983

Suitable Audience- Teacher Educators, NGO Practitioners, Teachers, Students of Literacy Pedagogy.

Difficulty Level- Moderate

Link- None

What does research tell us about oral reading fluency? Oral fluency is regarded as a necessary feature in defining good reading. But, why isn’t oral reading fluency been given enough focus during beginning reading or early remedial instruction? This paper explains that a lack of fluency is mistakenly viewed as simply indicative of poor reading, as if to suggest that a poor reader is not capable of word recognition or analysis. This leads to teaching practices that focus on instruction in letters, sounds or words in isolation. This approach is problematic, is what the authors suggest. The authors through this paper, present some hypothesis on how beginning readers develop oral fluency and also suggests strategies to help readers who find it difficult to read with fluency. Read on to find out what these strategies are so we could learn how to develop oral reading fluency as an effective step (among many other important goals) towards creating efficient readers.

Title- Explorations in Development of spellings - foundations for learning and teaching phonics, spelling and vocabulary.

Author- Donald Bear and Shane Templeton

Source- Bear, D.R., & Templeton, S. (1998). Explorations in developmental spelling: Foundations for learning and teaching phonics, spelling, and vocabulary. The Reading Teacher, 52(3), 222–242.

Year- 1998

Suitable Audience- Teacher Educators, Teachers, Students of Literacy Pedagogy/Education, NGO Practitioners.

Difficulty Level- Moderate

Link- None

What is our understanding of spelling development and how does this understanding fit within the broader model of literacy development? What are the implications of the developmental model for spelling instruction and word study? Bear and Templeton, address these two questions in this article. They suggest that instruction should balance authentic reading and writing with purposeful word study. How is this balance achieved? They say, it is achieved when students explore words their way - in word study that is developmentally appropriate and embedded within the overarching contexts of deeply satisfying engagements with reading and writing. The paper gives a detailed outline of each of the many aspects related to spelling development and word study. Read on to find out more.

Title- Reconceptualizing Spelling Development and Instruction.

Authors- Shane Templeton and Darrell Morris

Source- Templeton, S., & Morris, D. (2001, October). Reconceptualizing spelling development and instruction. Reading Online, 5(3).

Year- 2001

Suitable Audience- Teacher Educators, Academics, Students of Literacy Pedagogy/Education.

Difficulty Level- Moderate

Link- None

The paper suggests that the manner in which spelling has been conceptualised has evolved, and positively so, over the last few decades. Spelling was earlier considered as a tool for writing, but now it is recognised as something that offers a partial understanding atleast, of what an individual knows about words. There has been a similar reconceptualisation of the development of spelling knowledge, which is now primarily seen as a process of conceptual learning, rather than that of rote memorisation. This paper, which is a review, explores the evolution of this reconceptualization through the discussion of spellings as a system, as a subject of instruction, and as a psychological and linguistic process in writing and reading. The authors give a brief overview of both the historical as well as the contemporary context of spelling research and instruction. The also discuss the relationship between word knowledge in spelling and word knowledge in reading, and the implications of the same for instruction. The authors hope that this reconceptualisation of spelling and of learning to spell should be more widely disseminated, so a better teaching of literacy could be made possible.

Title- What we know about how to teach phonics

Authors- Patricia M. Cunningham and James W. Cunningham

Source- Cunningham, P.M. & Cunningham, J.W. (2002). In A.E. Farstrup & S.J. Samuels (Eds.), What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction (3rd ed., pp. 87–109).

Year- 2002

Suitable Audience- Teacher Educators, Teachers, NGO Practitioners

Difficulty Level- Easy to Moderate

Link- Click Here

This chapter delves into one of the most pertinent questions that we all ask at some point - How do we teach phonics? It sure is not a simple question with simplistic solutions is what the authors suggest. According to them, the most effective phonics instruction must reflect what we know about teaching and learning as well as what we know about how children decode and spell words. They opine that debate about how to teach phonics can help us provide better instruction for all children, but while doing so, we must consider all that is known and avoid falling into the web of finding easy solutions.

This chapter informs that all instruction, including phonics instruction must help learners develop cognitive clarity and become engaged with what is being learnt. Instruction should be multifaceted and as multilevel as possible. They suggest some of the methods that could be used to support these principles of teaching. Taking much from what research has shown, the chapter helps us understand the nuances of phonics and phonics instruction in a way that we may not have understood it before. Read on to find out more.

Title- Saying the “p” Word: Nine Guidelines for Exemplary Phonics Instruction

Author- Steven A. Stahl

Source- Stahl, S. A. (1992). Saying the “p” word: Nine guidelines for exemplary phonics instruction. Reading Teacher, 45, 618–625.

Year- 1992

Suitable Audience- Teacher Educators, Teachers, NGO Practitioners

Difficulty Level- Moderate

Link- Click Here

Defining the term “Phonics”, Stahl, says it merely refers to various approaches designed to teach children about the orthographic code (which is the conventional spelling system of a language) of the language and the relationships of spelling patterns to sound patterns. He discusses some principles about what effective phonics instruction should contain and describes some successful programs that meet the criteria. Some of those principles are - Good phonics instruction builds on a child’s concepts about how print works, it builds on a foundation of phonemic awareness, the approach is clear and direct, it is well integrated into a total reading program, and focuses on reading words, and not learning about rules, among many others. For more details on each of these principles and to find out what the other principles are, read this article.

Title- Three Principles of Effective Vocabulary Instruction

Author- Steven A. Stahl

Source- Stahl, S. (1986). Three Principles of Effective Vocabulary Instruction. Journal of Reading, 29(7), 662-668. Retrieved from

Year- 1986

Suitable Audience- Teacher Educators, NGO Practitioners, Students of Literacy Pedagogy/Education.

Difficulty Level- Easy

Link- None.

What is the best way to teach vocabulary to children? Would teaching word meanings explicitly to them improve their comprehension? What does research have to say about this approach? According to Stahl, vocabulary instruction generally does improve reading comprehension but not all methods of teaching word meanings are that effective. This article discusses three principles that characterize effective vocabulary instruction and it describes how these principles can be used to improve and modify existing methods of teaching word meanings. Stahl also emphasises on how not to teach vocabulary, which would sure be a useful reference. Read on to find out more.  

Title- Cognitive and Linguistic Underpinnings of Literacy Development in Alphasyllabaries

Authors- Pooja Reddy

Source- Reddy, P. Cognitive and Linguistic Underpinnings of Literacy Development in Alphasyllabaries1

Year- 2012

Suitable Audience- Students, Literacy Educators, Linguists, Language Teachers.

Difficulty Level- Moderate

Link- None

There are close to a dozen writing systems in the world such as the alphabetic, syllabary, logographic systems. These systems vary according to how the sounds of the language are mapped on to the graphic units of the script. The scripts followed by most Indian Languages are alphasyllabic in nature. The alphasyllabic scripts have characteristics of both the alphabetic and syllabic scripts i.e they encode phonological information at both syllabic and sub-syllabic levels. This particular reading discusses the cognitive and linguistic demands of processing an alphasyllabary and its implications for reading acquisition.

Title - Word Recognition in Beginning Literacy 

Authors/Edited by - Jamie L. Metal and Linnea C. Ehri

Source - Metsala, J. L., &  Ehri, L. C. (1998). Word recognition in beginning literacy. Mahwah, N.J: L. Erlbaum Associates.

Year - 1998

Suitable Audience - Students, Academics, Teacher Educators. 

Difficulty Level - Moderate to High

Link - None.

This book is a product of a conference that was held with a purpose of bringing together beginning reading experts in the filed of education and the psychology of reading and reading disabilities so they could present and discuss their research findings and theories about how children learn to read words, instructional contexts that facilitate learning, background experiences prior to formal schooling that contribute, and the sources of difficulty in disabled readers. The book has three parts, Part 1 focuses on the importance of the internal cognitive processes of developing readers and on explanations of their growth and development. Part 2, has authors address the development of reading related phonological skills in disabled readers programs aimed at teaching disabled readers. Part 3, has chapters present studies of word recognition in context of early home environment and also examine several beginning reading programs in the classroom. Principles that make early literacy instruction motivating to students are addressed as well along with an examination of the impact of early reading success on later reading habits. 

Some of the chapters that we think would be of utmost help in the context of decoding are those by Anne Cunningham and Keith Stanovich on “The Impact of Print exposure on Word Recognition; Robert Calfee’s “Phonics and Phonemes: Learning to Decode and Spell; Linnea Ehri’s “Grapheme-Phoneme Knowledge is Essential for Learning to Read words in English” among many other equally enriching papers. Read on to find out more. 

Title - Learning to Read and Spell Words

Author - Linnea C. Ehri

Source - Ehri, L. C. (1987) ‘Learning to Read and Spell Words’, Journal of Reading Behavior. SAGE Publications, 19(1), pp. 5–31. doi: 10.1080/10862968709547585.

Year - 1987

Suitable Audience -  Academics, Students, Teacher Educators.

Difficulty Level - Moderate to High. 

Link - None.

This paper focusses on how skilled readers are able to process words during text reading.  Ehri, suggests, that findings indicate pre-readers do not acquire graphic skill by learning to read signs and labels in their environment, but mystery of letters is required. In the pre-reader stage, children use visual or contextual cues to identify words, but as soon as they move into reading, they shift to letter-sound cues. It is almost like it is acquired in phases - initially, words are read by accessing remembered associations between a few letters in spellings and sounds in pronunciations, later, when decoding skills get better, complete spellings are analysed as phonemic symbols for pronunciations and are stored in memory. The author suggests that a number of studies indicate that having a visual picture of speech in memory is an important part of a person’s information processing equipment. Spellings may influence how words are pronounced, what sounds people think are in words, how quickly people judge spoken word rhymes and how quickly pronunciations change over time. 

It is important to note and the purpose of the paper is to highlight the fact that learning to read and spell are major events during the course of language development. Of one is studying how children’s language develops or how adults process languages, consideration must be given to the influence of knowing how to read and spell. Read on to know more. 

Title- Typological Observations on the Indic Script Group and its Relationship to Other Alphasyllabaries. 

Authors- Richard Salomon

Source- Salomon, R. G. (2000). Typological observations on the Indic script group and its relationship to other alphasyllabaries.

Year- 2000

Suitable Audience- Students, Literacy Educators, Linguists, Language Teachers.

Difficulty Level-Difficult

Link- None

The core objective of this paper is to discuss the nature of Alphasyllabic scripts. It starts with discussing the difficulties involved in the categorization of scripts, since scripts often take on the characteristics of different writing systems instead of adhering strictly to any one system. The discussion then moves on to the similarities and distinctions of the Alphasyllabary to both the Alphabetic system and the traditional Syllabary. In the next part of the paper, the historical, linguistic and other systemic considerations for the evolution of the Indic Scripts are discussed in detail. Historical and functional reasons behind features such as the inherent vowel sound as well as symbols for vowelless consonants are dwelled upon. The last part of the nature discusses the nature of  three scripts consisting of the features of the Alphasyllabary- Ethiopic, Meroitic and Persian Cuneiform scripts, and compares them to the features of the Indic Scripts.