The Timeline of the History of Literacy


McGruffey Readers

1900 - 1950

In the earlier stages of reading, a series of books were designed to teach reading to school aged children. The grade levels ranged from 1st -6th grade. Initially these books were widely used as textbooks in most American schools. McGuffey readers are still used by some today.



Thorndike, author of "Reading as Reasoning has had a considerable influence on what reading is. Thorndike is accredited for answering the question “What is reading? He believed that critical behaviors of reading needed to be sequenced to ensure a connection between stimulus and response. In essence, Thorndike equated learning with observable changes in behavior.

Schema Theory


Psychologist Frederic Bartlett proposes the Schema Theory. Bartlett suggested that human beings possess generic knowledge in the form of unconscious mental structures also known as schemata. These literary structures produced schematized errors in recall when the reader interacted with incoming information. Thus, it is through schemata that old knowledge influences new information. Schema theory focuses on the role old knowledge plays in acquiring new knowledge.

Literary Theory Perspective


Rosenblatt's literary theory perspective also known as the reader response theory. is most influential among elementary teachers and reading educators. This theory suggests reading is created in the transaction between the reader and the text. There is a true connection between reading and writing when acquiring new information. Through this theory Rosenblatt argues that each reader has individualized reading experiences and will have different reading responses as a result of the differences in the amount and types of background knowledge each person possesses.

The reading comprehension test


This reading test is intended to measure the level and speed of comprehension of students. The Level score indicates the depth of understanding displayed by a student in reading the kinds of material he is ordinarily required to read in school, whereas the Speed score reflects both rapidity and accuracy of reading. This comprehension test was designed to determine the skills involved in reading comprehension that are deemed most important by authorities. Multiple-choice test items were constructed to measure each of 9 skills thus identified as basic. The results also indicate need for workbooks to aid in improving students' use of basic reading skills. The study provides more detailed information regarding the skills measured by the Cooperative Reading Comprehension Tests than has heretofore been provided regarding the skills actually measured by any other widely used reading test.

The Reading Basals


Basal readers are textbooks designed to teach reading and associated skills to schoolchildren. These readers include short stories, and longer passages along with individual identical books for students. A Teacher's Edition of the book, and a collection of workbooks, assessments, and activities and scripts are also included. The purpose of the basal readers was to introduce stories to children to help illustrate and develop specific skills, which are taught in a pre-determined sequence. Reading basals received criticism for focusing on the lack of attention to systematic phonics instruction.

Look Say Approach


The look and say method teaches children to read words as whole units, rather than breaking the word down into individual letters or groups of letters. Children are repeatedly told the word name while being shown the printed words. Sometimes the words are paired with a picture or within a meaningful context. Eventually the child learns how to recognize the word on sight.

Brown Vs. Board of Education


was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. As a result, racial segregation was ruled a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. This ruling paved the way for integration and was a major victory of the Civil Rights Movement. After this case, the nation made great strides toward opening the doors of education to all students. With court orders and active enforcement of federal civil rights laws, progress toward integrated schools continued through the late 1980s.

The Cat and the Hat release


Theodere Geisel, who was inspired by essays about childhood learning changed the way children read upon releasing The Cat in the Hat. His books have had a major impact in preschool and elementary school education. The National Education Association celebrates Dr. Seuss on his birth date. Through the release of this book, reading was no longer boring, and children could learn to read while also having fun.

National Defense Education Act


In 1958, Congress passed the National Defense Education Act (NDEA). This act appropriated federal funding in hopes of improving instruction in reading, mathematics, foreign language, and science. The WWII and with the baby boom in full effect, and more people were able to enter higher learning institutions. In 1958, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, and the United States was forced to reflect on current practices and consider new alternatives to education

The First-Grade Studies


First Grade Studies is one of the first U.S. national research reports demonstrating that systematic, early code instruction improves children’s spelling and comprehension. Bond and Dykestra’s indicated that approaches that included systematic phonics instruction far exceeded the use of straight basal programs in word recognition achievement.

Head Start Program


The Head Start Program was launched under the presidency of Lydon B. Johnson. This program was developed as a way to promote infant and toddler literacy development. It was discovered that early intervention programs could significantly affect the cognitive and socio-emotional development of low-income children, thus the head start program.

Lingusitic Approach to reading


Theorist who advocate this particular approach are concerned with helping children internalize regular patterns of spelling/sound correspondence. This approach assumes that this will enable them to read unfamiliar words without actually stopping to sound them out. The linguistic approach has huge emphasis on learning letter/sound patterns, with no specific attention to comprehension.

Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965


The purpose of this title is to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education though academic assessments. The act was in response to President Johnson's war on poverty and represents one of the first significant federal involvements in public education.

Scope and Sequence


A scope and sequence is a list of all the ideas, concepts and topics that will be covered in the book, course, or lesson plans assigned within a specific curriculum in mind. Specific grade levels and the development of the content across grade levels are also considered when utilizing this method.

Criterion-Referenced Test


This is a style of test which uses test scores to generate a statement about the behavior that can be expected of a person with that score. Most teacher made assessment are be considered criterion-referenced tests. The objective is to see whether the student has learned the material..

Title IX


Under the Education Amendments of 1972, a law was passed stating that no person in the United States shall be excluded from participation or be denied the benefits of, any federally funded education program or activity on the basis of sex.

Children's Literature Assoiation


Childrens Literature Association conference is non for profit organization that is dedicated to the academic advancement of student literature. This association recognizes the scholarship and service surrounding literacy. It also promotes and celebrates works of literature for children of high literary merit.

Center for the Study of Reading


As comprehension found its way in the reading pedagogy, a federally funded program that focused national attention on comprehension surfaced. It supported the research on comprehension which included developing strategies and routines to assist with understanding the text.

Family Literacy Theory


Family Literacy Theory
This theory focuses on the study of relationships between families and the development of literacy. This theory focuses on the quality and frequency of interactions surrounding literacy at the students’ home. It is recommend that teachers have an open line of communication with the parents in a two way style of communication format.

Whole Language


Whole language was becoming more universal among theorists and educators alike. It had become a standard for literacy instruction. Whole language had become more complex than skills and basals. It was the literacy reality.

Whole Language


Whole language is an approach that suggests all readers should construct their own meaning for the texts they encounter as well as teach children to recognize words as whole pieces of language.This approach challenged the rigor or lack thereof of basals and called for teachers to real and integrated instruction.

American Language Program


American Language program was founded with the hopes of improving English instruction. Also known as “Boston Home Language” it was a private program for students ranging from ages 12-80. The students would stay in the home of their teacher to receive English instruction.

Writing in Elementary Schools


During the 1980s new approaches to teaching writing emerged, as teachers began to realize that in order to be effective, a piece of writing should be tailored to a specific purpose and audience. This approach was based on the premise that all teachers, must be teachers of writing.

Schema Theory cont (brainstorming and webbing)


Anderson and Pearson are most credited for generating brainstorming and webbing as classroom practices. Teachers and students organize ideas into categories as they are generated. Both practices are great for extending background knowledge and improving reading comprehension.

Reading Basals (continued)



There was an obvious shift in the quality of reading basals. The content relied more heavily on whole language. Writing for understanding andiintergrated language were the focal points. Questions that prompted critical thinking and response to literature was also evident.

Phonics Bill


This bill mandated all instructors to utilize phonics materials or some sort of teacher training to familiarize teachers with the English sound symbol system. This bill was under the Administration of Bush. It had been passed or pending in 36 states.

Reading Excellence Act


The Reading Excellence Act (REA) provides competitive grants to states to improve reading skills of students and the instructional practices of teachers of reading. By using the findings from “scientifically based reading research students will have a better opportunity to master the skills of phonemic awareness, phonics, and reading comprehension.

Classroom Libraries


Classroom libraries emerged on the scene as another literacy tool to motivate student levels the as well as improve the condition of reading across the nation. By surrounding children with books the libraries continued in developing literacy. As we know, for most children, the amount of time spent reading in classrooms consistently accelerates their growth in reading skills.

Engagement Theory


Engagement Theory
This theory supports having thematic units in literacy. It promotes student choice and hand on activities that push the students; critical thinking skills. The fundamental idea is that students must be meaningfully engaged in learning activities through interaction with others and worthwhile tasks.

No Child Left Behind


The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 was a U.S. Act of Congress which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. NCLB was based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals could improve individual outcomes in education.

Transactional Reader Response Theory


Rosenblatt argues that the act of reading literature involves a transaction between the reader and the text. Each transaction is a unique experience in which the reader and text continuously act and are acted upon by each other.

Response to Intervention (RTI)


RTI is a multi-tier approach to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavior needs. The RTI process begins with high-quality instruction and universal screening of all children in the general education classroom.

Race to the Top


Schools who are leading the way in education reform had an opportunity to compete for grants to support innovation in the classrooms in local k-12 school districts. The overall goal of this program was to turn around the lowest-performing schools, and build and use data systems.

Technology in the Classroom


Technology in the classroom
The spread of social media and technology has changed the way educators teach, how students learn, and the way teachers and students communicate. In recent years, teachers have become more comfortable with implementing successful technology integration that is routine and transparent, Accessible and readily available for the task at hand and, helps the students to effectively reach their goals.

Multi Tier Support (MTSS)


MTSS is tier instruction and intervention in a response to intervention (rti) model. This practice adheres to the early identification and support of students with learning and behavior needs.This process begins with high-quality instruction and universal screening of all children in the general education classroom.

National Reading Panel Report


The report summarized research in eight areas relating to literacy instruction: phonemic awareness instruction, phonics instruction, fluency instruction, vocabulary instruction, text comprehension instruction, independent reading, computer assisted instruction, and teacher professional development. In 2001, President George W. Bush announced that the report would be the basis of federal literacy policy.

Common Core State Standards


The Common Core is a set of high-quality academic standards in math and English. These learning goals were created to outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards were also created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live. Forty-two states, have the Common Core standards.

The role of the Literacy Coach


The importance of high-quality teachers to the reading success of students, especially students who are at risk for reading and academic failure has become more prevalent. The knowledge, skills, and experience of the classroom teacher seem to play a pivotal role in student reading success thus the increase in the amount of literacy coaches throughout elementary and high schools.



Pearson, P.S (2010) American reading instruction since 1967. In R. Bean, heisey, N., & Roller, C.M. (Eds.), Preparing reading professionals (2nd ed.). Reprinted from Pearson, P.D. (2002). American reading instruction since 1967. In N.B Smith, American reading instruction (Special ed., pp.419-486). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Tracey, D.H, & Marrow, L.M. (2012). Lenses on reading: An introduction to theories and models

(2nd ed.). Nhe Guilford Press. ISBN: 978-1-4625-0470-1