processes of reading and writing, and research on reading and writing instruction for all students (both typical and atypical learners). We summarize principles for instruction that have sufficient empirical support to warrant inclusion in a comprehensive approach to literacy instruction. Part 3 discusses the neurobiology of reading and writing development and difficulties. Part 4 conveys additional principles for intervening specifically with learners who have difficulties with learning to read and write. In Part 5, we describe what is known about reading and writing processes in older adults and highlight the lack of research on reading and writing across the life span.

Throughout the chapter, we point to promising areas for research and to questions that require further study. We conclude with a summary of the findings, directions for research, and implications for the learners who are the focus of our report: adolescents and adults who need to develop their literacy skills outside K-12 educational settings.1


Literacy, or cognition of any kind, cannot be understood fully apart from the contexts in which it develops (e.g., Cobb and Bowers, 1999; Greeno, Smith, and Moore, 1993; Heath, 1983; Lave and Wenger, 1991; Markus and Kitiyama, 2010; Nisbett, 2003; Rogoff and Lave, 1984; Scribner and Cole, 1981; Street, 1984). The development of skilled reading and writing (indeed, learning in general) depends heavily on the contexts and activities in which learning occurs, including the purposes for reading and writing and the activities, texts, and tools that are routinely encountered (Beach, 1995; Heath, 1983; Luria, 1987; Scribner and Cole, 1981; Street, 1984; Vygotsky, 1978, 1986). In this way, reading and writing are similar to other complex cognitive skills and brain functions that are shaped by cultural patterns and stimuli (Markus and Kitayama, 2010; Nisbett, 2003; Nisbett et al., 2001; Park and Huang, 2010; Ross and Wang, 2010). The particular knowledge and skill that develop depend on the literacy practices engaged in, the supports provided for learning, and the demand and value attached to particular forms of literacy in communities and the broader society (Heath, 1983; Scribner and Cole,


1Other documents have summarized research on the components of reading and writing and instructional practices to develop literacy skills. We refer readers to additional resources for more extensive coverage of this literature (Ehri et al., 2001; Graham, 2006a; Graham and Hebert, 2010; Graham and Perin 2007a, 2007b; Kamil et al., 2008; McCardle, Chhabra, and Kapinus, 2008; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000a).

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement