What is the best way to teach children to read?

The NICHD-led National Reading Panel, formed by Congress in the late 1990s, reviewed decades of research about reading and reading instruction to determine the most effective teaching methods. The panel found that specific instruction in the major parts of reading (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) is the best approach to teaching most children to read. Instruction should also be systematic (well-planned and consistent) and clear. These findings on reading instruction are still relevant today.

Watch our video and learn what NICHD research is teaching us external link about reading and the brain, and what works when teaching young learners with dyslexia how to read.

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There are multiple ways to teach and learn reading. Some methods work better than others, and some readers learn better from one method than they do from another. Reading aloud is considered the best way for caregivers to prepare a child to learn to read.1

The panel’s analysis showed that the best approaches to reading instruction have the following elements:2

  • Explicit instruction in phonemic awareness
  • Systematic phonics instruction
  • Methods to improve fluency
  • Ways to enhance comprehension

Since the panel’s report, NICHD-supported researchers have built on the panel’s findings. For example, new discoveries shed light on how learning changes the brain and how to teach most effectively. Learn more about these and other research findings in NICHD Looks Back on 50 Years of Learning Disabilities Research.

Additional findings are listed in NICHD’s news items related to reading and reading disorders.

Browse NICHD publications about teaching children to read.


  1. Handler, S. M., & Fierson, W. M. (2011). Learning disabilities, dyslexia, and vision. Pediatrics, 127(3), e818–e856.
  2. National Reading Panel. (2000). Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction. NIH Pub. No. 00-4769. Retrieved August 19, 2019, from https://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/nrp/smallbook
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