Literacy Timeline

1640-1826 The Alphabet Method (2)

Children spend countless hours verbally reciting letter and syllable sounds. They then move on to spelling words that are not “kid friendly.” Hornbooks and Battlefores are the primary reading materials.

1700-1820 Spellers (3)

Perhaps a tad bit more advanced than the hornbooks, the “spellers” of the 18th Century, provided students with more complete lists of words to spell; they also had passages to read. Unfortunately, the mature content (historical passages) proved to be difficult at best. Noah Webster gets some kudos for trying creating an American version for the kids on this side of the pond.

1865- Post Civil War Literacy Education (1)

Following the Civil War, public education for all students improved as literacy became an essential skill for the work place.

1830’s-1930’s Readers (2)

McGuffy led this movement towards texts that were age appropriate. Students were finally able to read materials that featured relevant content materials for their age.

1894 Committee of Ten’s Report on H.S. Education (1)

The report led to major changes in the reading curriculum across the United States. A strong focus on literature was emphasized, which led to a list of “core readings.” Age appropriate texts were emphasized. Spelling, grammar, and written expression were highlighted as well.

1920’s-1950’s Basal Readers (2)

A modern update to the classic readers, the basal texts continued to become more “kid friendly” with stories such as Dick and Jane. These series also began to include more teacher resources and “scripted lessons.”

1970’s- Social Perspectives Theory (1)

Vygotsky (1978) argues that social interactions have a profound influence on readers; improvements in reading instruction need to focus and engage students at their appropriate reading level.

1970’s- Cognitive Information Theory (1)

Proponents argue that students process and use information like computers, performing specialized tasks efficiently with a limited amount of memorization.

1970’s-1980’s Phonics Approach (3)

A backlash towards the “whole language” readers led to a brief period of phonics instruction. Students were taught how to blend sounds to create words, rather than just memorizing them by sight.

1990’s Whole Language Approach (3)

Once again students found themselves learning to memorize/read entire words through repetition and practice. They were provided grade appropriate texts as they

read silently or with a group.

2000 National Reading Panel (1)

The report released by the NRP dictated the federal government’s role and expectations for reading programs in the public schools across the country.

2000-2016 Balanced Literacy Approach (3)

Schools begin to use both phonics and whole language approaches in tandem.

2002 No Child Left Behind’s Reading Statute (1)

This federal law mandates that all reading programs must be backed by research. Programs that are not backed by research must be replaced, or the schools could lose funding.

IDEA 2004 (1)

Reauthorized from the 1997 version, the law provides students with disabilities special accommodations for reading and writing in the classroom. This law also provides schools with the framework RTI to meet these interventions.

2010-2016 Common Core Standards: Language Arts (1)

The standards for language arts provide uniformity across the curriculum. They also shift the emphasis from fiction to nonfiction texts. Expectations for reading are higher, as students work to be “college ready.”

2015 Every Child Achieves Act (4)

Federal government gives powers back to the states to create standards and assess students in reading. A greater emphasis on early child education is mandated in the law.


1. Lipson, M. Y., & Wixson, K. K. (2013). Assessment of reading and writing

difficulties: An interactive approach (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson

2. CT 740: Reading the Past. 2016. Retrieved from


3. Reading instruction in the United States. 2014. Retrieved from

4. Every Child Achieves Act of 2015. 2015. Retrieved from