The Future of Early Literacy

Literacy expert Lucy Calkins has recently made headlines by revealing changes to her popular Units of Study for Teaching Reading program. This early literacy curriculum is known for its reliance on the “three-cueing” approach.

Also known as MSV, three-cueing encourages children to read an unfamiliar word using a combination of meaning, structure, and visual cues. In other words, children are not necessarily required to decode the words on a page. They can make guesses by using context clues, studying pictures, or deciding whether the word “sounds right” in a sentence.

Critics argue that three-cueing has no basis in reading science because it relies on so much guesswork. It could even be detrimental for children’s literacy development, since it pulls attention away from the word itself. That’s why many educators are pushing for direct phonics and decoding instruction in early literacy programs. Education Week breaks down the controversy in this article.

It is unclear whether Calkins is rethinking the three-cueing approach altogether, or if Units of Study will just have minor changes in order to appease critics. However, the sudden shift has sparked a lively discussion on the future of early literacy instruction. Educational publishers will need to revisit their existing programs accordingly.

Further Reading