1st Edition

Shifting the Balance, Grades K-2 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom

By Jan Burkins, Kari Yates Copyright 2021

    The current emphasis on the body of research known as the "Science of Reading" has renewed the reading wars and raised challenging questions for balanced literacy teachers about the best way to teach reading. Instead of fueling the debate, Dr. Jan Burkins and Kari Yates immersed themselves in the research and produced Shifting the Balance, Grades K-2: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom.

    This best-selling guide is concise and practical, integrating effective reading strategies from each perspective. Every chapter of Shifting the Balance, Grades K-2 focuses on one of the six simple and scientifically sound shifts reading teachers can make to strengthen their approach to early reading instruction in these areas:

    • Reading Comprehension
    • Phonemic Awareness
    • Phonics
    • High-Frequency Words
    • Cueing Systems
    • Text Selection

    Practical Instruction for Primary Grades: Whether your students are just learning to read or building more advanced reading comprehensive skills, Shifting the Balance, K-2 is designed to help teachers meet the instructional needs of K-2 students.

    Six Manageable Shifts: Each chapter focuses on a key shift that helps educators understand common misconceptions and adjust their thinking around some common instructional practices that teachers have been using for decades.

    Evidence-Based Instruction: Burkins and Yates offer busy educators a blueprint for integrating finding from brain research, cognitive science, and child development into their daily instruction, while keeping meaningful experiences with books a priority.

    Classroom Applications: Shifting the Balance, K-2 is full of sample activities and classroom vignettes that paint a picture of what these shifts look like in action with roomful of learners.

    The book has already helped countless educators by taking the guesswork out of how to blend best practices with the latest research while keeping students at the forefront of reading instruction. We've written this book to support you in making sound decisions anchored in the best of science, the truth of responsiveness, and a relentless focus on providing all children learning experiences saturated with meaning, the authors write.


    Introduction: Embracing Science and Balance

    1. Rethinking How Reading Comprehension Begins

    2. Recommitting to Phonemic Awareness Instruction

    3. Reimagining Ways to Teach Phonics

    4. Revisiting High-Frequency Word Instruction

    5. Reinventing the Ways We Use MSV (3 Cueing Systems)

    6. Reconsidering Texts for Beginning Readers


    Dr. Jan Burkins was an elementary classroom teacher for seven years and a literacy coach for seven years. She has worked as a part-time assistant professor, a district literacy leader, and is currently a fulltime writer and consultant.

    Kari Yates is an author, speaker, consultant and staff developer with a passion for helping busy literacy educators thrive. Her experiences include classroom teacher, special education, Reading Recovery teacher, elementary principal and district literacy coordinator.

    “Finally, a book that has the power to stop the literacy pendulum swings! In Shifting the Balance, Burkins and Yates skillfully explore ‘balanced literacy’ and ‘the science of reading’ to find the sweet spots where they overlap, connect, and actually complement one another. The result is a resource that raises our level of instruction while helping children discover and reap the joyful rewards of reading.”

    Susie Rolander, Bank Street College

    “What are the research-based, critical elements for teaching reading? In Shifting the Balance, Jan and Kari give you the information, classroom examples, and tools to help you make the best decisions around six key shifts for instruction. After reviewing the misunderstandings, the science, and the needs of your students, you will be able to audit your current practices (individually, in a PLC, or system-wide) to provide responsive and effective literacy learning for all your students.”

    Fran McVeigh, Teacher, Consultant, #G2Great Chat Moderator and Associate Academic Coordinator for Morningside College

    “In Shifting the Balance, Jan and Kari invite us to reflect and reexamine our beliefs about teaching reading. They gently nudge us to rethink and possibly adjust our early literacy practices. Jan and Kari have taken on this controversial topic by embracing vulnerability and modeling what it means to be truly reflective practitioners. This book is a must read for new and veteran teachers!”

    Jennifer Allen, Literacy Specialist, Waterville Public Schools, ME

    “In Shifting the Balance, Kari and Jan have masterfully dispelled many of the myths and misunderstandings associated with reading instruction. Additionally, they offer classroom teachers and coaches six simple, practical shifts that have the power to transform the way we teach children how to read. Indeed, balanced literacy and science do exist in harmony, and we practitioners can offer our children both concurrently. Thank you, Kari and Jan, for this important work that is sure to change lives!”

    Christina Nosek, co-author of To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy

    “In Shifting the Balance, Jan Burkins and Kari Yates provide a safe space for teachers to courageously examine some long-held balanced literacy practices and turn a critical eye to where those practices have gotten out of balance. If you’re willing to be vulnerable and move towards resolving the gap between research and practice, this book provides actionable steps you can take to shift your thinking and bring instruction into alignment with the scientific evidence.”

    Helen White, Instructional Support Teacher, Northside Independent School District

    “Shifting the Balance is a welcoming opportunity to reexamine our familiar teaching practices. Without judgment, Burkins and Yates invigorate these practices by inviting educators to make scientific shifts in the systems that have been in place for years. This book will revolutionize reading instruction and in turn, the lives of countless students.”

    Jennifer Clyne Stewart, M.Ed., Dyslexia Specialist

    “This book speaks to teachers. It is overwhelmingly clear that Jan Burkins and Kari Yates have been and are immersed in the world of today’s classrooms. Shifting the Balance will help many rethink instruction in ways that will support all students. In the current version of the Reading Wars, it is difficult for any of us to say we were wrong about some of our beliefs or practices. And thus, few do. However, Jan Burkins and Kari Yates have done just that. This is as commendable as it is unusual.”

    David Liben, www.readingdoneright.org

    “This book found me at just the right time! Shifting the Balance gives voice to the questions I’ve had in my mind about Balanced Literacy and the Science of Reading and provides clear insights on how to connect the best parts of both to benefit early readers. Throughout the book, Jan and Kari confirm practices worth holding onto while providing actionable next steps I can’t wait to implement with students to strengthen my reading instruction.”

    Kristen Mullikin, Reading Specialist, Elk Grove Unified School District.