TEA, S.D. (KELO) — Many people don’t remember how they learned to read; it’s second nature at this point.

However, for many elementary students, learning to read can be complicated.

While you might not necessarily pair science and reading together, teachers at Legacy Elementary have come to learn that there is a real science behind learning to read.

“We went to a training over the summer that talked about how the brain learns how to read and how this program is based on that research that was out there,” Reading Interventionist Dawn Preheim said.

They learned that using phonics is one of the most effective ways to teach reading.

“Phonics-based learning has two components; you’re using letter sounds to help students learn how to decode, which is sounding out or breaking down words, and then encode which is learning how to spell those words,” second grade teacher Whitney Downs said.

“The alternative to phonics is whole language learning, where we would focus, at one point in time, more on what the picture showed and maybe learning or memorizing what the words were,” Legacy Elementary Principal Samantha Walder said.

“The skills didn’t necessarily always reach every learner, because if you’re missing those building block components, which I would consider your ability to use phonics, there’s not a whole lot you can do if they’re struggling to read the words, because they don’t have the knowledge to sound out or decode those words,” Downs said.

Legacy Elementary implemented the phonics-based approach 5 years ago.

“Collectively, the things I’ve heard in the building, just from my other staff members, are that we feel like we can help students when they’re struggling now,” Downs said.

While it is not mandated, the South Dakota Department of Education is encouraging schools to bring back a phonics-based approach to teach reading.