Reading is NOT a Guessing Game….

decoding early literacy help helpmychildread kindergarten msv parents phonics read science of teaching reading teach my kid to read three cueing Mar 12, 2024
Frustrated reader

You were probably taught to read the wrong way.

As parents, we often rely on our own experience to help our children. For decades we have been using a method of teaching reading that delivers inconsistent results and sets bad habits that ultimately fail. In this blog I will be explaining the three-cuing system and how it glosses over the critical strategies that are backed by brain-based research.

Understanding Three-Cueing

Three-cueing, also known as the three-cueing system or MSV (Meaning, Structure, Visual), is a method of reading instruction that focuses on using context, syntax, and visual cues to decode words. According to this approach, readers are encouraged to guess unfamiliar words based on:

  • Meaning: Does the word make sense in the context of the sentence or passage?
  • Structure: Does the word fit grammatically and syntactically in the sentence?
  • Visual: Does the word look right based on its visual appearance and initial letter(s)?

While proponents of three-cueing argue that it promotes reading fluency and comprehension, researchers raise concerns about its potential drawbacks and impact on reading proficiency.

The Dangers of Three-Cueing

With declining reading scores and the use of Functional MRIs to track brain activity in successful readers, the three-cueing approach has come under scrutiny for several reasons:

  1. Using the Pictures: This is the most over used practice that doesn’t deliver results. If you are asking your child to look at the picture to figure out the words, it is critical that you learn the truth about reading.
  2. Guessing Rather Than Decoding: Relying too heavily on context and guessing can undermine a child's ability to decode words phonetically, leading to inaccurate and inefficient reading habits.
  3. Limited Transferability: While three-cueing may work in the primary grades for predictable texts, it isn’t sustainable in the intermediate grades when text becomes more complex. If a child is struggling at 3rd grade it is increasingly difficult to get them back on track!
  4. Neglecting Phonics Instruction: Three-cueing places insufficient emphasis on phonics instruction. Phonics is a component of evidence-based reading and leads to the most consistent results that are sustainable for a lifetime.

Empowering Parents in Reading Instruction

As parents, it's essential to be informed advocates for our children's literacy development. Here are some strategies to consider:

  1. Learn the Truth: At Help My Child Read, we are on a mission to provide parents the truth about what really works. Our Reading Course for Parents offers the background parents deserve so they can best help their children.
  2. Stay Informed: With the keys to reading success you will be prepared to have informed conversations. When discussing reading instruction with educators, don't hesitate to ask about the methods and approaches being used, including the emphasis on The Science of Teaching Reading versus three-cueing.
  3. Advocate for Evidence-Based Practices: Learn about The Science of Teaching Reading. Advocate for evidence-based reading instruction that prioritizes a clear system of instruction.


While the intention behind three-cueing may be to support reading fluency and comprehension, its potential pitfalls underscore the importance of an evidence-based approach to reading instruction. By staying informed, advocating for effective practices, and providing support and encouragement at home, parents can empower their children to become confident and proficient readers, equipped with the skills they need for lifelong learning and success. Together, let's prioritize literacy practices that support reading proficiency and a love of learning.


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