DEADLINE EXTENDED: Call for Papers: Literacy and Social Justice: Contributions of the Science of Behavior to Reading Instruction

Guest Editors: Denise Ross-Page, Shannon Hammond, Gwendolyn Cartledge, Jane Howard

Deadline Extended to May 1, 2023.

Becoming an engaged and proficient reader is foundational to the academic and social success of a child, their family, and society (Rolnick, 2017). Research indicates that children who gain important pre-reading repertoires by first grade are more likely to read proficiently in third grade (McNamara, Scissons, & Gutknecht, 2011). Children who read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to graduate from high school than those who do not read proficiently (Hernandez, 2012). Relatedly, high school graduates are more likely to graduate from college, obtain employment, and have a greater income as adults than students who do not finish high school (McFarland et al., 2019). In fact, while the annual cost of illiteracy in the United States is approximately $300.8 billion due to loss of healthcare, education, employment, civic engagement, and other social indicators (Cree, Kay & Steward, 2022), research suggests that eradicating illiteracy could add an additional $2.2 trillion to the economy each year  (Rothwell, 2020). Thus, investing in literacy can yield a return for the individual, their family, and society both during and after formal schooling (Rolnick, 2017).

Yet, only a small percentage of educationally marginalized students[1] in the United States - specifically, students from diverse racial and ethnic groups, economically disadvantaged students, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities - gain proficient reading as children (National Center for Education Statistics, NCES, 2022). For example, in 2019 only 20% of economically disadvantaged fourth graders read proficiently compared to 55% of fourth graders who were not economically disadvantaged (NCES, 2019). Further, attaining reading proficiency is even more challenging today because of the disproportionate impact of the global pandemic on educationally marginalized students (Goldstein, 2022; NCES, 2022). In fact, a major shift in policy is occurring as many states recognize the need for more effective reading instruction and adopt initiatives that promote research-based practices (Luscombe, 2022). However, policy changes in the absence of effective training, instruction, and advocacy will not produce more proficient readers.

Historically, the science of behavior has made significant contributions to reading research (Carnine, 1995; Rumph et al., 2007)  including published curricula such as Direct Instruction Reading programs (Carnine et al., 2016), instructional technologies such as Headsprout Reading (Layng et al., 2003), and findings from university and school-based centers around the country that conduct reading research (e.g., Greenwood, 1995, 2021; Greer, 2002, 2007; Harless, 2017; Johnson, 1997; Reed, 1997; Rimes, 1997). While these contributions have impacted reading instruction nationally, the national data on reading suggest a need for continued dissemination and utilization of reading research (NAEP, 2022). Given the critical importance of reading to a child’s lifetime outcomes, the ongoing contributions of the science of behavior are needed to help the field of education address educational inequities through effective reading instruction.

This special issue of Behavior and Social Issues will focus on applications of the science of behavior to reading research with a focus on educationally marginalized children and adults including individuals from diverse racial and ethnic groups, individuals with disabilities, individuals who are economically disadvantaged , and English Language Learners. We invite empirical papers that address the application of the science of behavior to reading instruction as well as conceptual papers that discuss policy or systemic structures that contribute to literacy rates in the United States. Consistent with the mission of the journal, contributions can include empirical studies, theoretical and conceptual analyses, brief research reports, and reviews. Contributions can also be interdisciplinary.

Possible topics for contribution include but are not limited to:

  • Brief reports describing the outcomes of specific reading interventions and instructional approaches 
  • Research papers describing 
    • Instructional approaches applied in educational settings serving individuals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, individuals with disabilities, economically disadvantaged individuals, and/or English Language Learners  
    • Professional development programs designed to prepare teachers as effective reading instructors
  • Theoretical papers describing 
    • The contributions of the science of behavior to reading instruction and intervention
    • University, school, or center-based reading programs and their impact on reading instruction
  • Conceptual papers discussing 
    • Policies and systemic structures that contribute to disproportionate literacy outcomes for historically marginalized students
    • Recommendations for affecting approaches to reading instruction at the district and school levels
    • Behavioral contingency analyses of successful policy changes.

Papers may be submitted via the BSI portal ( no later than May 1, 2023. Please indicate that the submission is for consideration in the special section on literacy and social justice. For questions or more information, please contact Shannon Hammond at

[1] According to a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report, “marginalization in education is a form of acute and persistent disadvantage rooted in underlying social inequalities” (UNESCO, 2010, p. 135).


Carnine, D. (1995). Rational schools: The role of science in helping education become a profession. Behavior and Social Issues, 5, 5–19.

Carnine, D., Silbert, J., Kame’enui, E., Slocum, T., & Travers, P. (2016). Direct Instruction Reading, 6th ed. Pearson.

Cree, A., Kay, A., & Steward, J. (2022). The economic and social cost of illiteracy: A snapshot of illiteracy in a global context. World Literacy Foundation.

Goldstein, D. (March 8, 2022). It's 'alarming': Children are severely behind in reading. New York Times. Retrieved May 18, 2022 from 

Greer, R. D. (2002). Designing teaching strategies: An applied behavior analysis systems approach. Academic Press.

Greer, R.D. (1997). The Comprehensive Application of Behavior Analysis to Schooling (CABAS®). Behavior and Social Issues. 7, 59–63.

Greenwood, C.R. (1999). Reflections on a research career: Perspective on 35 years of research at the Juniper Gardens Children’s Project. Exceptional Children, 66, 7-21. 

Greenwood, C.R., Carta, J.J., Schnitz, A.G. et al. (2021). Progress toward a multisectoral community intervention approach to prevention of the word gap. Behavior and Social Issues, 30, 545–565.

Harless, J. (2017). The Eden Conspiracy: Educating for accomplished Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies.

Hernandez, D. (2012). Double jeopardy: How third grade reading skills and poverty influence high school Graduation. The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Johnson, K. (1997). Morningside Academy. Behavior and Social Issues, 7, 31-35.

Layng, T. V. J., Twyman, J. S., & Stikeleather, G. (2003). Headsprout Early Reading: Reliably teaching children to read. Behavioral Technology Today, 3, 7-20.

Luscombe, B. (August 11, 2022). Inside the massive effort to change the way kids are taught to read.  Time Magazine. Retrieved September 21, 222

National Center for Education Statistics (2022). Nation’s report card. National Assessment of Educational Progress.

National Center for Education Statistics (2022). NAEP Data Explorer. National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Reid, E.R. (1997). Exemplary Center for Reading Instruction (ECRI). Behavior and Social Issues, 7, 19–24.

Rimes, W. & Mabel B. (1997). Wesley Elementary. Behavior and Social Issues, 7, 11–18.

Rothwell, J. (2020). Assessing the economic gains of eradicating illiteracy nationally and regionally in the United States. Barbara Bush Foundation.

Rumph, R., Ninness, C., McCuller, G. et al. (2007). “The Shame of American Education” Redux.  Behavior and Social Issues, 16, 27–41.