A new lab aims to improve the teaching of reading.

La Trobe University's new Science of Language and Reading (SOLAR) Lab, co-founded by professor of cognitive psychology Pamela Snow, is targeting what it sees as a gap in tertiary education degrees.

It is helping teachers in training learn to teach “systematic synthetic phonics” in primary schools.

“What we hear repeatedly from teachers when we talk about the simple view of reading is; ‘I've never heard of this’,” Professor Snow says.

“So that's a really good example of high-quality cognitive psychology research that I think is like the family china that belongs to teachers, but isn't being given to teachers.

“In order to get meaning out of text, you've got to be able to crack the code.

“So you've got to recognise that the squiggles on the page — they are print representations of speech sounds, so there is a code.”

One of the theories that the lab is based on is that reading is not a biologically innate skill. It must be explicitly and methodically taught to young children.

“Reading, writing and spelling are not biologically natural — they're human contrivances that we've only been doing for about 6,000 years,” Professor Snow told the ABC.

“It's not something that our brains have evolved for.”

The lab has been launched amid furious debate over the best way to teach reading. More details are available here.