In recent years,
considerable national attention has been focused on the reading skills
of children in the United States. Some argue that reading failure rates
are increasing; others respond that the concerns about reading levels in
children are manufactured. Despite this controversy, the performance of
children on measures of reading proficiency has been of sufficient concern
to result in highly publicized state-level reading initiatives in California
and Texas, a presidential initiative to enhance children's reading skills,
and considerable scrutiny of reading in many areas of the country.
In this context a body of research has evolved
on how children learn to read and why some fail (see Appendix). This research,
sponsored at the federal level by the National Institute of Child
Health and Human Development (NICHD), has existed for more than thirty
years (Lyon 1995; Lyon, Alexander, and Yaffe 1997). It is not the only
existing research on the development of reading skills and reading failure,
but it does represent a comprehensive research program that has attracted
attention because of nationwide concern about children's ability to read.
Perhaps the best indication of the interest in this research comes from
a recent report to Congress, wherein the director of the NICHD, Dr. Duane
Alexander, emphasized three major areas of progress: The first was research
on reducing the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome by modifying
infant sleep positions. The second was laboratory research on the role
of folate acid metabolism in causing spina bifida and other neural
tube defects, which led to legislation requiring the addition of Vitamin
B to bread. The third area was the NICHD research on reading and reading
failure. Unfortunately, the NICHD research has not yet significantly affected
how children are taught to read in school, so that a gap continues to exist
between what we know about reading and how children are taught to read.
As Benita Blachman, a well known reading researcher,
stated in testimony in Washington:
|The good news is that there have been scientific
breakthroughs in our knowledge about the development of literacy. We know
a great deal about how to address reading problems even before they
begin.. The tragedy is that we are not exploiting what is known about
reducing the incidence of reading failure. Specifically, the instruction
currently being provided to our children does not reflect what we know
from research. Direct, systematic instruction about the alphabetic code
is not routinely provided in kindergarten and first grade, despite the
fact that, given what we know the moment, this might be the most powerful
weapon in the fight against illiteracy. (Blachman 1996, 66-67)
[The above comments about teacher preparedness
and student training by them are unfortunately true. The teachers
wish they knew what to do and how to do it and also wish they were
given the opportunity to do what is right. A new organization which
when fully functional can fill the role of getting all teachers the information,
but especially the extraordinary training they need (and all thought
they would receive when they went to college but did not receive it), has
been formed. See www.ldinstitute.org
The NICHD research supports a prominent role for
explicit instruction in phonics and phonological awareness skills (i.e.,
alphabetic principle) [this should read explicit instruction in developing
phonological awareness skills to be followed by explicit instruction in
phonics. DMK] for beginning reading instruction, particularly
for children at risk for reading failure. It also shows how these skills
are involved in learning to read for all children, regardless of how they
are taught. The NICHD intervention research, however, is sometimes equated
with either an exclusive phonics approach or research addressing only children
with reading problems. Both interpretations are inaccurate.
The intervention studies are consistent with
the larger body of research in showing that explicitly
teaching phonics and phonological awareness skills
is an important part of early reading instruction.
[Approximately 30% of the population will not respond to explicit
instruction of phonics and must have brain preparation prior to phonics
training where they can become phonologically aware and have adequate memory
to handle the various tasks of phonics instruction and use the skills
in reading. Becoming phonologically aware requires one or more
changes in the brain's capability(ies). That/those capabilities
may have up to that point been dictated by heredity, where the brain's
necessary centers are not active or active enough, and/or process sounds
slowly; malfunction from interference due to middle ear infections
during the formative ages, where sounds were learned inaccurately; and
vestibular system dysfunction, which interferes with focus/concentration,
balance, rhythm and further results in reducing necessary multi-tasking
capabilities required in reading. DMK]
|Gains in early reading skills are mediated by
the effect of the intervention on phonological processing abilities.
The interventions used in the NICHD studies, however,
involve more than explicit teaching of phonics. They also include a major
emphasis on reading and writing in environments that include good literature,
reading for enjoyment, and other practices believed to facilitate the development
of reading skills and literacy (Adams 1990). Hence, the NICHD studies are
consistent with educational research highlighting the importance of balanced
approaches to reading instruction (Adams, Treiman, and Pressley 1997).
Moreover, these studies are based on a large body of NICHD research on
how children learn to read. The intervention studies apply the findings
of this research. If the NICHD had never funded a single study of intervention
or learning disabilities, this research on normal processes of reading
development would still have major policy implications for teaching children
In the remainder of this chapter, we outline some
of the major findings of this research, which is now taking place in thirty-six
sites in North America. The research that focuses on reading failure was
based on earlier ongoing research, also funded in part by NICHD, that critically
analyzed the nature of reading skills, how children learn to read, and
the bases of reading failure (Lyon et al. 1997). In fact, the NICHD funds
research on learning processes at all levels; cellular, experiential, neurological,
and in humans and animals. The NICHD also funds research on many aspects
of the reading process, such as eye movements in beginning and skilled
readers, relationships of language and reading in non-impaired children
and adults, social and biological factors in literacy, and other areas
that affect reading but do not involve disability.
During the past thirty-three years, NICHD reading
scientists have studied, at thirty-six research sites, the reading development
of 34,501 children and adults, including 21,860 skilled readers and 12,641
impaired readers. As the titles of the selected research projects in the
appendix indicate, approximately 50 percent of the current NICHD research
effort in reading is devoted to research on how language, reading, and
reading-related skills emerge in proficient readers; the other 50 percent
addresses factors that impede the acquisition of those skills. As the titles
of the research projects in the appendix indicate, multiple processes related
to reading; phonological awareness, word recognition, reading fluency
and automaticity, reading comprehension processes, and social and biological
factors in literacy, are currently being addressed by the NICHD-sponsored
research. There is also considerable research on reading and reading failure
not funded by the NICHD, but our report focuses on findings obtained from
Prevalence and Outcomes
One set of issues addressed by NICHD research
involves the number of children with reading problems and the long-term
course of reading difficulties, which led Congress in 1985 to authorize
NICHD to expand its research program on reading and disabilities in reading
and learning. The magnitude of the reading problem is significant. From
NICHD and non-NICHD research, we know that at least 10 million school-age
children in the United States are poor readers. Reading problems occur
with equal frequency in boys and girls; in schools, however, boys are identified
as learning disabled in reading four times more often than girls, largely
on the basis of behavioral characteristics that lead to referral of the
child for special education (Shaywitz et al. 1990). The prevalence of reading
disability is approximately 20 percent of school-age children depending
on how disability is defined and where it is studied (Shaywitz et al. 1992).
It may be higher than in previous epidemiological studies in the
1970s (Benton and Pearl 1978), but variations in definition and the absence
of comparable assessments over the past twenty years make that difficult
to establish (Lyon 1995; Lyon et al. 1997). Whether rates of reading failure
are increasing or decreasing begs the question of the significance of reading
failure rates. The number of children who are identified as disabled or
who do not meet basic levels of proficiency on reading assessments such
as the National Assessment of Reading Proficiency (more than 40 percent
in 1994) should be cause for alarm regardless of whether the rate is changing.
Long-term outcomes of
early reading difficulties are poor.
In one recent study, 74 percent of children who
were poor readers in the third grade remained poor readers in the ninth
1, which displays growth in reading
skills in a large group of children studied from kindergarten through ninth
grade, indicates that most poor readers never catch up on their reading
skills (Francis et al. 1996). This pattern is apparent even before the
third grade. In another study, Juel (1988) found that word recognition
skills at the end of the first grade were strongly related to reading proficiency
at the end of the fourth grade. Indeed, almost nine of ten children who
were deficient in reading in the first grade were poor readers in the fourth
grade. Similarly, Torgesen et al. (1997) reported that more than eight
of ten children with severe word reading problems at the end of the first
grade performed below the average range at the beginning of the third grade.
has made a statement in other articles and in speeches which, when taken
out of context, sounds as if a person will never catch up if they have
never gotten proper training/treatment before 4th grade. The research
just shows that early intervention is important and in fact easier, so
that the kids who are still getting help after that won't catch up without
proper procedures provided mostly through one-on-one instruction.
Our experience and those of some other clinics throughout the country is
that remediation is possible at any age. DMK] Hence,
it is not surprising that special education figures from the U.S. Department
of Education (Office of Special Education Programs 1993) show that less
than 25 percent of children in special education were identified as learning
disabled before 1980.
is now well over 50% and would be higher if clever ways of raising the
statistical requirements, excluding children from testing or lowering standards
of exiting criteria had not been found. Many children, especially
adolescents also become humiliated by being in these programs, or their
parents decide to pull them out because the program never fulfilled its
promise. A few lucky ones found their way to clinics like ours and
are okay now. But, they are the exception rather than the rule.
Most unfortunately develop many problems and usually drop out.
The programs are still overloaded, because no one who is truly LD ever
gets remediated. The LD teachers are supposed to be specially trained,
but most are not. Even if they were, they are not allowed to do the
type of one-on-one training required. Nor are paraprofessionals being
given the training, which can assist the teachers and the students, in
ways that would make this type of required training possible. A large
number of LD students could receive what they deserve, be remediated, and
therefore be able to go back to the regular classroom and be successful.
Some of the research reported below and a newly published article in February's
Journal of Learning Disabilities, by Joseph Torgesen, et al, speak to these
crucial elements and at least in Dr. Torgesen's article, proposes the changes.
2, we see the number of children identified
for different eligibility categories in special education from 1977 to
1993. By 1993 more than 50 percent of eligible children were in the learning
disabled category. Many factors underlie this increase (Allington 1991),
above. DMK] but instruction should be considered.
Doubt, but those who did not get the appropriate preventative or instructional
who were truly LD and went to the Special Program did not become remediated
and therefore did not "Catch Up". DMK] Of particular
interest is the report that, of all children identified as learning disabled
by public schools, 70-80 percent are primarily impaired in reading; 90
percent of those children have difficulties with word recognition skills
(Lerner 1989). Critical questions are how word recognition skills are learned,
and why poor readers have difficulty with single-word skills. The answers
to these questions reside in research on the relationship of language and
Language and Reading
What we know about reading and language begins
with a simple observation made by the noted speech scientist Alvin M. Liberman,
who has long argued that reading is dependent on language but is not a
natural outgrowth of language.
As Liberman (1997, 4-5) recently observed:
A proper theory of speech is essential to an
understanding of how people read. The most relevant consideration
arises out of the deep biological gulf that separates the two processes.
Speech, on the one side, is a product of biological evolution, standing
as the most obvious, and arguably the most important, of our species-typical
However, reading and writing did not evolve biologically,
but are developed (in some cultures) as a secondary response to that which
evolution had already produced. A consequence is that we are biologically
destined to speak, not to read or write.
Accordingly, we are all good at speech, but disabled
as readers and writers. The difference among us in reading and writing
is simply that some are fairly easy to cure and some are not.
In other words, oral language, which humans have
possessed for millions of years, usually unfolds as a natural biological
progression. It is not an automatic unfolding, however, as is commonly
believed. Environmental factors also have significant influences on early
language development. The difference is that most children develop language
proficiency through interactions that are not explicitly intended to teach
the child to talk. In contrast, written language is an artificial construction
built on oral language. Thus, reading, which humans have possessed for
only about four thousand years, does not reflect a biological process that
emerges naturally. Although children vary in how explicitly reading must
be taught, even children who seem to learn to read at an early age have
a period in which the nature of print and its relationship to language
is brought explicitly to their attention (Gough and Hillinger 1980; A.
M. Liberman 1997).
Given that reading must be taught, how else would
we explain illiteracy in literate cultures? The questions that NICHD
and other researchers have puzzled over are:
1. What aspects of reading must be taught?
2. Why do children fail to learn to read?
3. How do you best teach poor readers to
What Must Be Taught
The critical component of reading that must be
taught is the relationship of print to speech. Many other components
of reading, particularly those that relate to comprehension, are outgrowths
of the child's facility for language. For example, in what is described
as the "simple view" of reading, Gough and Tumner (1986) proposed that
reading consists of two primary components: decoding, or word recognition,
and language comprehension, both of which are necessary for reading proficiency.
is indeed "simple". The Ability to read is "ROCKET SCIENCE" as is
so aptly stated by Dr. Louisa Moats. But simply put, this leaves
out one of the most important large component parts --- Memory. Whole
Word Memory, where words can be learned with or without decoding, is a
part of the big triad not dyad, of necessary training of reading.
Decoding is vital because it is helpful even with "sight words", which
are words that are not phonetically "pure" (48% of words). Many of
these have patterns which come from other languages and these can be learned
but many have to be memorized. DMK] Children do not become
proficient readers unless both components are fully developed. In other
words, children who cannot decipher the words on a page in a fluent and
accurate manner will struggle to comprehend the meaning of the text; without
proficient language comprehension skills, even children who recognize the
words may not necessarily understand their meaning. Word recognition skills
are intrinsic to reading, reflecting the need to decipher print, whereas
language comprehension pervades all areas of literacy. Reading comprehension
skills can (and should) be taught (Adams et al. 1997), but word recognition
skills are essential for the child to become proficient.
is essentially true, from a research and clinical practice perspective,
as well. And something not yet from a research perspective is that
there are a lot of people who read words very proficiently and can't comprehend
or comprehend very poorly. Even after a lot of comprehension skills
training. why? From the discussion on these pages you would
think it would be rare for those who could read the words well. But
it's not. The reason stems from whether a person has been able to
and whether they can now make vivid, accurate and complete mental imagery
(mental movies) of what they read and as well what they hear. DMK]
Hence, in the simple view, reading proficiency is the product of word recognition
and language comprehension skills [Making
vivid, accurate and complete imagery. DMK]; some of the
controversy among reading professionals is not whether both sets of skills
must be mastered but how children master these skills and how explicitly
these skills must be taught. The broader underlying issues involve philosophical
views on learning and development, such as whether children master skills
or construct knowledge. The NICHD research clearly stems from a skills
perspective. Research supported by the NICHD shows that learning
to read is a developmental process children go through in acquiring proficiency.
Because proficient readers employ processes that are different from beginning
readers, research on good readers may not fully apply to beginning readers.
Skilled readers do not gloss or skip over words when reading text; they
sample nearly every word. Phonological codes that involve the sounds of
words and help the reader decipher the words are activated early in word
recognition in beginning and skilled readers (Rayner, Sereono, Lesch, and
Pollatsek 1995). However, the task for the beginning reader is to move
from the early phases of "sounding out" words to the more skilled phase
in which word recognition occurs almost instantaneously. This developmental
change allows the word recognition process to occur fluently, automatically,
and rapidly enough to allow for the abstraction of meaning from text. Without
efficient (automatic) word recognition skills, comprehension is impaired
even when the underlying comprehension processes are well developed.
How do children learn word recognition skills
(i.e., decode)? The answers have their origins in research from the NICHD-supported
Haskins Laboratories in New Haven, Connecticut, that extends over a thirty-year
period (see Brady and Shankweiler 1991; A. M. Liberman 1996; Lyon et al.
1997). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, investigators at the Haskins
Laboratories were studying the relationship of speech and language. Through
a series of experiments, they discovered that how speech is articulated
influences the relationship between spoken and written language (A. M.
Liberman 1996). This relationship involves how the sound structures of
language are represented in speech (i.e., phonology). Speech can be broken
down into sounds smaller than the word or the syllable called phonemes,
the smallest parts of speech that make a difference in the meaning of a
word. A critical discovery was that phonemes overlap, or are co-articulated,
in the speech stream (Liberman, Cooper, Shankweiler, and Studdert-Kennedy
1967). As Blachman (1997) reports, the late Isabelle Y. Liberman and her
colleagues (I. Y. Liberman 1971, 1973) expanded this discovery to the processing
of speech, observing that a fundamental task for the beginning reader is
understanding not only that speech can be broken down into phonemic segments
but that these segments are represented by the alphabet in printed form.
Liberman and her colleagues undertook a series of studies of how children
learn to read, showing that beginning readers must become aware of the
phonological structure of oral language (i.e., phonological awareness)
in order to appreciate how print represents speech (Brady and Shankweiler
1991; A. M. Liberman 1996; I. Y. Liberman et al. 1989). Developing this
awareness, however, is not automatic because phonemes are not separated
in producing speech, which makes the phonetic structure of speech obscure.
Yet being aware of how print represents the phonological structure of spoken
words is the key skill specific to reading that children must learn. That
awareness is the basis for scaffolding written language onto oral language.
The early (and continuing) work of investigators
at the Haskins Laboratories; the cornerstone of the research supported
by NICHD on reading failure, has had international influence leading to
a large accumulation of data supporting the key role of phonological awareness.
That research also led to non-NICHD-supported longitudinal studies of preschoolers
in Great Britain and Sweden showing that early activities involving phonological
awareness skills (i.e., rhyming and alliteration games) helped reading
skills later in school relative to the reading skills of children who did
not receive these activities (Bradley and Bryant 1983; Lundberg, Frost,
and Peterson 1988). Other NICHD and non-NIHD studies of children who varied
in reading levels, socioeconomic backgrounds, and literacy experiences
have also shown that explicit training in phonological awareness skills
before first grade is associated with better reading skills later (Byrne
and Fielding-Barnesly 1995; Torgesen 1997).
Phonological awareness is only one, albeit large,
component of learning to read. Many processes and experiences are critical
for the development of beginning reading skills (Adams 1990; Adams et al.
in press; Share and Stanovich 1995). These include not only phonological
awareness skills but also letter and print awareness, early language experiences,
and a literacy background. As Adams (1990) pointed out, however, these
early processes are only a means to ends, with one goal being efficient
word recognition. In addition, as Gough and Tumner (1986) noted, the second
goal, comprehension, depends not only on word recognition skills but also
on the child's general capacities for language comprehension, as well as
other cognitive processes involved in processing text, such as short-term
memory. These processes can be fostered through effective teaching of strategies
and can be understood as the construction of meaning, representing an active
process in which the reader, teacher, and text interact (Brown, Pressley,
Van Meter, and Schuder 1996). Text reading processes, however, do not explain
why most children fail to learn to read. In the next section we review
NICHD research on reading failure, for it is with poor readers that the
importance of word recognition processes and phonological awareness skills
are most apparent.
Why Children Fail
to Read - Word Recognition Deficits
Fundamental to this question of reading failure
is a set of observations that make it possible to approach poor reading
scientifically. Although we know that reading problems occur primarily
at the level of the single word and involve the ability to decode printed
words (Shaywitz 1996; Torgesen 1997; Vellutino 1979, 1991), the basis of
this problem was not clearly established until more recently. Research
on developing reading skills in non-disabled children, and word recognition
skills in poor readers, established that word recognition problems arise
from problems breaking apart words and syllables into phonemes. This relationship
is apparent in the majority of poor readers, including children, adolescents,
and adults at all levels of IQ and in children and adults from linguistically
and culturally diverse backgrounds. To reiterate, reading is alphabetic,
which means that, for languages such as English and Spanish, the code is
in the alphabet. Even in languages that are not alphabetic, like Chinese,
the code is still based on phonology and relationships of phonemes to the
characters (logograms) of Chinese writing.
Simply put, word recognition, or decoding, is
looking at a word and cracking a code. The code is in the print but is
essentially an alphabetic one whereby the child must learn to relate phonological
structures in spoken words to print. Thus, proficient readers can come
close to pronouncing words never before heard, much less seen, and can
even pronounce pseudo-words (i.e., nonsense words) with a phonetic structure,
such as crad. Hence, when children develop word recognition skills they
become aware that words have an internal structure based on their sounds
and represented by the alphabet. Comprehension of the word thus becomes
When children learn how print represents the
internal structure of words, they become accurate at word recognition;
when they learn to recognize words quickly and automatically, they become
fluent. Many children seem to figure out these relationships regardless
of how they are taught. For some children, the actual percentage is difficult
to estimate, but it is probably at least 20 percent and most likely more
- this relationship is not straightforward and may need to be explicitly
taught; hence the problem we have today.
Causes of Poor Reading
The NICHD research has not found the processes
underlying reading disability to be qualitatively different from those
processes associated with early reading proficiency. Reading problems occur
as part of a natural, unbroken continuum of ability. What causes good reading
also leads to poor reading when the processes are deficient (Shaywitz et
al. 1992). Many factors underlie the cognitive deficiencies associated
with reading failure. Although these causes are multiple, most children's
problems occur at the level of the single word.
The NICHD has evaluated the following factors:
3. Cultural and Linguistic
Brain activity when reading for the sounds of
words, such as whether they rhyme, is different in good and poor readers
(see Lyon and Rumsey 1997). Specific areas of the brain are involved, but
a distinct neural signature has not yet been defined. Research on brain
structure in poor readers shows subtle variations that are not consistent
across studies. Much of this research has been done with adults who have
a history of reading problems. Needed studies of young readers are under
way. Recent studies using new technologies for measuring brain functions
are promising but only beginning to emerge (Shaywitz 1996). A key question
is whether improved reading may actually result in changes in brain functions.
Reading problems run in families and cut across
all sociocultural groups. These problems can have a genetic component,
but several different genes are involved (Cardon et al. 1994; Grigorenko
et al. 1997). In addition, genetic factors account for only about half
of the variability in reading skills, which means that the environment
has a significant influence on reading outcomes. For example, adults who
read poorly may be less likely to read to their children. The quality of
reading instruction may be more critical for children when there is a family
history of poor reading.
Cultural and Linguistic
Both NICHD and non-NICHD studies show that print
exposure, levels of parental literacy, and reading to the child are important
(Adams 1990). Recent research, however, suggests that these influences
are somewhat overestimated because intervention studies have been successful
in culturally and linguistically diverse populations where home literacy
experiences are often limited (Foorman et al. 1997a, 1997b, 1998; Torgesen
1997). [Reading to a young
child is great for developing the child's listening and for the strengthening
of the bonding/rapport with the person who is reading, but only marginally
helpful for the child who will struggle with reading. Just ask a
parent who did this extensively and the child still can't read. The
teaching and learning of reading is "Rocket Science". DMK]
The influence of instruction in reading has been
underestimated, as we will see when we turn to intervention studies. What
is important is that the skills that prevent poor reading must be taught
early-in kindergarten, grade 1, and grade 2. For many children, these skills
may need to be taught explicitly over several years.
Teaching Poor Readers
The NICHD has supported several studies of how
to prevent reading failure and how to intervene with poor readers. These
studies have been coordinated by centers at Bowman-Gray Medical School,
Florida State University, the State University of New York at Albany, the
University of Colorado, and the University of Texas-Houston Health Science
Center. The studies have taken place in multiple settings and include children
with identified reading problems (Felton 1993; Torgesen 1997; Wise and
Olsen 1995), children served in Title I programs (Foorman et al. 1998),
kindergarten children at risk for reading failure (Foorman et al. 1997a;
Torgesen 1997), and children reading poorly in populations that are predominantly
middle class with relatively good literacy experiences (Scanlon and Vellutino
1996; Vellutino et al. 1996). In addition, more recent NICHD-supported
investigations have been initiated at Georgia State University, Tufts University,
Syracuse University, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, and the
University of Washington. The primary goals of the intervention studies
have been to (1) identify the conditions, abilities, and processes that
must be available for a child to develop robust word recognition and reading
comprehension skills and (2) identify for which children with reading difficulties
are different instructional factors and components most beneficial
and at which stages of reading development (Lyon and Moats 1997). With
these goals in mind, these studies share common features, including the
assessment methodologies. The studies are based on research (described
above) showing how normal children learn to read and applying this research
to the study of reading failure. Hence, the studies share an emphasis on
the effectiveness of teaching word recognition skills, usually through
phonics or phonological awareness training or both. In many studies,
the research was designed to evaluate the degree of explicitness required
to teach word recognition skills. Instruction in word recognition skills,
however, occurs along with opportunities for applications to reading and
writing, exposure to literature, and other practices believed to facilitate
the development of reading skills in proficient readers. This reflects
one of the oldest observations of any form of teaching or training-a targeted
skill cannot be learned without opportunities for practice and application.
Because of the interest in these studies, each NICHD site will be discussed
The Bowman-Gray Reading
Brown and Felton (1990) and Felton (1993) compared
the efficacy of interventions defined as code-based, which emphasized identification
of words based on letter-sound associations and patterns, and meaning-based,
which emphasized identification of words based on context supplemented
by partial letter-sound cues (i.e., beginning and ending sounds). The children
were identified at the end of kindergarten as at risk for reading failure
based either on deficient phonological awareness skills from tests administered
by the researchers or by teacher identification or both. In addition, children
were also followed who received the school's standard instructional program.
Thus, kindergarten children were randomly assigned to one of two reading
instruction programs for first and second grade, along with a third group
who received the school's standard curriculum. Children were taught in
small groups in regular classrooms within the child's home school.
The meaning-based approach used a basal reading program, whereas the code-based
approach explicitly taught phonics. These programs were selected because
they taught similar word recognition skills in the first- and second-grade
curriculums but varied as to whether the instruction in word recognition
skills was explicitly presented by the teacher. At the end of the second
grade children who had received the code-based instruction earned significantly
higher mean scores than children who had received the meaning-based approach
on measures of word recognition and spelling. Felton (1993) concluded that
five elements were critical to a beginning program for children at risk
of reading failure:
Direct instruction in language analysis.
Explicit teaching of the alphabetic code.
Reading and spelling must be taught simultaneously.
Reading instruction must be sufficiently intense
for learning to occur.
Using decodable words and texts enhanced automaticity.
The Florida State University
Reading Intervention Studies
Torgesen et al. (1997) identified 180 children
in kindergarten who were at the bottom twelfth percentile in phonological
processing skills. Those children, who varied widely in their general verbal
ability and home literacy environments, were randomly assigned to four
instructional conditions, two of which were experimental and two of which
were control conditions. The most important way the two experimental instructional
programs differed from each other was in the amount and explicitness of
instruction in phonological awareness and phonemic reading strategies.
In the explicit approach, phonological awareness was taught by helping
children discover the articulatory positions and mouth movements associated
with each of the phonemes in English (Lindamood and Lindamood 1975). These
children also received extensive practice in applying phonemic decoding
strategies to individual words. In the other approach, phonological awareness
was stimulated during writing activities, and children were taught letter-sound
correspondences as they learned new sight words. A much higher proportion
of time was devoted to reading and writing meaningful text. In both conditions,
children began reading and discussing connected, meaningful text as soon
as they could read just a few words. That component is critical because
children who are poor readers tend to spend less time actually reading
and writing (Allington 1991; Juel 1988), yet more time on these activities
is critical for skill mastery. The children in each instructional
condition received eighty minutes of individualized (one to one) supplemental
instruction each week over a two-and-a-half year period beginning in mid-kindergarten.
Half the instructional sessions for each child were led by well trained
teachers, and half were led by instructional aides. The children also received
regular classroom instruction, which varied widely depending on whether
teachers viewed the instructional program as emphasizing phonics or as
more context or literature based. The results indicated that, at
the end of the second grade, children who received explicit instruction
in the alphabetic principle had much stronger reading skills than children
in all the other groups. In addition, children who received the most explicit
instruction showed the lowest need to be held back a grade (9 percent),
with hold-back rates in the other three conditions ranging from 25 percent
(implicit phonics) to 30 percent (classroom support condition) to 41 percent
(no-treatment comparison group). As a group, children in the explicit condition
demonstrated word-level reading skills that were in the middle of the average
range. In this same group, however, 24 percent of the children were still
well below average.
Extrapolated to the entire population, this would
lead to an overall failure rate of 2.4 percent. This figure, of course,
is far below the 20 percent reported for children with reading disabilities
(based on word recognition definitions) reported above. Other analyses
showed that growth in reading skills was mediated by improvements in phonological
processing skills. In a study of older children with identified reading
disabilities in grades 3-5, intervention conditions used either the same
explicit alphabetic instructional program (articulatory awareness plus
synthetic phonics) as in the kindergarten prevention study or an alternative
curriculum in which phonics was explicitly taught but in which the emphasis
was on reading and writing connected text (Torgesen 1997). These two groups
received eighty hours of individualized remediation over an eight-week
period. Both groups showed a large improvement in word reading ability,
but the more explicit program produced greater gains in phonological decoding
skills (as measured by the ability to read pseudo-words). At the end of
the program, few children in the more explicit program remained poor phonological
The improvements in word-reading accuracy made
by children in both groups were accompanied by growth in reading comprehension
to the extent that, at the end of the study, the children comprehended
written material at a level consistent with their general verbal ability.
A remaining concern was that gains in reading fluency were not nearly as
dramatic as increases in reading accuracy.
Based on the results of these studies, Torgesen
(1997) provided some general principles of instructional programs that
are effective with children who have problems with word recognition.
Specifically, he suggested that instruction be
more explicit and comprehensive since the evidence shows that children
who fail to learn to read must be explicitly taught. In addition, he observed
that instruction must be more intensive because children with word-level
reading problems acquire skills more slowly, need more repetition, and
need more experience in different contexts. Finally, instruction must be
more supportive at both the emotional and the cognitive level, using encouragement,
feedback, and positive reinforcement, because learning is more difficult,
proceeds more slowly, and is generally more frustrating.
The State University
of New York at Albany Reading Intervention Studies
Vellutino et al. (1996) identified children who
scored below the fifteenth percentile in real-word and pseudo-word reading
skills at the beginning of the second semester of first grade. These children
were selected from schools with a high probability of the children having
strong literacy backgrounds (largely middle class and above and predominantly
Caucasian). These children received thirty minutes of daily individualized
tutoring. Approximately half this tutorial was devoted to explicit code-based
activities, as well as word recognition and writing activities; the other
half was devoted to activities involving decoding and other strategies
for word recognition. At the end of only one semester, approximately 70
percent of the children were reading within or above the average range
based on national norms. These results translated to a reading failure
rate of approximately 1.5 to 3 percent of the overall population, depending
on whether severely impaired and moderately impaired readers were both
included in the tally (3 percent) or only severely impaired readers (1.5
percent). Further, children who responded well to remediation, and caught
up to their normal reading peers, generally maintained these performance
levels once the intervention was discontinued. Most of these children required
only one semester of remediation; the children who were still having difficulty
when the intervention was discontinued received two semesters of remediation.
Thus we see that early intervention helps reduce the number of children
who will require protracted remediation to become independent readers and
writers; some, children, however, will continue to need such services.
In a related study, Scanlon and Vellutino (1996)
observed that kindergarten teachers spent much less time on reading practices
involving code-based skills relative to time spent on comprehension activities.
In classes where kindergarten teachers spent more time on activities that
sensitized the children to the phonemic structure of language, students
had better reading skills in first grade, particularly if they entered
school lacking in rudimentary literacy skills, such as letter identification.
The University of Colorado
Reading Intervention Studies
Concerns about whether training leads to improvement
in reading skills once the intervention is discontinued were confronted
in studies from the University of Colorado (Olsen et al. 1997; Wise and
Olson 1992, 1995). In an earlier study (Wise and Olson 1992), children
with identified reading disabilities in grades 2-6 who were below the local
tenth percentile in word recognition skills received an intervention of
three to four days a week for approximately thirty minutes during one semester.
The intervention, taking advantage of recent advances in the development
of speech synthesizers to pronounce words for the child, involved a computer-based
program in which children read interesting stories that targeted difficult
words. The performance of this group was compared with that of children
who remained in their regular remedial classes. After approximately fourteen
hours of instruction, the group that received the computer training showed
substantially greater gains in phonological awareness skills and word recognition
than the standard remediation group.
Children with the lowest pretest levels of phoneme
awareness, however, gained only half as much as those with higher phoneme
awareness, suggesting that explicit training in phoneme awareness might
support greater gains in reading.
In a subsequent study (Wise and Olson 1995),
second- to fifth-grade children with reading problems were put in groups
of three and given training in phoneme awareness similar to some of the
training employed by Torgesen et al. (1997). The initial training was grounded
in the development of children's awareness of the oral-motor patterns associated
with different phonemes (Lindamood and Lindamood 1975). Children then worked
on computer programs where they (1) practiced manipulating letter symbols
in response to syllables spoken by the computer; (2) explored spelling
patterns and print-sound relationships through spelling exercises
in which the computer pronounced correct and incorrect typed responses;
and (3) matched printed pseudo-words to pseudo-words pronounced by the
computer. Children also spent about a third of their twenty-five-hour training
time reading stories on the computer with decoding support. This group
was compared with a second group that received small-group instruction
emphasizing comprehension strategies. The comprehension group spent
most of their twenty-five hours reading, a third of the time with stories
off the computer and two-thirds of the time with stories and decoding support
on the computer.
The results showed that the group receiving explicit
training in phonological skills made three times more improvement in phoneme
awareness and two times more improvement in pseudo-word decoding than the
comprehension training group. The phonological group had the advantage
on a standardized measure of word recognition without time limits, whereas
the comprehension group showed significantly greater gains on a measure
requiring rapid recognition of words. There were no significant group differences
on the measures of word recognition, however, when children were assessed
at one and two years after the intervention was completed, even though
the phonological group's pseudo-word reading was still significantly better
than that of the comprehension group after one year (Olson et al. 1997).
Olson et al. (1997) were concerned that the large
and persisting gains in phoneme awareness and phonological decoding would
only weakly transfer to gains in word recognition at the end of training
and follow-up tests. Some transfer to real-word reading did occur when
children had ample time and were encouraged to apply their phonological
skills in word recognition during the training period. Apparently, however,
the children did not use these skills after training to further accelerate
their growth in word recognition. Several explanations for the lack of
transfer were considered, including the training period being too short,
not enough practice in actual reading skills, and too little focus on issues
involving automaticity and speed in phonological processing.
The University of Texas-Houston
Health Science Center Reading Intervention Studies
Foorman et al. (1997a, 1997b, 1998) studied children
who were either at risk for reading failure in kindergarten because of
social and economic disadvantage, identified with reading disability through
special education, or identified as at risk for reading problems and served
through Title I programs for children with reduced social and economic
In the kindergarten prevention program, the standard
kindergarten curriculum was supplemented with activities involving phonological
awareness skills for approximately fifteen minutes a day over the school
year. Those fifteen minutes led to significant gains in phonological analysis
skills relative to children in the same curriculum who did not receive
this training (Foorman et al. 1997a).
In another study, children with identified reading
disabilities in grades 2 and 3 who were provided services in special education
resource rooms received one of two programs in which phonics was taught
explicitly. Children in these two groups were compared with a group that
received an intervention that involved training to read words on sight
(Foorman et al. 1997b). Although children who received one of the
phonics programs showed better gains in phonological analysis and word
reading skills at the end of one year of intervention, the differences
in word reading skills were not apparent when verbal intelligence scores-higher
in this group-were controlled in the analysis. In fact, the best predictor
of outcomes in all three groups was the child's initial status in word-reading
ability, which suggests that the programs were not effective because the
child's end-of-year reading ability could be predicted solely on how well
he or she read at the beginning of the year. The results of this second
study, which contrast with the results from Florida State University and
the State University of New York at Albany, may reflect the use of a pullout
model in which small groups of children were instructed (Foorman et al.
1997b), rather than receiving instruction in a one-to-one setting. It also
may take more intensity to establish the types of gains observed in the
Torgesen (1997) and Vellutino et al. (1996) studies.
The third study involved children identified as
eligible for Title I services in eight of ten Title I-eligible schools
in the district (Foorman et al. 1997a). These children, who were culturally
and linguistically diverse and generally economically disadvantaged, received
classroom-level interventions in an attempt to evaluate the degree to which
the alphabetic principle must be taught explicitly to facilitate gains
in reading skills. The 375 children in the eight schools received classroom-based
instruction that involved :
The district's standard context-based, meaning
emphasis instructional program, with staff development and supervision
provided by district personnel. A context-based, meaning emphasis
approach where professional development and monitoring were provided by
research staff. A program in which phonological awareness and
phonics skills were taught using letter patterns embedded in the reading
material. Or a program that included explicit instruction in phonics,
applications in reading and writing, and exposure to literature.
The analyses in Foorman et al. (1998) involved
only the 285 children who received tutorial services. Foorman et
at (1997b) provided preliminary results on the entire sample.
At the end of one school year, the children who
received the approach that included explicit phonics instruction with application
in literature showed significantly greater gains in word reading and reading
comprehension than children who received the other forms of instruction.
The results can be seen in figure
3, which shows the growth in word reading over the school year
for the four groups. Unfortunately, many children in the other instructional
programs-particularly those with poor phonological awareness skills-showed
few gains in reading ability. Children who received the combined approach
had word reading and reading comprehension skills that approximated national
averages at the end of the year. The overall failure rate of children who
received this approach represents 5.5 percent of the population from which
these children were selected.
of Reading Failure Can Improve Classroom Reading Practices.
Approaches to Reading Instruction.
The promising experimental intervention programs
described above provide hope for children who read poorly. More research
is needed, including long-term follow-up to see whether the gains are maintained.
Much needed additional research on identifying specific components of effective
programs, such as the use of decodable versus predictable text and training
in automaticity, is in progress. In many of these studies, phonological
awareness training and explicit instruction in phonics lead to improved
word recognition skills. The Issue of transfer of the training results
to reading ability independently of the training - apparent in some but
not all studies - is clearly important, however, and requires additional
research. This issue is relevant not only for transfer to real-word reading
but also for the development of reading comprehension skills. Skilled reading
is more than just efficient decoding. Development of word recognition skills
is a necessary but not sufficient condition, for reading proficiency is
defined as the ability to understand reading materials. Once children develop
accurate word recognition skills, they must be able to decode words rapidly;
comprehension processes are separable and can be taught. It does not seem
reasonable, however, to expect proficiency in comprehension, much less
literacy, if the child cannot decode words in isolation or in text.
Studies of Reading
Failure Can Improve Classroom Reading Practices.
In considering how studies of reading failure
can lead to improved classroom instruction, we must recognize that the
intervention studies described in this brief summary have their origins
in studies of beginning and skilled readers; thus the principles derived
from these studies tend to focus on processes that are part of the early
development of reading skills because beginning reading skills are the
level at which most poor readers fail. One goal has been to identify where
most poor readers have difficulty (i.e., word recognition and phonological
awareness skills) and to use that information as the basis for intervention.
As the intervention studies show, applying these findings potentially [See
comments below. DMK] translates to lower failure rates
in overall school populations through classroom instruction and tutorial
programs. [Potentially! Ladies
and gentlemen there is no potentially about it. Our 15 years of success
and that of others we know, as well as, the wealth of evidence from NICHD
research means that most assuredly there would be a major reduction not
only in the failure rates, but in the LD identification rates and the rates
of the many things which result when you have people of very low self-esteem
trying to make it in the world. DMK]
When NICHD and other research suggesting an important
role for explicit instruction in word recognition skills is examined by
some reading professionals and the media, arguments arise over whether
children should be taught with phonics methods or through meaning-based
approaches (Chall 1967, 1983). In general, the NICHD research does not
lead to extreme positions on either side of this debate. Most of the NICHD-supported
intervention studies employed programs that include important elements
from context or meaning-based (so-called Whole Language) programs as well
as explicit instruction in the alphabetic code. In fact, the NICHD research
supports approaches embedded in both phonics and Whole Language approaches.
The tendency to interpret the NICHD research, often in the name of "science,"
as supporting phonics instruction as a panacea for literacy problems is
particularly disturbing. [Indeed.
This comes from the detractors who have something to gain by continuing
our ignorance. Once we establish a clear-cut research based curriculum
there won't be a change in philosophy and thus a change of books every
6 to 10 years. What if you have made a name for yourself theorizing
in other directions and that the answer to reading problems in some place
else. Big businesses and lots of people stand to lose a lot of money
and "prestige". DMK] For example, materials distributed
by the National Right to Read Foundation, as well as a report that purports
to summarize NICHD research (Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning
1996), exaggerate the findings of these studies, especially the extent
to which the intervention results support the instructional recommendations
in the reports. NICHD researchers have used a variety of phonics techniques,
often as part of a comprehensive approach to intervention. No NICHD data
support a single approach to phonics, much less a specific sequence, number,
or set of rules that must be learned, or an essential role for decontextualized
drills. We lament the reliance on ideology and invective as opposed to
the more difficult task of completing the research that will help educators
and policy makers implement effective reading practices. No simple, single
message can be obtained from the NICHD research.
The NICHD studies do support a role for instruction
in the alphabetic principle, including phonological awareness skills and
phonics, as an essential and necessary (but not sufficient) part of early
reading instruction. In addition, the research suggests that for children
at risk for reading failure or who are poor readers, phonics knowledge
should be presented explicitly and in an orderly progression. Such instruction
in the early grades may actually prevent reading failure, which is why
we feel it should be part of regular classroom practices for all children.
In many classroom settings, obtaining this type of instruction is a problem.
As Adams and Bruck (1995) and Pressley and Rankin
(1994) point out, however, Whole Language practices have come to predominate
in regular classroom instruction in reading today for some good reasons.
For example, the emphases on meaning, comprehension, writing, and the general
philosophy of integrating reading and writing to enhance meaning have had
positive influences on literacy instruction. Research evaluating Whole
Language practices shows that some children, who otherwise might not see
a reason to read, learn to enjoy reading and writing when provided with
these types of programs. The Whole Language movement has increased the
quality of literature in schools, provided more emphasis on library resources,
and shifted the goal of reading instruction toward meaningfulness and enjoyment.
Children and their families are encouraged to spend more time reading and
writing, which dearly facilitates improved ability and interest. Positive
attitudes toward reading are associated with Whole Language practices.
At the same time, some advocates of Whole Language practices who are opposed
to putting any emphasis on phonological awareness skills, phonics skills,
and word recognition processes have done many students a disservice. [Indeed,
this is sadly true. Steve Truch in his book, The Missing
Parts of Whole Language (which we will be glad to share)
gives a thorough discussion of all the issues discussed on these pages
and the problems which have arisen because of a "whole language only" approach.
DMK] illustrate, Goodman (1986) argues that segmenting words
to learn to read was unnatural and hindered learning:
|Many school traditions seem to have actually
hindered language development. In our zeal to make it easy, we've made
it hard. How? Primarily by breaking whole (natural) language up into bite-size,
but abstract little pieces. It seemed so logical to think that little children
could best learn simple little things. We took apart the language and turned
it into words, syllables, and isolated sounds. Unfortunately, we also postponed
its natural purpose, the communication of meaning, and turned it into a
set of abstractions unrelated to the needs and experiences of the children
we sought to help. (page 7)
This view is not only incorrect but potentially
destructive, particularly for the many children at risk for reading failure
because of deficits in phonological awareness skills. Pressley and Rankin
(1994) discovered that experienced and highly successful teachers, including
many who view themselves as whole language teachers, teach phonics, often
explicitly, but tend not to rely on commercial phonics programs. Many who
espouse the principles of whole language, however, are openly critical
of teachers who teach phonics. Indeed, the view put forth by many
Whole Language proponents-that reading is a process as natural as learning
to speak-is inconsistent with contemporary cognitive science.
This inconsistency was clearly outlined in a
letter to the commissioner of education in the
state of Massachusetts signed by forty well-established
scientists from major higher education institutes in Massachusetts, many
of whom study language and reading. In that letter, the authors observed
that "learning how to decode the speech sounds notated by the writing system
('phonics') is fundamental to reading." The authors also observed that
the hypotheses concerning the nature of language central to some Whole
Language viewpoints are not supported by linguistic research. The authors
specifically rejected "the view that the decoding of written words plays
a relatively minor role in reading compared to strategies such as contextual
guessing. This latter view treats the alphabetic nature of our writing
system as little more than an accident, when in fact it is the most important
property of written English-a linguistic achievement of historic importance."
The state of the science relevant to the role of alphabetic coding in beginning
reading was summarized succinctly by Stanovich (1994), who stated
that "direct instruction in alphabetic coding facilitates early reading
instruction is one of the most well established conclusions in all of behavioral
Conversely, the idea that learning to read is
just like learning to speak is accepted by no responsible linguist, psychologist,
or cognitive scientist in the research community. (pp. 285-86) The most
credible solution to reducing reading failure is much like that proposed
by Adams (1990) who endorsed a balance between literature based (meaning
oriented) instruction and systematic and explicit instruction in phonological
awareness, phonics, and other processes underlying word recognition skills.
The extent to which these concepts can be used depends on the level of
reading development in an individual child. No reading program is equally
beneficial for all children. Successful teachers include elements of code-based
instruction with a rich, meaning-based context to develop the skills for
A major question is how to become a successful
teacher of reading. The research summarized in Pressley and Rankin (1994)
indicates that teacher preparation is an important component in preventing
reading failure. Recent reports have raised concerns about how well teachers
are prepared to teach reading, particularly beginning reading and those
processes involving language and word recognition skills (Moats and Lyon
1996). These reports have been oriented toward poor readers, and many factors
influence outcomes with poor readers that don't involve classroom instruction,
such as the amount of time spent on reading, the match of the classroom
and the remedial program, and administrative policies (Allington 1991).
Many skilled teachers, who often developed their effective approaches to
reading instruction after college-through in-service programs, courses,
and work with experienced mentors-regard their preparation in reading as
inadequate. These issues are important because current evidence shows that
effective classroom instruction can prevent reading
failure in many children (Blachman 1996, 1997;
Foorman et al. 1998).
to Reading Instruction.
To prevent reading failure, classroom instruction
must incorporate what we know about how children learn to read and why
children fail to learn to read (Blachman 1996, 1997; Torgesen 1997). As
the NICHD research shows, children need to master word recognition skills;
many children require explicit instruction in word recognition skills based
on early assessments of each child's phonological awareness and reading
skills. Such instruction must also be integrated with the rapid processing
of words, spelling skills, and reading comprehension skills. This report
advocates not an overemphasis on decontextualized phonics but rather an
emphasis on developing word recognition skills as part of a complete approach
to reading instruction.
The NICHD reading research shows that many children
do not develop adequate word recognition skills and thus supports the important
role of explicit instruction in phonics and phonological awareness
[Note comment at the beginning of this article. DMK] skills.
|Failure rates of the magnitude we observe today
are not acceptable. The intervention studies suggest that these failure
rates can be reduced significantly with explicit instruction in
word recognition skills as part of a complete reading program.
Programs that identify, and are applied on a child-by-child basis are expensive.
For whom? If the person fails, it affects the school, others going
to school there, the teachers, the family and friends of the individual
and now and later the society in which this person functions. What
about those "expensive" costs? When performed in private clinics,
the training is monetarily expensive, in the short run, but this changes
the person's life forever! And it changes all those other situations
forever, as well. There is a lot of money being spent on children
in regular education and even more (per student) if they are LD.
We must change the way instructors are trained, yes, but once they are
trained right, they need to deliver the service in the ways that it will
work. The ways that an "appropriate" education can be given so that
remediation is possible. The LD programs throughout America have
6% of the school population in resource, self-contained or inclusion
programs. If they truly gave an appropriate education to each of
these pupils the research referred to on these pages suggests a reduction
of 17 to 65%. Most are suggestive of at least 50%. Joseph Torgesen
et al's recent article specifically showed an actual 40% reduction because
of their remedial efforts. The Kurtz Center and a few others who
are ahead of the curve, although thankfully not as far as we have been,
believe that 50 % is a reasonable albeit conservative expectation.
It might take a while, but it would seem that even the monetary costs would
over a fairly short time be reduced rather than be more "expensive".
The current magnitude of reading failure is too
widespread to permit implementing the programs of the sort employed by
Torgesen (1997) and Vellutino et al. (1996) unless the failure rate is
initially reduced through effective classroom instruction (Foorman et al.
[Yes, it is imperative that we get
classroom instruction where it needs to be, but who will train the trainers
and well enough that these things can be done not only in reading but in
all subjects. The system of teacher training is seriously broken
and in-service, piecemeal approaches are not going to work as well as we
need to have this work (see web site below). That we can't implement
programs such as those by Torgesen and Vellutino is simply not true, except
through short sightedness. We can implement these programs, if we
dive into the solution. One that will work for both teacher training,
but especially for trainer training and can make it happen sooner
than later is proposed at www.ldinstitute.org
More research is needed to help develop cost-effective
models for early identification, prevention, and intervention. [We
may find the quick and even the group way to fix or at least minimize these
problems. In the meantime, lets assume that we have a vehicle that
will work and not wait for the Mercedes bus. We have many miles to
travel and many lives to save. Let's get going with what we've got.
DMK] We need to be able not only to distinguish
between those who cannot be easily remediated and those who will need prolonged
remediation but also to maintain gains in children who respond to intervention.
|Learning to read is a lengthy and difficult process
for many children, and success is based in large part on developing language
and literacy related skills early in life. Reading failure reflects the
lower end of reading proficiency; no qualitative characteristics distinguish
the poor reader from the good reader. Since reading failure exists on a
continuum, we must provide interventions on a continuum and adjust the
emphases as the child develops proficiency.
A massive effort needs to be undertaken to inform
parents, and the educational and medical communities, of the need to involve
children in reading from the first days of life; to engage children in
playing with language through nursery rhymes, storybooks, and writing activities;
and, as early as possible, to bring to children the wonder and joy that
can be derived from reading. Parents must be aware of the importance of
vocabulary development and verbal interactions with their youngsters for
enhancing grammar, syntax, and verbal reasoning. In addition, preschool
children should be encouraged to learn the letters of the alphabet, to
discriminate between letters, to print letters, and to attempt to spell
words that they hear. Introducing young children to print will increase
their exposure to the purposes of reading and writing, their knowledge
of the conventions of print, and their awareness of print concepts.
Reading aloud to children is important for language
development (Adams 1990). We must understand, however, that reading to
children is not a demonstrably necessary or a sufficient means for teaching
reading [See previous comments. DMK].
Again, the ability to read requires a number of skills that, in many children,
must be developed via direct and informed instruction provided by properly
prepared teachers. In addition, spending more time reading and writing
is key to enhancing literacy levels even in children who are disabled in
reading. Effective instruction early in development may ameliorate
the effects of poor preschool literacy experiences
read "Will ameliorate the effects of poor preschool literacy experiences."
DMK]. The NICHD prevention and early intervention
studies speak to the importance of early identification and intervention
with children at risk for reading failure.
|Procedures now exist to identify such children.
This information needs to be widely disseminated to schools, teachers,
and parents. Kindergarten programs should be designed so that all children
will develop the prerequisite phonological, vocabulary, and early reading
skills necessary for success in the first grade. [Not
just kindergarten, but preschool and head start programs as well.
The Kurtz Center has developed a program called "Preparing the Brain for
Learning to Read and Spell Efficiently and Effectively". This program
offers the things you have read about and much more. We have been offering
it for several years and each time we do training the teachers are surprised,
overwhelmed with what they never knew, but mostly very appreciative that
for as long as they teach they will truly make a difference and feel wonderful
about themselves because they are great teachers. DMK]
More specifically, beginning reading programs
should ensure that adequate instructional time is allotted to the teaching
of phonemic awareness skills, phonics skills, and spelling and orthographic
skills. As the child develops proficiency with word recognition, reading
fluency, automaticity, and comprehension strategies should be emphasized.
All of these components of reading are necessary but not sufficient components
of a complete approach to reading instruction. For children having difficulty
learning to read, it is imperative that each of these components be taught
in an integrated fashion and that ample practice in reading nstructional-level
material be afforded.
An impediment to serving the needs of children
demonstrating difficulties learning to read is current teacher preparation
practices in many colleges of education. Many teachers lack basic knowledge
and understanding of reading development and the nature of reading difficulties.
Major efforts should be undertaken to ensure that colleges of education
possess the expertise and commitment to foster expertise in teachers at
both pre-service and in-service levels. Strong knowledge and skills-based
training programs with formal board certification for teachers of reading
should be developed. [A way for
trainers to be the best so that the instructors can be the best is to have
them experience the training in an intensive residency/practicum type program.
For the idea whose time has come see www.ldinstitute.org
The sad irony is that we have known about reading
development and reading difficulties for more than the past thirty years.
The ophthalmologist Hinshelwood, who was one of the earliest students of
reading failure, observed, like most of his colleagues at the time, that
people who read poorly had problems at the level of the single word-they
called it word-blindness. He was wrong about the basis of the problem-he
thought it was attributable to visual deficits when we now know that reading
is a language-based skill and that poor reading is primarily due to language-based
difficulties. But Hinshelwood was absolutely correct about the importance
of understanding why children do not learn to read and about doing something
about reading failure:
|It is a matter of the highest importance to recognize
the cause and the true nature of this difficulty in learning to read which
is experienced by these children, otherwise they may be harshly treated
as imbeciles or incorrigibles and either neglected or flogged for a defect
for which they are in no wise responsible.
The recognition of the true character of the difficulty
will lead the parents and teachers of these children to deal with them
in a proper way, not by harsh and severe treatment, but by attempting to
overcome the difficulty by patient and persistent training (1902, p. 99).
That is as true today as it was almost a century
ago. [AMEN. DMK]
Adams, M. J. 1990. Beginning to read. Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT Press.
Adams. M.J., and M. Bruck. 1995. Resolving the
"Great Debate." American Educator 19: 10-20.
Adams, M. J., R. Treiman, and M. Pressley. 1997.
"Reading, writing, and literacy."
In I. Siegal and A. Renniger, eds., Handbook
of child psychology, Vol. 4: Child psychology in practice. New York: John
Allington, R. L. 1991. Children who find learning
to read difficult: School responses to diversity. In E. H. Hiebert, ed.,
Literacy for a diverse society. New York: Teachers College Press.
Ball, E. W., and B. A. Blachman. 1991. Does phoneme
awareness training in kindergarten make a difference in early word recognition
and developmental spelling? Reading Research Quarterly 25: 49-66.
Benton, A. L., and D. Pearl. 1978. Dyslexia.
New York: Oxford University Press.
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Selected NICHD Studies of Normal Reading Development
and Reading Disorders
Research Topic Principal Investigator
(NR) = Normal Reading
(RD) = Reading Disorders
Reading Disability and Early Language Impairments
(RD) D.M. Aram
Prevention and Treatment of Reading Disabilities
(RD) V.W. Berninger
Handwriting, Spelling and Composition Skills
(NR/RD) V.W. Berninger
Development of Reading Curricula for LD Children
(RD) V.W. Berninger
Teacher Training in Reading Development and Disorders(NR/RD)
Gestures as Phonological Units (NR) C. Best
Phonologically-Based Remediation for RD Students
(RD) B.A. Blachman
Development of Word Recognition Processes (NR)
Colored Computer Displays Effects on Reading
(NR/RD) L.H. Boyd
Neuroimaging Analysis of Reading Disability (RD)
EEG Studies of Disabled Readers (RD) R.A. Dykman
fMRI of Phonological and Sensory Processing in
Dyslexia(RD) G.F. Eden
Analytic Processes Unique to Phonology (NR) L.
Behavioral Definition and Subtyping of Dyslexia
(RD) F. Wood
A Longitudinal Study of Normal Reading Development
(NR) D. Flowers
Early Interventions for Children At-Risk for
RD (RD) B. Foorman
Phonological Development and Development of Literacy(NR)
Phonetic Gestures and Their Perceptions (NR)
Language Comprehension and Reading (NR) L. Frazier
Cognitively Based Treatments of Acquired Dyslexia
(RD) R. Friedman
Acquired Dyslexia or Alexia After Stroke (RD)
Cross-Domain Comprehension Processes (NR) P.J.
Brain Morphology and Dyslexia (RD) G.W. Hynd
Epidemiology of Learning Disability (RD) S.K.
Common Phonology of Speech and Reading (NR) L.
Interactive Reading/Spelling and Comprehension
Software(NR/RD) P. Lindamood
Perceptual, Linguistic & Computational Basis
of Dyslexia(RD) F.R. Manis
Examining the Strategic Processing Of Text (NR)
Syntactic Processes in Reading Development (NR)
Teacher Training for Reading Intervention (NR/RD)
Acoustic Structure of Speech to Young Children
(NR) J.L. Morgan
Treatment of Developmental Reading Disabilities
(RD) R.D. Morris
Schooling and Cognitive/Literacy Development
(NR) F.J. Morrison
Language and Literacy in Bilingual Children (NR)
Reading and Language Processes (NR/RD) R K. Olson
Computer-Based Remediation of Reading Disabilities
(RD) R.K. Olson
Computer-Speech Feedback for Dyslexic Children
(RD) R.K. Olson
rCBF and Behavior: Adult and Second Generation
Dyslexia(RD) D.L. Pauls
Comprehensive Test of Phonological Awareness
(NR/RD) A.A. Pearson
Social Relationships and Early Literacy Development
(NR) A.D. Pelligrini
Linguistic Phenotype in Familial Dyslexia (RD)
Brain Morphometry and Reading-Disabled Twins
(RD) B.F. Pennington
Language, Learning Ability and Language Development
(NR) S. Pinker
Genetic Contributions to Learning Disability
Subtypes (RD) W. Raskind
Foveal and Parafoveal Codes in Reading (NR) K.
Language Processing During Reading (NR) K. Rayner
Perceptual and Cognitive Processes in Reading
(NR) K. Rayner
Emergence of Literacy in Sociocultural Context
(NR) R. Serpell
Distribution and Typology of RD (RD) B. Shaywitz
Developmental Phonological Disorders (RD) L.
Shape Bias in Children's Word Learning (NR) L.B.
Genetic Linkage Analysis for Dyslexia (RD) S.D.
Coordinating Information in Sentence Processing
(NR) M. Tannenhaus
Prevention and Remediation of RD (RD) J.K. Torgesen
Phonological Processes in Reading Individual
Words (NR) M.T. Turvey
Preventing Experientially-Based Reading Disability
(RD) F. Vellutino
Reading-Related Phonological Processes (NR/RD)
Information Processing in LD Children (NR/RD)
Physiological Measures of Dyslexia (RD) F.B.