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Parents, teachers can prevent reading failure

Preventing reading failure requires us to examine a number of areas to ensure 'no child gets left behind'. We must all commit to the goal that struggling readers must catch up. We must provide all students with quality instruction, expert teachers, many books they can read and additional time spent in effective intervention.

What is essential?

Preventing reading failure requires us to examine a number of areas to ensure 'no child gets left behind'. We must all commit to the goal that struggling readers must catch up. We must provide all students with quality instruction, expert teachers, many books they can read and additional time spent in effective intervention.

Family Literacy

A core level of prevention is the literacy experiences a child has before school within the family. Researchers have shown that children from homes where parents model the uses of literacy and engage children in activities that promote basic understandings about literacy are better prepared for school. Parents of preschoolers can use the following checklist to consider how they are addressing their child's language and literacy development. (Strickland & Riley-Ayers, 2007)

1. I read aloud to my child often. We have an established routine that provides time for shared reading activity.

2. My child has seen me and other adults in the family read frequently.

3. There are books, magazines, and newspapers in our home.

4. We visit the library on a regular basis for story hour and for borrowing books.

5. My child has books of his or her own and a place to keep them.

6. I purchase books as gifts for my child.

7. Our conversations go beyond daily functions like eating, dressing, and bathing. We talk about the day's events and our experiences on local trips and activities.

8. I monitor the amount and quality of the television programs watched by my child.

9. I provide plenty of writing materials such as paper, pencils and crayons for play activities.

10. I convey a positive attitude towards schools and teachers.

11. My child's hearing and vision are checked regularly.

12. I make sure that my child receives a balanced, healthy diet and gets the proper amount of rest. However, this is not the only good first teaching that is required.

Readers struggle for many reasons.

¦ Some struggling readers do have undeveloped decoding proficiencies but a greater number can decode accurately yet understand little of what they read.

¦ Some comprehend narrative texts far more easily than informational texts.

¦ Some exhibit dramatic limits in the number of word meanings they know.

¦ Some seem to locate literal information in a text but cannot summarise that same text or synthesise it with other texts previously read. (Allington, 2009)

However, all readers require effective classroom instruction.

Quality Classroom Teaching

Educators have a responsibility to provide exemplary instruction regardless of children's literacy experiences prior to school. The quality of general education must match the development of all readers, and especially struggling readers. Struggling readers need additional reading instruction, if we expect them to learn to read faster than achieving students-without replacing the classroom-reading lesson.

Careful and close attention to effective instruction can prevent most of them from long-term literacy difficulties. Effective first instruction includes a responsive teacher, knowledgeable about developmentally appropriate literacy practices, resources and assessments. Teachers must know literacy content and specific instructional strategies to ensure they can meet the needs of all students.

Effective schools have a distribution of whole class, small group and side by side instruction to meet the needs of all students.

Key components of literacy instruction should include:

¦ Interactive read-aloud, shared and interactive writing, shared reading, reading and writing mini-lessons individual or small group work and group share

¦ Explicit phonics and word study lessons

¦ Guided reading and writing, book clubs, reading and writing workshops and teacher student conferences

¦ Assessment that is ongoing and systematic

Additionally, all students need books they can read accurately, fluently, and with strong comprehension-in their hands, all day long, in order to exhibit maximum educational growth. This means that schools cannot continue to rely on one-size fits all curriculum plans and a daily, single period, supplemental intervention, if accelerating academic development of struggling readers is their goal. Similarly, schools cannot implement a single intervention design, especially one that relies on a single commercial product and material. Equally important is teaching expertise and especially expertise in teaching reading is critical to student success.

Intervention: Using a Multi-tiered Approach

Response to intervention should have several levels of intensity, with instruction provided based on students individual needs. Interventions for struggling readers must be reconceptualized to include something that must occur all day long.

Intervention designs should begin with (1) good first instruction in the classroom (2) Small group and (3) individual tutoring delivered by expert teachers is required. Acceleration of reading is essential so that struggling readers do not sit in interventions for their whole school careers.

Key principles of an intervention design involve:

¦ One-to-one tutorials

¦ The matching of readers and text levels

¦ Dramatic increases in reading activity

¦ Individual tutoring and small groups

¦ Coordinated intervention with the core classrooms

¦ Delivery of the intervention by an expert teacher

¦ Focused instruction on meta-cognition, meaning and word study

¦ The use of texts that are easy and interesting to students and give choice

¦ Monitoring of student progress is frequent

Progress begins with the belief that what is necessary is possible!

Preventing literacy failure requires varied levels of intervention to be implemented that will accelerate reading growth – and close the achievement gap. As we plan to design reading interventions that accelerate struggling readers' rate of reading acquisition we need to provide access to books, quality classroom environments that foster motivation for reading and reading comprehension, expert teaching and assessments that are ongoing. The intervention design has to be concerned with every minute of the struggling readers' day, as they need high-quality reading lessons. Ideally, the neediest struggling readers need one-on-one tutoring by expert teachers/specialists and group interventions should not exceed three students of similar instructional need.

Highly trained teachers are essential!

The more difficulty a child has the more expert teaching is needed.

Key is the provision of expert teachers who have extensive knowledge of teaching and subject matter; able to bring about high student achievement; are analytical and reflective in their observational techniques that they use to record how well to meet their instructional intentions.

Institutionalise what is working!

Schools must create the time and put forth the effort to coordinate classroom and intervention reading lessons. The school day can also be restructured to offer before and after school intervention lessons. Schools must budget so that readers have easy access to a huge supply of books they can read accurately and with understanding; books they cannot wait to read. Finally, we need to reconceptualize interventions for struggling readers as something that must occur all day long, with early identification and effective, intensive, evidence based early intervention-preferably multi-tied with ongoing professional development for teachers. Urgency Matters!

Next Month: More About Preventing Literacy Failure: Instructional Approaches