Reading is a foundation skill that is essential for children to succeed in life. All educators would agree that, without reading skills, a child will have a difficult time completing mathematical operations, doing science experimentation, grasping social studies content, improving vocabulary and understanding the world in general. We really cannot underestimate the importance of learning to read for every child, no matter what his individual capabilities may be. Whether you are teaching in a classroom, utilizing small group instruction, or working with individuals, teaching children to read is important for the most capable and the most challenged children. In fact, for children with learning disabilities, a common denominator is the challenge of learning to read. Reading opens up a learning environment for every child to discover places and people that they may never have discovered in any other way. As teachers, we need to do whatever we can to ensure that that way is open. For the past 30 years I have been working in the field of early childhood education and have worked with hundreds of children learning to read. I continue my work currently by training teachers to be prepared for that very important job of reading instruction. I love my current role because I know children will be influenced by a well prepared teacher. The teacher I teach today affects hundreds of children during her career. It’s a terrific ripple effect.
Research tells us that, developmentally, a solid foundation of beginning reading skills should be in place when a child is in first grade. Many of us know exactly how hard that is because of class sizes and resources. That is why many intervention and tutoring programs target first grade. We also know that the older the child gets, the more difficult it is to help him become an on-level reader. It may be three times more difficult for a 4th grade teacher to help a child reading on a 1st grade level to climb the steps to becoming an on-level reader. If the teacher has 25 students, it is difficult for her to have the time to spend with the child who is behind. These struggling readers need extra support. Many of our special needs children are also in this category. They struggle with the development of reading skills that seem to come much easier for typically developing children.
A struggling reader is a struggling reader, whether she has been identified as a typically developing or a special needs child. As educators, we can use the same strategies to support the development of those very important skills in every child.
In this blog we hope to discuss important strategies that will assist struggling readers and provide extra support to all early readers. As I move forward in future posts, I hope to open discussion on useful topics, such as phonemic awareness, working with words, vocabulary development, and narrative and informational texts -- among many other subjects that will help us to work with our future readers.
Most important, I invite anyone -- educator or parents -- to ask questions, share experiences, and add strategies to our blog. I look forward to hearing from you.
Here are two references I recommend: Porton, H. D., (2012). Helping Struggling Learners Succeed in School . Boston: Pearson.
Cooper, J. D., & D. J. Chard & N. D. Kiger (2006). The Struggling Reader: interventions that work. New York: Theory & Practice.