Early reading interventions for struggling readers are crucial. Without an evidence-based reading program, many students simply won’t learn how to read.
MY CHILD CAN’T READ AT 8!
When Michelle sat across from me she asked question after question. “What do reading interventionists do? Why is your reading program different? Why is Mason so far behind? The school told me he’d catch up.”
I answered each question, trying to be as thorough as possible without boring her with the details of research-based reading intervention.
Michelle lost trust in the school. For three years, she heard Mason would catch on, that she had to wait, wait and wait….until March because that’s when kids really “get it,” until first grade, until Christmas, until Spring Break.
Mason was in third grade and was reading at the Kindergarten level. Mason could only read basic sentences like, “The cat sat on the box.” His reading failure was serious, and would take years of regular one-on-one reading sessions to correct.
When I met Mason, he was quiet, looked away and tried to interact with me as little as possible. I was associated with reading. Mason hated reading. Books made him feel like a failure.
As I worked with Mason, it came as no surprise that he was smart, had an extensive verbal vocabulary, was skilled in many hobbies, and was the best big brother to his siblings. I knew Mason would learn to read…but I couldn’t help but think, “If only I had met Mason earlier. He wouldn’t have had to suffer through reading failure for three years!”
TOP REASONS WHY EARLY READING INTERVENTION IS IMPORTANT:
1) THE MATTHEW EFFECT IN READING
What is “the Matthew effect?” In reading, the Matthew effect means “poor reader gets worse & good reader continues to progress.” The Matthew effect is well-known and well-documented in reading research. Kids that struggle with reading develop negative attitudes toward reading. They can’t read, therefore they hate reading, therefore they avoid reading like the plague—all this means struggling readers get very little exposure to reading. Therefore, their reading skills “get worse.”
Fortunately, this negative cycle can stop with a reading intervention.
2) READING AND SELF-ESTEEM
Children feel left out when they can’t read what their peers can. They begin to think negative thoughts like, “I must not be smart.” Imagine failing at what you were expected to do every day? Failing in front of your peers? Disappointing your boss or loved ones? Kids that struggle with reading often dread going to school. They’re afraid of the shame and embarrassment they’ll feel during reading time.
When a child receives an intervention, his reading confidence will only falter temporarily. Kids that receive early intervention re-build their confidence. They start saying positive things like, “I can read that! That’s easy for me!”
3) KIDS CAN CATCH UP
The idea that struggling readers “get the hang of reading” one day is simply not true. Reading researchers know this from longitudinal studies. Without an intervention, the poor first grade reader almost always continues to be a poor reader (Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Shaywitz, &Fletcher, 1996; Torgesen & Burgess, 1998). Even a couple of weeks of a reading intervention can make a big difference for a child’s reading future. Some kids that receive an early reading intervention can even become reading leaders in class. Most kids can catch up with an intensive intervention (Allington & McGill-Franze, 1994).
4) EARLY INTERVENTION IS COST-EFFECTIVE
Reading interventions are costly, whether they’re done with private tutoring or with a funded school program. However, POSTPONING a reading intervention is MORE costly. Kids that receive early intervention, have the opportunity to catch up (or even surpass) their peers. If an intervention comes late, the gap between a struggling reader and his peers is ever-widening. Thus, if you try to solve the problem later, the intervention will TAKE LONGER and thus COST MORE.
5) EARLY INTERVENTION SUPPORTS VOCABULARY GROWTH
Chronic reading difficulties limit text-based vocabulary development. Kids start learning new words from independent reading in third grade. If a child isn’t reading on his own, he won’t get a chance to discover new words (Nagy, Herman & Anderson, 1985). Books are full of uncommon words like “bellow,” “sonorous” or “scamper”— words we rarely use in speech.
Kids want to learn to read. Catch them before they fall too low.
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