Welcome to The Reading Corner!

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.

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9 thoughts on “Welcome to The Reading Corner!

  1. I enjoyed the article and completely agree; struggling readers need to be identified and have an intervention plan in place as quickly as possible. A key determinant in building new prisons is the data that reflects how many 3rd grade children who currently cannot read or are struggling readers. I’ve attached a link which discusses the 5 core areas of reading. I don’t believe the pdf opens anymore, but the html does. It’s from the NRP website. If you could be so lucky to get hard copies, what a gift that would be to your pre-service educators!

    http://www.nationalreadingpanel.org/Publications/researchread.htm

    • Scott,
      thanks so much for the additional information. It is always amazing to learn how the effects of reading difficulties can be life long. I appreciate this additional resource to share with my pre-service teachers.

  2. I teach kindergarten. In California we start reading instruction in kindergarten, NOT first grade. At the beginning of the year I teach the letters and sounds. By December we are blending simple CVC word and learning word families. By March I’ve introduced more than 6 word families and we are reading and writing 2-3 sentences at a time. I also introduce many of the digraphs, blends and dipthongs and the various vowel sounds. Kindergarten is no longer just puppets and paint. Interventions need to start BEFORE first grade for struggling readers.

    • Ellen,
      I couldn’t agree more. Reading definitely begins in preschool with all of the emergent and beginning reading skills that can be introduced and reinforced. I didn’t intend to suggest that reading begins in first grade. First grade, however, truly is the place where we need to make sure the child is on-level. Developmentally, that is appropriate. However, it only happens when wonderful kindergarten teachers like you are on the ball and help kindergarten children be come prepared. Thanks for your comments. John

  3. A very important area to be addressed to. Surely we need to have a variety of strategies to improve the reading skills among our elementary school students. Are we trying to find out the causes for these reading struggles for our students. Why ca a student not get the basic reading skills is so many other student can get it? All the reading specialists and special education teachers know that with their best efforts and best resources in the schools students are not making significant progress through the elementary grades. The students always need accommodations and modifications to get evaluated and regularly also. In my opinion we need to address the causes for the struggled reading for our students. Most of the reading struggles are caused by weakness and deficits in the cognitive skills. If say a student cannot process the information visually or auditory in his brain how can we expect him to improve in his/her reading skills. If the child is not ready Physiologically meaning his sensory motor integration skills are not appropriately we cannot expect the student to pay attention to anything in the class. If the student cannot focus on a task visually and his eyes do not team up and if he/she has visual tracking issues we cannot expect any improvement with the reading strategies. We will need reading strategies, no doubt about it but before going for reading strategies we need to have constructive intervention programs for stimulating and enhancing the cognitive skills in our schools starting from Kindergarten on. There are several programs available and if we use these programs effectively from Kindergarten there will less and less of struggling readers in our schools and community

    • can you please tell us more about programs tgat stimulate and enhance cognitive skills for kindergarteners. I am very interested in getting these foundational skills in place for my students who don’t come with them already in please. thanks.

    • Thank you so much for your reflective thoughts. I do think that we need intervention much earlier. You are correct that we cannot expect children to make the appropriate progress in reading when they lack basic skills that provides them with the background to make that progress. While I agree that intervention early on is important, I think many of the issues are even more basic than that. If we had appropriate preschool and kindergarten settings for children, it would do wonders for those skills that you indicate are lacking in struggling readers. We are so quick to create “ditto factory” early childhood settings, that the children never gain the cognitive skills to be good learners. We need many more hands-on and appropriate activiites for these young children. As an example, if a child is given concrete alphabet letters to work with and is allowed to create letters out of play dough or wet sand, it will improve his cognitive memory, as well as his tracking and eye-hand coordination. Compare that to children who only get to look at an alphabet chart or color alphabet dittos. There is no comparison to the learning foundation created when comparing those learning strategies. To me, appropriate early childhood settings and learning materials are the key factor in a child being ready to be a reader.

  4. Pingback: Developing Predicting Skills | The Reading Corner

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