Preventing Early Reading Failure
In his February 2005 online chat with NCLD, Dr. Joseph Torgesen highlights the importance of identifying young children-as early as possible-who are at risk for developing difficulties with reading. Dr. Torgesen is a Professor of Psychology and Education at Florida State University and is nationally known for research on both the prevention and remediation of reading difficulties in young children.
Dr. Torgesen made the important point that there is enormous diversity in children's preparation and talent for learning to read. Children can struggle either because they had limited pre-school literacy experiences, or because they simply learn the important knowledge and skills necessary for early reading growth more slowly than other children. No matter the cause of their struggles in learning to read, these children need instruction that is both more skillfully delivered and more intensive than most other students.
Children who lag behind from the start, Torgesen says, "miss out on the kind of critical early reading practice that helps students become fluent and accurate readers by second and third grades." The key is to make sure that schools provide "immediate and intensive interventions" when they notice that any student is lagging behind in the development of early reading skills.
Advice for Parents
Young children who are "late talkers," have trouble expressing themselves with words, or have a family history of difficulties with reading, should be observed carefully for signs of early problems with reading. Dr. Torgesen feels strongly that if parents notice something that concerns them, they should seek help and advice from someone who has experience in working with children who have reading disabilities, such as a teacher or a psychologist/diagnostician.
Here are some "big ideas" about learning to read that parents should be aware of:
- When children struggle learning to "sound out" words, it interferes with their ability to read accurately and independently.
Children who find reading difficult," Torgesen writes, "do not read very much, causing them to miss out on increasingly significant amounts of reading practice. It is only by reading a lot, and reading accurately, that children become fluent readers who are able to think about the meaning of what they are reading at the same time they are reading the words."
Often, these children come to school less well prepared than their classmates in skills such as phonological awareness (understanding that words are made up of sounds) and knowledge about print.
- If children enter school with limited vocabularies (knowledge of the meanings of words), it makes it more difficult for them to learn new vocabulary words. As they get older, their limited vocabularies begin to interfere more and more with their ability to understand what they are reading.
Parents should do all they can to help young children learn new and interesting words. Young children learn new words through meaningful and interesting discussions with adults who take the time to explain new things to them.
- The more children read, the better readers they become.
Parents should read with their children as often as they can. Even a few minutes a day can make a difference." Children may come to school with limited understanding of the value of learning to read, or they don't develop an interest in reading while in school. After the beginning stages of learning to read, motivation to read plays a very large role in determining continued expansion of reading skill."
Parents who would like to learn more about what they can do to help their child in the early years of learning to read might a enjoy a book called, Straight Talk About Reading by Susan L. Hall and Louisa C. Moats, Ed.D.
Reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Learning Disabilities. © 1999-2009 National Center for Learning Disabilities, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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