Helping the Underachiever in Reading
Learning to read is a complex process. Most children learn to read and continue to grow in their mastery of this process. However, there continues to be a group of children for whom learning to read is a struggle. This group that continues to struggle presents a challenge to our schools. Thus the development of effective intervention programs and instructional strategies for the struggling reader, or the underachiever in reading, continues to be a topic of concern. This digest will first review the current status of reading performance, then report on the importance of early reading instruction. A summary of the components of successful intervention programs will be presented and the paper will conclude by summarizing the types of instructional activities present in successful intervention programs.
The Current Status of Reading Performance
According to the results of the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)(Donahue, Voelhl, Campbell & Mazzeo, 1999), students continue to make improvements in their acquisition of reading skills, however this progress is only being made at the basic level of reading. The NAEP reading report card, which summarizes reading achievement results for grades 4, 8 and 12, reports results at three reading levels: basic, proficient, and advanced. Achievement at a basic reading level is partial mastery of the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed at each grade level, achievement at a proficient level describes solid academic performance and competence when presented with challenging material, and achievement at an advanced level indicates superior performance. Although the average reading scores for all grade levels increased, the percentages of 4th, 8th and 12th graders who performed at or above the proficient level were 31, 33, and 40 percent and the percentages who performed at the highest level were 7, 3, and 6 percent, respectively. In addition, at grade 4 there were no significant changes since the 1994 and 1992 assessments in the percentages of students attaining any of the reading achievement levels. These results demonstrate cause for concern as only one third or less of the students demonstrated an ability to read above the basic level. A particularly instructive finding of this study is that 12th grade students who had higher average reading achievement reported coming from homes where there was a variety of literacy materials available; they read for fun on their own time; they discussed their studies; and they watched less than the average amount of television. Furthermore, these students read each day in school, were asked by their teachers to explain or support their understanding of what they were reading, and were asked to explain their interpretations of what they had read.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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