Reading or the social construction of meaning from print is a complex process and actively involves the reader, who must interact with the printed page to derive meaning. Good teaching, background knowledge or schema, motivation, interest, prior experiences with reading, exposure to print, and resiliency all influence how efficient and effective one is during the reading process.
No two readers are alike and no two dyslexics experience the same difficulties with language in the same way. However, there are commonalities that both good and struggling readers show that when identified, provide important information for instructional planning purposes. All students, for example, can acquire the skills and motivation to become effective or successful lifelong readers. Motivation involves wanting to "pick up that book or reading" consistently if not daily and for two major reasons: (1) because reading personally satisfies a need, curiosity, or interest and (2) reading will provide the means to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to live successful and fulfilling lives. According to Jerry Johns and Susan Lenski (2001), motivating readers is also a complex task that needs to involve modeling for students the desire and love for reading and good reading habits so that students develop positive "motivational dispositions" toward reading.
Reading Is Multidimensional
Learning to read is a very difficult task since it is multidimensional in nature. Effective readers need to consistently and efficiently (rapidly) apply their knowledge of the phonology of language to words during readings while constructing meaning. Short-term (e.g., remembering what was just read) and long-term memories (i.e., schemata) are activated while the reader is interacting with text, linking new information to what is known and what was just read. During all of this, readers continuously make and then confirm or disconfirm text predictions, summarize, make inferences, and draw conclusions. Metacognitive monitoring of one's own accuracy with regard to word identification and comprehension is constant. Depending on the reading purpose, readers are also adjusting their reading rates (relatively fast rates when skimming is needed; slower rates when attending to details for exam preparations) while organizing the information they commit to long-term memory.
Dyslexics Experience Difficulties with Fluency and the Phonology of Language. With regard to specific subcomponents of the reading task that pose difficulties for individuals with dyslexia, deficiencies in fluency and the phonology of language (e.g., phonemic awareness) have been well documented as beginning at a young age (Grosser & Spafford, 2000). Phonemic awareness is strongly correlated to word recognition and spelling (Adams, 1991; Goswani & Bryant, 1990) and therefore is requisite to developing reading proficiency.
Establish a Reading Purpose
Readers need to be meaningfully engaged or have a purpose for reading. According to Fernando, grade 3 gifted reader, "...I used to hate reading...then I read Spanish and English books...that showed me how fun reading could be...." It wasn't until Fernando could make some language and cultural connections with his home language, Spanish, that reading in English became fun and purposeful.
Why Is Reading So Important?
According to Marion Sanders (2001), "everyone believes in the importance and value of reading. Reading competency is essential for school success and almost all employment; inadequate reading ability puts youths at high risk for school dropout followed by failure to develop satisfying, self-sufficient, and productive lives" (p. 1).
Y, grade 2 fluent reader, shares, "I like to read...if you don't read now, when you grow up, you won't know how to read."
According to J, grade 2 struggling reader, "I'll get smart- that's the best part of reading.
But J, who is struggling with fluency and word recognition says the hardest part of reading is "when you don't know the words." This is where reading breaks down for individuals with dyslexia.
Individuals with Dyslexia Have Specific Difficulties with Fluent Reading and the Phonological Components of Language
According to L, grade 2 student who evidences many correlating symptoms of dyslexia, "the hardest part about reading is the words; I don't like to read because I don't know how to read."
L is "stuck" at the word level because he lacks a basic sight vocabulary and phonological skills/awareness of the alphabetic principle. For L, problems also emerge in spelling, writing, and listening. ADHD also seems to be a presenting problem. However, L has excellent interpersonal skills with age- and grade-appropriate verbal communications. He is also particularly adept in art. How can it be that L is virtually a nonreader, probably dyslexic, but gifted in other areas? With extraordinary advances in medical technology and refined research methodologies during the decade of the 1990s continuing into the twenty-first century, we can now answer this question with a high level of certainty- there is a neurological dysfunctioning in the brain. Understanding the reading process at the cortical level, and how dyslexic brain functioning differs from that of proficient readers, will lead us to better interventions.
Balanced Literacy Programs
Students with dyslexia, then, require comprehensive, balanced, and intensive literacy support programs that cover all of the five essential components of good reading instruction:
- Phonemic awareness
- Phonics (with systematic/explicit instruction)
- Vocabulary development
- Reading fluency, including oral skills
- Text comprehension/strategic reading. (Guidance for the Reading First Program, 2002)
Intervention program recommendations found in this book then will address all elements of good reading instruction while consistent with the learning disabilities and dyslexia research and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-110) with its legislative mandates/initiatives.
The goal of No Child Left Behind is to ensure that all students read by grade 3 and then advance through the grades achieving their full academic potentials. This includes students with reading disabilities.
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