What Type of Reading Instruction Works Best for Struggling Readers?

The school year is almost half way over and you are watching your child continue to struggle with reading. Teachers tell you that he/she will catch up eventually. Everyone tells you to read aloud to your child and they will learn to love to read. You are doing everything you are told to do, but you know the struggle is real and you see no improvement. You see the tears, frustration, and damage to self-esteem and realize that you need to take further steps. What type of reading instruction works best for struggling readers and how do you access such instruction?

According to the National Reading Panel there are 5 critical components of evidence-based (has a record of success) instruction for people with dyslexia.

  1. Phonemic awareness instruction: Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize that words are made up of individual sounds. This type of instruction teaches students to blend sounds together (reading) and pull sounds apart (spelling).
  2. Systematic phonics instruction: Phonics is the understanding that sounds are represented by letters and groups of letters. Systematic phonics instruction is taught in a planned sequence and integrates continual review of past lessons.
  3. Fluency instruction: Fluency must be achieved before comprehension can be reached. Reading fluency includes reading accuracy (systematic phonics), reading rate, and reading expression (typical speech patterns and intonations while reading aloud).
  4. Vocabulary instruction: Exposing and teaching vocabulary increases comprehension.
  5. Comprehension instruction: Comprehension instruction teaches students to develop and use comprehension strategies while they are reading.

The International Dyslexia Association has determined that structured literacy instruction works best and includes 4 important components:

  1. Systematic instruction: Instruction should be strategic and have a planned sequence of skills taught.
  2. Explicit or direct instruction: Skills that the student needs are clearly taught by modeling, guided practice, and individual practice. (I do, we do, you do)
  3. Multisensory instruction: Using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic/tactile instruction simultaneously enhances learning.
  4. Diagnostic teaching: Teaching that meets a student’s individual needs is crucial. Going at an individual’s pace allows content to be mastered to the point of automaticity. Automaticity allows the student to give attention and cognitive resources to comprehension and expression.

How do you access such instruction? Hopefully your child’s school provides evidence-based, structured literacy instruction. In parent conference, ask the teacher for specifics of the school’s approach to reading instruction. Does their approach follow evidence-based, structured instruction? If not, you may need to hire a tutor that does.

Hiring a tutor can be tricky. There are reading tutors and learning centers that have no training or programs that meet the guidelines for an evidence-based, structured literacy approach. It is important to ask questions. What program do they use? Is the tutoring one on one or in a group? How often do they require tutoring? What training do they have in specific literacy instruction?

Tutoring should be one on one so that the tutor can teach to the student’s need. Evidence-based, structured reading instruction should be intense. You can expect to be required to meet at least 2 times a week for 2 to 3 years. Your best bet is to find someone who tutors using an Orton-Gillingham based program. Orton-Gillingham is a methodology that is recognized as the best way to teach students/adults that have dyslexia and it follows all of the components of an evidence-based, structured reading instruction.

Do not wait too long!. Early intervention is critical. There are many studies that show that the earlier a child receives remediation, the more successful they will be. Reading Within Reach uses the Barton Reading & Spelling program, which is an Orton-Gillingham influenced program that has the components for evidence-based, structured literacy instruction. Remote tutoring is available if you do not have access to a tutor in your area. Call 615-712-1024 for more information.

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