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Meaningful Data: Your Guide to Early Reading Success

Reading Learning Disabilities-Reading Disabilities in Children OK already! I get it! Reading does not just "happen" and young children, even those who seem to be learning to read without formal instruction, need to be taught the specific foundational skills that are known to support decoding, comprehension, vocabulary development, and fluency in reading. The opening paragraphs of Dr. Joe Torgesen's article, "Preventing Early Reading Failure and its Devastating Downward Spiral," offers examples of the importance of critical early literacy skills and explains how undetected weakness can lead to a "terrible spiral" of frustration and failure. The truth is that poor early readers will become poor adult readers unless effective early instruction and intervention is provided.

The article goes on to make three important points:


  • Classroom reading instruction needs to be a skillful balance of teaching focused on word-level skills (phonemic awareness, decoding etc.) and comprehension building skills
  • Don't wait to recognize children who, despite good instruction, are falling behind
  • Children who are 'at risk' for reading failure need to be the beneficiaries of our best instructional firepower (to the greatest extent possible, valid tools and research-based strategies that are more intensive, more explicit, and more supportive than what they typically receive in the classroom)

So where can you look for information and guidance about how to select screening tools and intervention programs? Three valuable resources come to mind:


  • The Florida Center for Reading Research provides technical assistance and support to all districts and schools receiving a Reading First Award in Florida. They also conduct applied and basic research and disseminate information about research-based practices related to literacy instruction and assessment for children in pre-school through 12th grade. Visit their Web site to answer questions such as:
    • What are the critical skills I need to be sure to address for students who are struggling with reading?
    • How do I know whether this program or method is aligned with the recommendation of the National Reading Panel and Reading First?
    • Is there research to support the use of some or all features of this program?
    • Are there aspects of this program that are either not supported by research findings or not yet proven to be effective?


  • The Alliance Project published a Compendium of Reading Practices for Grades K-3 , Listed by Grade Level, Look at this document to answer questions such as:
    • What are some commonly used programs for reading instruction and intervention?
      Are these programs intended to be used as:
      • "primary" interventions (all children in general education)

      • "secondary" interventions (a subset of children who need additional help)

      • "tertiary" interventions (small groups of students who are unresponsive to primary and secondary teaching efforts)

    • What research is available to support the use of these teaching approaches?
    • This report provides both references for further reading and contact information reaching out to researchers and school-based educators familiar with these materials.


  • Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read is a 58-page teacher's guide provides a framework for using the findings of the National Reading Panel (NRP) in the classroom. It describes the NRP findings and provides analysis and discussion in five areas of reading instruction: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension. Each section also suggests implications for classroom instruction with examples of how the findings can be implemented.


Some Additional Resources: 



Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D.
is the Director of LD Resources & Essential Information at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.