by Gloria Ellis, M.A.
A new school year is underway and students may be experiencing a variety of emotions, both positive and negative. For the children who struggle with reading, their concerns, and those of their parents, can be extreme, anxiety provoking, and likely routine. Each year may feel the same, as the child falls further behind his or her peers, dreads reading aloud, hates being pulled out to work in the “resource room” or “learning lab,” and loses interest and enthusiasm for reading.
While well-meaning educators do the best that they can, to many families it does not seem like enough. Perhaps your school is only able to provide one or two sessions of reading intervention each week. Maybe your school can only provide group intervention and your child needs individualized instruction. This problem is further compounded when the intervention offered or provided just does not seem appropriate to your child’s needs. This is because an appropriate reading intervention must be matched to the brain of the student in order for the child to experience success. There cannot be a “one size fits all” approach to reading intervention. So, the question becomes, “Which type of reader is your child and which type of intervention is likely to be most successful in helping your child to become a fluent reader?”
There are many areas of the brain related to the process of reading, so there are many different skills that may be weak for a child who struggles to acquire this skill at an appropriate level. A child who struggles with phonemic awareness cannot decode, or sound out, new words with speed and accuracy. A child with a weak visual memory for words cannot mentally store them for later retrieval when reading and spelling. Instead, this student may sound words out repeatedly and spell words phonetically, regardless of having seen the words before or even having successfully memorized the words for past spelling tests. Finally, a child who struggles with connecting language to mental imagery will have difficulty comprehending text, in spite of what may appear to be fluent reading.
These are different cognitive process requiring separate evaluation and unique intervention approaches. Clearly, given these many types of readers, instruction needs to be tailored to the specific learning needs of the struggling student.
As a parent, it is important to work with your child’s educational team to assess your student and determine which intervention approach is best suited to his or her reading style. Perhaps next school year can be faced with enthusiasm!
As part of our lecture series, Gloria will be speaking on this topic Tuesday,
November 13, from 6:30-8:00 p.m.