FOCUS QUESTION:  Which program produces more significant reading gains for struggling first grade readers within a ten week time period: the ERI (Early Reading Intervention) by Kame’enui and Simmons or a modified Reading Recovery (Marie Clay) approach?



Ashdown, J., & Simic, O. (2000). Is early literacy intervention effective for English

Language learners? Evidence from Reading Recovery. [Electronic version]. Literacy Teaching and Learning: An International Journal of Early Reading and Writing, 5(1), 27-42. Retrieved March 25, 2005, from


Ashdown and Simic examined the literacy achievement of 25, 601 first grade

students who received Reading Recovery (RR) tutoring services from school year 1992-1993 to 1997-1998 in order to evaluate the performance of children in the group who were English language learners. The children in the RR group were compared with a random sample group of 18, 363 first graders drawn from the classroom population of children not identified as needing assistance and with a comparison group of 11, 267 first grade children who were in need of RR but did not receive it because of a lack of resources. Contingency tables were used to examine program delivery, completion rates, and outcome status for three language groups. In addition, analysis of variance procedures were used to examine reading achievement measures by language group and three comparison samples.

            Results of the study provide evidence that Reading Recovery tutoring produces similar outcomes for students with different levels of English proficiency and offers and appropriate solution for first graders experiencing problems in reading and writing.


Bishop, A. G. (2003). Prediction of first-grade reading achievement: A comparison

of fall and winter kindergarten screenings. [Electronic Version]. Learning Disability Quarterly26 (3), 1-13. Retrieved March 25, 2005 from


One hundred and three kindergarten students from three schools in one Florida school district participated over a period of two years. Measures representing letter identification, phonological awareness, phonological memory, and rapid automatized naming were administered in the fall and winter of the kindergarten year. Reading achievement was measured at the end of grade 1 using measures that included passage comprehension, fluency, sight-word recognition, and phonetic decoding.

            The findings indicate that letter identification and phonological awareness correlate to first-grade reading achievement along with rapid automatized naming and phonological memory in examining oral reading fluency. The multiple use of reading outcome measures provides insight into the prediction of children’s reading achievement. The most significant contribution of this study is the finding that fall administration of screening measures that incorporate theoretically coherent measures is nearly as valid as winter testing.


Bus, A. G., & van IJzendoorn, M. H. (1999). Phonological awareness and early

            Reading: A meta-analysis of experimental training studies. Journal of

            Educational Psychology, 91(3), 403-414.


            This review is a quantitative meta-analysis of experimental training studies to estimate the effects of phonological awareness training on reading. The following hypotheses were tested: Training phonological awareness affects learning-to-read processes in a positive and substantial way. Phonological training is more effective when the program combines phonological training with written letters or words. Starting early with phonological training is more effective than starting later in childhood. Children with reading problems may profit more from a phonological awareness training than children who develop reading abilities in a normal way. Experiments using simple posttests limited to the use of letter-sound rules may seem more effective than experiments using posttests with real-word identification.

The following data were analyzed: effect sizes for phonological awareness and reading, the testing of relevant predictors, randomized or matched U.S. studies. The results: this meta-analysis supports the hypothesis that phonological awareness is an important but not a sufficient condition for learning to read. Phonological awareness training stimulates reading skills, but is not the single strongest predictor. Other resources such as word-specific knowledge of written words or knowledge of written language may be important as well. The results also show that reading skills are stimulated more by a phonemic training including letter or reading and writing practice than by purely metalinguistic games and exercises. The results strengthen the case for a balanced perspective on reading instruction.


Center, Y., Wheldall, K., Freeman, L., Outhred, L., & McNaught, M. (1995). An

            Experimental evaluation of Reading Recovery. Reading Research Quarterly,

            30, 240-263.


            The authors evaluated the effectiveness of Reading Recovery schools in New South Wales. Low-achieving children were randomly assigned to either RR (n=31) or a control group (n=39) of low-progress students who had not entered RR by November. A third group (n=39) consisted of students from five matched schools. By the end of the study, sampled sizes were 23, 16, and 32 respectively. Measures used were Clay’s Diagnostic Survey, Burt Word Reading Test, Neale Analysis of Reading Ability, Waddington Diagnostic Spelling Test, Phonemic Awareness Test, Cloze Test, Word Attack Skills Test, and Woodcock Reading Mastery.

            At post-test evaluation (15 weeks after the pretest) and independent assessment showed that RR students scored significantly on all tests measuring reading in context and in isolation. Of the eight measures reported, the only ones that did not differ significantly were a cloze test and a phonemic awareness measure. At short-term maintenance (15 weeks after the post-test) the RR control group still scored significantly higher than the control group on six of the eight measures, including Clay’s test reading measure and several standardized measures of text and word reading. At this point the RR group also scored significantly higher than the control group on phonemic awareness.

            This study provides strong, independent replication of the pattern of results found in other research and in the U.S. national evaluation data for all participating students.


Chapman, M. L. (2003). Phonemic awareness: Clarifying what we know.

[Electronic version]. Literacy Teaching and Learning: An International Journal of Early Reading and Writing, 7, 91-114. Retrieved March 25, 2005,



            Marilyn Chapman, through the use of research, dispels the many myths about  phonemic awareness. These are the major points of dispute she presents in this article:

·        Phonemic awareness is the single most important factor in learning to read. The ability that correlates most highly with literacy achievement is language development, not phonemic awareness.

·        The cause of reading problems is lack of phonemic awareness. There is no single cause of reading problems.

·        Kindergarten children need phonemic awareness training in order to become good readers. Scanlon and Vellutino’s (1997) research concluded that formal phonemic awareness training was not needed if children had opportunities to write.

·        Without phonemic awareness training, most children will become reading failures. A quote from Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children states:  “The effects of training [in phonological awareness, particularly in association with instruction in letters and letter-sound relationships], although quite consistent, are only moderate in strength, and have so far not been shown to extend to comprehension” (Snow, et. al., 1998. p. 251).

·        Direct instruction in phonemic awareness is the best approach, particularly for children at risk for failure. Evidence shows that indirect approaches to phonemic awareness, particularly writing with temporary spelling, improve children’s development in phonemic awareness.


Clay, M. (1991). Becoming literate: The construction of inner control. Auckland, New

            Zealand: Heinemann Education.


            Clay feels that reading need not be delayed until a child knows all of his letters and sounds, but that the child can gain this knowledge while reading and writing through teacher scaffolding. Learning to read cannot be reduced to learning letter-sound relationships. Although a key variable in learning to read has been identified as phonological awareness, directing attention to only one source of information used by the reader can produce problems since readers use meaning and syntax information in addition to visual information.

Clay notes that children may develop phonemic awareness in reading in another learning activity such as playing with rhyme or exploring beginning writing because an essential component of recording one’s speech in print is to work out how what is heard can be recorded by letters. Writing is a segmentation task that matches sounds to letters.


Coyne, P., Edwards, S., Harn, T., Kame’enui, E., Peterson, J., Simmons, D., et al.

            (2001). A summary of the research findings of Project Optimize:

            Improving the early literacy skills of kindergarteners at-risk for reading

            difficulties using effective design and delivery principles. Retrieved April 9,

            2005, from the University of Oregon, Institute for the Development of

Educational Achievement of the College of Education web site:


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of kindergarten reading

programs that varied in instructional emphases and explicitness on the early reading outcomes of children who typically demonstrate difficulty acquiring the alphabetic principle. Ninety-six kindergarten children from seven elementary schools participated in this seven-month intervention study. Students were identified in the fall of kindergarten as at-risk based on skills in phonological awareness and letter knowledge. Children in the bottom 20% were randomly assigned to one of three interventions and received 30 minutes of additional instruction, five days a week for seven months. Although all interventions focused on developing phonological awareness and alphabetic understanding skills through a variety of activities, one of the experimental interventions, Project Optimize, now known as Early Reading Intervention, emphasized phonological awareness and alphabetic understanding through explicit, systematic, and focused instruction.

            Students receiving Project Optimize displayed faster learning rates and higher end-of-year levels for both phonological awareness and alphabetic understanding. Statistically significant differences favoring Project Optimize were found on spelling, letter dictation, word attack, word identification, and oral reading fluency measures. Project Optimize was also found to be more effective in working with the most at-risk of this low performing sample of kindergarteners.

            The researchers feel that attaining proficiency in phonological awareness and alphabetic understanding in kindergarten allows the instructional focus to shift to the next higher-order skill (e.g., blending, word reading, etc.) to optimize reading development and get students to gain meaning from text as soon as possible.


Cox, B. E., Fang, Z., & Schmitt, M. C. (1998). At-risk children’s metacognitive

            growth during Reading Recovery experience: A Vygotskian interpretation.

[Electronic version]. Literacy Teaching and Learning: An International Journal of Early Reading and Writing, 3(1), 55-76. Retrieved March 25, 2005, from http:

Metacognition is defined as independent, strategic learning and involves the knowledge of self, task, learning strategy variables and the regulatory functions of planning, monitoring, checking, evaluating, and revising one’s reading comprehension or construction of comprehensible text for a reader. Because metacognition and literacy skills are inextricably related, this study investigated what and how Reading Recovery contributes to children’s metacognitive growth.

            Twenty-seven first grade children from four suburban schools within one district of a Midwestern city participated in the study. They were selected for RR according to their levels of performance on Clay’s An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement. Data were collected at four sessions spanning an average period of about six months. All interviews were audio-taped and transcribed for later analyses.     

Results were that children showed statistically significant growth in metacognition during their RR experience and that children from low and middle income families demonstrated significantly different patterns of metacognitive growth during the RR session. There were qualitative and quantitative differences and growth between the entry and exit sessions in the RR children’s metacognitive utterances since children had developed a much clearer sense of themselves as readers and writers.

The results from this study also indicated that low income students did gain significantly more than did middle income categories and that gender, ethnicity, or race were significant factors. This study suggests that RR may be especially effective in helping at-risk children accelerate to or even surpass the level of their peers in terms of gaining metacognitive control.


Elliott, J. K. (1997). A reliability and validity study of the dynamic indicators of

            basic early literacy skills (reading disabilities, gender differences,

            curriculum based measurement) (Doctoral dissertation, University of

            Kansas, 1997). Dissertation Abstracts International, 58(10a), 3875.


            The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) are a set of brief measures designed for progress monitoring and early identification of children with reading problems. This study investigated the reliability and validity of selected DIBELS measures in identifying kindergartners who are at risk for reading failure and provided a partial replication of Good et al.’s reliability and validity studies. The data from this partial replication provides corroborative support for the DIBELS Letter Naming Fluency, Phonemic Segmentation Fluency, Initial Sound Fluency.

            At issue in the adoption of alternative assessment practices has been whether or not these measures have sufficient technical adequacy for making important educational decisions for individual children. The reliability and validity indices for the DIBELS measures evaluated in the present study compare favorably with indices generated for more traditional assessments for young school-aged children.


Gaffney, J. S. & Askew, B. (n.d.). Marie M. Clay. Retrieved March 8, 2005 from

            The Reading Recovery Council of North America website,



            Marie Clay, who developed the Reading Recovery program, was born in 1926 in Wellington, New Zealand. She completed her teacher training at the Wellington College of Education and was awarded a primary teacher’s certificate in 1945 as she pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of New Zealand. Clay was awarded a Master of Arts degree with honors in1948 after completing her thesis, “The Teaching of Reading to Special Class Children.” In 1950 she received a Fulbright Scholarship and a Smith-Mundt grant to study developmental and clinical child psychology at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Welfare, which she acknowledges as a turning point in her understanding of how to study children’s learning.

            As a result of her doctoral dissertation, Clay developed An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement (1993a), a group of early literacy assessments which serve to inform reading instruction. Clay became a professor of education in 1975, was inducted into the Reading Hall of Fame, and has been the recipient of many prestigious honors. Some of the awards were: International Citation of Merit at the IRA World Congress on Reading, David H. Russell Award from the National Council of Teachers of English, Dana Award for Pioneering Achievements in Education.

            Clay has also written numerous articles on reading as well as books, such as: Becoming Literate: The Construction of Inner Control, Reading Recovery: A Guidebook for Teachers in Training, By Different Paths to Common Outcomes, Change Over Time In Children’s Literacy Development, An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement. A major contribution of Marie Clay’s has been to change the conversation about what is possible for individual learners when the teaching permits different routes to be taken for desired outcomes.


Good, R. H., & Kaminski, R. A. (2003). DIBELS: Dynamic indicators of basic early

            literacy skills (6th ed.). Longmont, Colorado: SOPRIS WEST.


            The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) are brief standardized measures of skills, individually administered, which the authors, Good and Kaminski, feel underlie early reading success. They claim that these assessments will predict how well children will do in reading comprehension by the end of third grade, yet they do not include one subtest to assess comprehension. There was no data on the validity and reliability of the DIBELS.

At each grade level, K-1, there are three or four short subtests to help teachers locate, monitor, and intervene with at risk students. At grade 2 there are two subtests and at grade 3 there is one subtest.

The definition that the authors have of reading is fluency in assessment tasks. In kindergarten these fluency tasks are: initial sound fluency, letter naming fluency, phoneme segmentation fluency, and nonsense word fluency. The fluency tasks for first grade are: letter naming fluency, phoneme segmentation fluency, nonsense word fluency and oral reading fluency. The fluency tasks for second grade are nonsense word fluency and oral reading fluency and in third grade, the fluency task is oral reading fluency. There is also a retelling fluency component that is not valid or reliable since the number of words students say in one minute when retelling, not the correctness of the answer, is the only factor considered. The retelling subtest is still in the process of being perfected.

 Each subtest is one minute in length. The authors recommend using DIBELS three times a year: fall, winter, and spring. There is also a monitoring component which would be given weekly to students who are “at risk” in order to monitor progress after having received direct instruction.





Good, R. H., Simmons, D. C., & Smith, S. B. (1998). Effective academic

interventions in the United States: Evaluating and enhancing the acquisition of early reading skills. School Psychology Review, 27(1), 51-63.


            The authors of this article developed a rationale for early and intensive literacy intervention, reviewed the major implications of the evidence in early literacy and reading acquisition, and proposed methods to enhance early literacy development through the linkage of assessment and intervention. Children who experience severe difficulty learning to read display two common characteristics that can guide assessment and intervention, namely poor reading progress and inability to use the phonologic structure of language to read and write. The authors feel that an assessment such as the DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) is a useful tool in ascertaining which students are having difficulty in what they believe are the components of effective early reading instruction: phonological awareness, alphabetic understanding, phonological recoding, and accuracy and fluency with connected text. Criteria for selecting phonological awareness programs were provided.


Hintze, J. M., Ryan, A. L., & Stoner, G. (2002). Concurrent validity and diagnostic

            accuracy of the dynamic indicators of basic early literacy skills and the

            comprehensive test of phonological processing. Retrieved April 9, 2005, from

DIBELS website, http://dibels.uoregon.educ/techreports/DIBELS_Validity_Hintze.pdf


The purpose of this study was to a.) examine the concurrent validity of the

Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) with the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP), and b.) explore the diagnostic accuracy of the DIBELS in predicting CTOPP performance using suggested and alternative cut-scores. Eighty-six randomly selected kindergarten students from a mid-sized city in Northwestern Massachusetts were administered the DIBELS and the CTOPP in the winter of their Kindergarten year in twenty minute sessions for each measure.

Moderate to strong correlations between the DIBELS and the CTOPP were found. This provides evidence that these two instruments are measuring a similar construct. School personnel might find both of these instruments useful for assessing various aspects of child skill development in areas related to phonological awareness.

Use of DIBELS measures and cut-scores also resulted in the identification of many children as having difficulties who did not perform poorly on the CTOPP. Using DIBELS and these cut-scores could lead to school districts unnecessarily allocating resources and children being inaccurately identified as “at-risk” for early reading problems.  The results of this study suggest the DIBELS “benchmark” or cut-scores may be set too high, from a diagnostic accuracy point of view. As a result, the use of the DIBELS as a classification tool in practice should be undertaken with caution.

When the DIBELS are used district-wide to classify children as in need of early intervention services, the potential for costly mistakes (i.e., large numbers of false positives = high costs) suggest further research on benchmark or cut-scores is warranted. 



Hoffman, J. V., Sailors, M., & Patterson, E. U. (2002). Decodable texts for beginning

            reading instruction: The year 2000 basals. Historical background and current

trends in basal texts for beginning readers. Retrieved March 19, 2005, from


Policy actions in Texas regarding pushing early reading instruction from one extreme position to another through shifts in textbook adoption requirements are shaping a national curriculum for reading. This study looked at changes in texts for beginning reading instruction that resulted from the Texas state mandates for more literature-based teaching practices and materials. The report focused on the Texas state basal reading adoption for the year 2000 and the impact of these new mandates on program features. The questions this study sought to answer were: Should beginning reading instruction be literature-based or skill-based? Should the language in texts be highly literary or highly decodable?

All of the texts from the first grade programs (2000) were entered into text files and analyzed for word-level features and vocabulary repetition patterns. Predictability, decodability, and engaging qualities were assessed by trained raters, who applied holistic scoring procedures and scales to the actual pupil text materials. They also reanalyzed some of the data from the 1987 to 1993 basals to allow for comparisons across the three adoption periods and limited historical trends analysis using these comparative data to the three programs that had been part of all three of the most recent Texas adoption cycles (1987, 1993, & 2000).

Researchers found there was an absence of two crucial variables, predictability and engaging qualities, in the first-grade 2000 programs. Across all of the analyses, they consistently found that the more decodable the text, the lower the ratings on engaging qualities, suggesting that the mandate to focus on decodability of text had negative implications for other aspects of texts for beginning readers.

The ill effects of state’s efforts to manipulate instruction through state control over textbooks are now manifesting themselves at the national level, as the federal government, with its “No Child Left Behind” policy, attempts to prescribe certain programs and materials as “effective.” Researchers of this study feel this manipulation should be questioned and challenged since texts are a resource for effective teachers, not a solution to all the challenges in teaching.


International Reading Association. (1999). Using multiple methods of beginning

            reading instruction: A position statement of the International Reading

            Association. Newark, Delaware: Author


            Several large-scale studies of reading methods have shown that no one method is better than any other method in all settings and situations (Adams, 1990; Bond & Dykstra, 1967; Foorman et al., 1998; Hoffman, 1994; Stallings, 1975). One of the major problems in methods research is defining the term “reading method.” Another problem with methods studies is that measures of what “works” are not defined consistently. Since children learn what we teach them, many methods have a right to claim they “work,” but that does not mean that any of these methods are better than all or most other methods or that any one of them is the “right” method.

            Much research evidence converges on the following definition of reading.

Reading is a complex system of deriving meaning from print that requires all of the following:

  • the development and maintenance of a motivation to read
  • the development of appropriate active strategies to construct meaning from print
  • sufficient background information and vocabulary to foster reading comprehension
  • the ability to read fluently
  • the ability to decode unfamiliar words
  • the skills and knowledge to understand how phonemes or speech sounds are connected to print

Because there is no best way to teach beginning reading, professionals who are

closest to the children must be the ones to make the decisions about what reading methods to use, and they must have the flexibility to modify those methods when they determine that particular children are not learning. The federal and state governing bodies should not prescribe particular methods. Rather, they should support balanced approaches to reading instruction at the state level. Policy makers should provide funds for professional development and books so that children can read for enjoyment.

School districts must develop reading programs that meet the needs of all students and provide guidelines for allotted adequate time for reading. School districts should also enlist the support of parents in developing teachers’ knowledge of their children and involve them in the academic progress of their children.  Finally, to improve reading instruction, teachers of reading need to be better trained. Improvement in instruction in the form of materials will not replace teacher knowledge in helping struggling readers become independent readers.


Iversen, S.J., & Tunmer, W.E. (1993). Phonological processing skills and the

            Reading Recovery program. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(4), 437-



            Iversen and Tunmer conducted a study to determine whether the Reading Recovery program would be more effective if systematic instruction in phonological recording skills were incorporated into the program. Three matched groups of 32 at-risk readers were compared:

·        Children taught by teachers who received Reading Recovery training

·        Children taught by teachers who received Reading Recovery training that included phonological recording skills as part of the lesson, and

·        Children who received a standard intervention (not Reading Recovery)

Measures included all six tasks of the Diagnostic Survey, Dolch Word

Recognition Test, Yopp-Singer Phoneme Segmentation Test, Phoneme Deletion Test, and Pseudoword Decoding Task.

            The two RR groups performed at very similar levels when RR lessons were successfully completed. Both groups performed much better on all measures than children in the standards intervention group, and they often performed significantly better than classroom controls (especially on phonological segmentation and phoneme deletion). Results revealed that the modified RR group reached levels of performance required for discontinuing more quickly than the standard RR group. Authors acknowledged that both the standard and modified RR programs included explicit instruction in phonological awareness.


Johnson, D. (2001, April). Web watch: Internet resources to assist teachers with        

struggling readers. Reading Online: Electronic Classroom. Retrieved March 2, 2005, from


            The author listed Internet resources for providing struggling readers with the correct level of books and presented ways to ascertain a child’s reading level with resources on the web. The author had the following suggestions for teachers: design instruction to meet the needs of all students; believe that all children can learn to read; communicate high expectations to all children to enhance their potential for success; meet the diverse needs of students by being knowledgeable about effective instructional practices and by taking into account the prior knowledge and home language each child brings to the classroom;  provide authentic learning activities relevant to children’s lives in order to support their cognitive, language, and social development.

            The author referenced Richard Allington, in his book, What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Research-Based Programs, in which he stated that the act of reading is such a powerful contributor to the development of accurate, fluent, high comprehension. Because of this belief, he supports a minimum of 90 minutes of in-school reading per day and stated that teachers should be sure children are reading books at their instructional reading level.


Jones, N. K. (1995). Learning to read: Insights from reading recovery. [Electronic

version]. LiteracyTeaching and Learning: An International Journal of Early Reading and Writing, 1(2), 41-56. Retrieved March 23, 2005, from


This article provides insight into two differing points of view theorists have on teaching reading and insights about both from Reading Recovery. One group of theorists emphasizes meaning, language context, prediction, anticipation and visual sampling in their theories of reading processing. These theorists stress immersion in literacy activities pursued for authentic purposes; integration of reading and writing; and the importance for teachers of allowing students choice, accepting approximations, and encouraging risk-taking so that children continue to be active discoverers and meaning-makers.

The other group of theorists stresses research evidence suggesting that: a.) readers process almost all of the visual information on the page; b.) fast, automatic word recognition and thorough knowledge of sound-symbol relations separate good from poor readers; c.) phonemic awareness plays a significant, causal role in learning to read. d.) fluency guarantees/means comprehension. These code-emphasis advocates believe that beginning reading instruction should stress development of phonemic awareness, letter knowledge, sound-symbol associations, and rapid word identification.

The main ideas and implications for instruction presented in this article are:


  1. Reading is a complex, problem-solving process that cannot be simplified by focusing the learners attention to one source of information at a time.
  2. Reading is a phased, thinking-feeling-communication process involving motivation, the intentional pursuit of meaning, cycles of engagement, monitoring, and assimilation into and accommodation of existing knowledge structures.
  3. Learners construct their own knowledge by actively pursuing meaning, relating new learning to old, and using strategies to solve problems.
  4. The focus of teaching is strategies. By learning how to learn as they explore a variety of stories under expert tutorial guidance, young children develop a self-extending learning system that may serve them as long as they are active in literate activities.
  5. Print knowledge emerges and becomes internalized.
  6. Children do learn to use letter-sound associations.
  7. Maintaining a focus on meaning is always important since if reading is not a meaning-driven, meaningful activity, if is not reading.
  8. Theories of beginning reading must recognize changes over time.


Jones, N. K. (1996). Phonics and politics: “Sounding out” the consequences.

[Electronic version]. Literacy Teaching and Learning: An International Journal of Early Reading and Writing, 2(2), 3-13. Retrieved March 25, 2005, from http:


This article reviews phonics and direct instruction mandates. Jones stated that although there is an impressive body of research indicating that an important distinction between good readers and poor readers is the degree to which they know sound-symbol relations and the speed in which they respond to letters and letter patterns, there is also a mass of evidence suggesting that the difference between children who are good and poor readers can be accounted for by differences in language and literacy learning before school entrance and the amount of time children spend reading books and stories in meaningful situations. Jones feels that legislative proposals which would mandate intensive phonics as the method to teach beginning reading are based upon some unwarranted assumptions. These proposals assume that:


  • Phonics knowledge is a prerequisite for reading and that strong doses of phonics early are the best guarantees of literacy success.
  • Phonics knowledge is sufficient to establish “the basics” in reading; therefore, training in sound-symbol associations and phonics rules should be the methods of beginning reading instruction, and that over-teaching provides a necessary safeguard.
  • Rather than building on strengths, a diagnostic-prescriptive approach is recommended, teaching those elements that a child does not know or is not yet able to use.
  • Any approach that emphasizes meaning is an attempt to avoid the use of sound-symbol cues while reading.

Jones presented arguments to counter these mistaken assumptions about the role of phonics in learning to read and also explained the costs and consequences of these legislative proposals which, as written, are potentially harmful to many children in their efforts to become literate.


Litt, D. G. (2003). An exploration of the double-deficit hypothesis in the Reading

            Recovery population (Doctoral dissertation, University of Maryland College

            Park, 2003).  Dissertation Abstracts International, 64, 2028.


            Reading Recovery was developed to provide intensive, high quality, supplementary instruction to first grade children who experience difficulty learning to read, early enough to prevent reading failure. The purpose of this study was to explore how deficits in phonological awareness and naming speed interact with reading acquisition when beginning reading instruction is delivered through Reading Recovery.

Tests of phonological awareness and rapid automatic naming were administered to 59 children selected for Reading Recovery in the fall of 2001-2002 at the beginning of RR instruction, and again when the children completed their RR programs. The students were initially weak in both core skills, with all but one student scoring at the 25th percentile or lower on at least one of these measures. Students were classified into a deficit subgroup along the dimensions proposed by the double-deficit hypothesis using 1 SD or more below the mean as the criterion for deficit status.

A major realignment of children from one category to another occurred following instruction in RR. Stronger reading outcomes were associated with post-treatment strength in the core skills, weaker reading outcomes with continued low performance in the core skills. Correlations between pretreatment skill in phonological awareness and reading outcomes were not statistically significant.

The instructional techniques used in RR to teach reading and writing appear to foster both naming speed and phonological awareness. The data from this study confirm the importance of phonological awareness and adequate naming speed to support reading acquisition, and lend some support to possible reciprocal relationships between reading acquisition, naming speed, and advanced phonological awareness skills.


Lyons, C. A. (1999). Emotions, cognition, and becoming a reader: A message to

teachers of struggling learners. [Electronic version]. Literacy Teaching and Learning: An International Journal of Early Reading and Writing, 4(1), 67-87. Retrieved March 25, 2005, from


This paper considers the emotional nature of learning and the critical role emotions play in the making of the mind. Perspectives explored include: the recent neurological research on the interaction between cognition and emotion in the development of plans of action and decision making, the role of language in the development of the mind, and the development of higher-order functions arising from social interaction. Implications of these theories for practice are also examined.

The mind can instantly retrieve similarly coded information relevant in one situation and use it in a similar way for a new situation. During the ‘making words’ section of a Reading Recovery lesson, the teacher initially scaffolds the child into seeing the connection between common word chunks in known and unknown words and shows the child how to use this information to help in reading and writing unknown words. Gradually the responsibility for this connecting process is handed over to the child so that the child can become independent.

The practical implications of these theories about the brain suggest the following for teachers:

  • Provide emotional support and encouragement for children’s imperfect attempts and partially right responses.
  • Expect all children to make accelerated progress such that they can benefit from classroom instruction.
  • Remember it the quality of experience and instruction, not the child’s cognition that determines success or failure.

Reading Recovery teachers adhere to the above implications and know that true self-esteem grows from mastery of genuine challenges. Children given tasks beyond their capacity lose confidence, the will to learn and self-respect. Reading Recovery teachers consider the emotional nature of learning and the critical role emotions play in the making of the mind.


Lyons, C. A. (1998). Reading Recovery in the United States: More than a decade of

data. [Electronic version]. Literacy Teaching and Learning: An International Journal of Early Reading and Writing, 3(1), 77-92. Retrieved March 25, 2005,



            The purpose of this article was to review the thirteen years of replication data that support Reading Recovery’s effectiveness, as well as to address the questions most often raised by critics regarding (a) the length of the teacher training program, (b) the cost of implementation, and (c) the long-term effects of the program for children.         

            In September 1984, Professor Marie M. Clay, a New Zealand researcher and educator who designed the program, and Barbara Watson, current National Director in New Zealand, introduced Reading Recovery to faculty at The Ohio State University and sixteen teachers in the Columbus Public Schools. Reading Recovery provided intensive, individual help to the lowest achieving first grade students in six Columbus, Ohio schools. End of year data revealed that during the initial year of implementation, 67% of the lowest achieving children developed effective strategies for reading and writing and reached average classroom levels after 12-20 weeks of one-to-one instruction.

            RR teachers need to be highly trained for a year by a certified RR Teacher-Trainer-Leader. After the first year of training, RR teachers need to meet several times annually with the RR Teacher Leader to continue their professional development. A cost-effectiveness study of special education referrals, Title I placement, and retention was conducted in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1996 which revealed that, if RR had not been operating in the district, the school system, over a five year period, would have had to pay $1,746,145. Instead, the district paid $583,271 for RR, creating a net savings of $1,262,874.

            In a cross-sectional evaluation, researchers at Texas Woman’s University studied second, third, and fourth graders who had successfully discontinued from Reading Recovery. The results indicated that when compared to a random sample of their peers, former RR students placed well above grade level in text reading and written retelling and maintained their gains through fourth grade.


McGuinness, D. (2004). Early reading instruction: What science really tells us about

            how to teach reading. USA: Bradford


            The author states that one of the most consistent findings in the literature, and evident in the National Reading Panel’s meta-analysis, is that when phoneme-awareness training is meshed with teaching letter-sound correspondences, this has a much stronger impact on reading and spelling than training in the auditory mode alone. When doing sound segmentation boxes, there is merit initially to having children push tokens while saying the phonemes (Brady et al. 1994). However, children need to attach letters to the sounds as soon as possible according to Hohn’s and Ehri’s research (1983) and Ball’s and Blachman’s research (1988, 1991), which found that letters were more powerful aids to segmenting than blank disks used in the same exercises. One of the most consistent findings is that phoneme-identification and phoneme-sequencing training are the only phoneme-analysis skills that impact reading test scores.

            The author states that research shows that reading is far more complex and more amazing than anyone could imagine. Readers uses visual search, decoding, the processing of meaning, and syntactic analysis, all accompanied by an attempt to carry out a global structural analysis of every sentence and anticipate which words need to be briefly

scanned or receive full attention. This goes on completely outside the conscious

awareness. A good reader is conscious only of meaning. The print on the page is all but invisible. It is foolish to imagine that anyone can say how a particular word is read by the brain simply because reading seems automatic, and then assume what the reading process entails.


Pikulski, J. J. (1997). Preventing reading problems: Factors common to successful

early intervention programs [Electronic version]. Retrieved February 26, 2005, from Houghton Mifflin Company,


            Pikulski reviewed the five successful early reading intervention programs that have been researched extensively: Success for All, the Winston-Salem Project, the Boulder Program, Reading Recovery and the Early Intervention in Reading Program (Taylor). The characteristics common to these successful reading intervention programs were the following:

  • The dependence on a strong, effective program of regular classroom reading instruction is recognized.
  • Reading for meaning is an overriding consideration.
  • Intervention instruction is frequent, regular, and of sufficient duration to make a difference.
  • Pupil-to-teacher ratio is kept very small.
  • Fluency is a major goal.
  • Instructional procedures are used to introduce new books in order to insure that students are successful in reading them.
  • Texts are carefully selected and sequenced to ensure student success.
  • Word learning activities are used to help children become very familiar with print.
  • Writing is used to teach and extend word identification skills.
  • Each of the programs calls for considerable teacher decision making, but within a well-defined sequence of instructional activities.
  • Instruction is fast paced.
  • Activities completed at home extend student opportunities for reading.
  • Assessment is meaningful, practical, efficient, and ongoing.
  • Teacher training is practical and ongoing.
  • Teachers believe in their early intervention programs—and in their students’ ability to learn to read.
  • Pupils build confidence and come to see themselves as readers and authors.


Pinnell, G. S. (2000). Reading recovery: An analysis of a research-based reading

intervention.(Available from the Reading Recovery Council of North America, 1929 Kenny Road, Suite 100, Columbus, OH 43210-1069.)


The author reviewed Reading Recovery lesson components:

  • Reading familiar stories
  • Reading a story that was read for the first time the day before
  • Working with letters and/or words using magnetic letters
  • Writing a story
  • Assembling a cut-up story
  • Introducing and reading a new book


Pinnell stated that these Reading Recovery lesson components contain the ten

principles for exemplary reading intervention programs recommended by the NICHD:

  • Phonological awareness                                   
  • Visual perception of letters
  • Word recognition
  • Phonics/decoding skills
  • Phonics/structural analysis
  • Fluency/automaticity
  • Comprehension
  • A balanced, structured approach
  • Early intervention
  • Individual tutoring


The author of this article quoted Reid Lyon, a member of the NICHD, who

cautioned against simplistic interpretations of the NICHD research in the name of ‘science’ as supporting phonics instruction as a panacea for literacy problems.




Pinnell, G. S., Lyons, D. E., Bryk, A. S., & Seltzer, M. (1994). Comparing

            instructional models for the literacy education of high risk first graders.

            Reading Research Quarterly, 29, 8-39.


            The purpose of this study was to determine which instructional model for literacy education was the most effective for high-risk first graders. This study utilized a high-quality experimental design using random assignment of subjects to four treatment groups, each of which had its own control group. The four treatment groups were: (1.) Reading Recovery (individual tutoring), (2.) a RR-like intervention (individual tutoring by a teacher trained in an alternative and short setting), (3.) a RR-like small group intervention, and (4.) a basic skills small group intervention. Measures used were the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test, the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test, and Text Reading Level and Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words (Clay’s Observation Survey).

 The school in each district which had RR was designated as the RR treatment site for the district. Three additional schools were identified and randomly assigned to one of the three alternative treatments. Within each school, a pool of the 10 lowest-scoring students was identified. Four students were randomly assigned to the treatment school, and the remaining students constituted a randomized comparison group. Data were collected at the beginning of the year, mid-year and beginning of the following year.

            Reading Recovery (individual tutoring with trained teachers) was the only group for which the mean treatment effect was significant on all four measures. Reading Recovery emerged as the most powerful of the interventions tested from the beginning of Year 1 through the beginning of Year 2 of the study.


Quay, L. C., Steele, D. C., Johnson, C. I., & Hortman, W. (2001). Children’s

            achievement and personal and social development in a first-year Reading

            Recovery program with teachers in-training. Literacy Teaching and

            Learning: An International Journal of Early Reading and Writing, 5, 7-25.


            The authors of this research study wanted to examine the effect that Reading Recovery (RR) had on students’ achievement and personal and social development. This study looked at the progress of two equivalent groups of at-risk first graders across the year. The two groups were assigned using quasi-random procedures. In each of 34 schools, one classroom was randomly designated the class from which the RR children would be served. Another classroom was randomly designated for selection of the control group. Children with the lowest scores on the Clay’s Observation Survey were assigned to the two groups. Both groups were administered the Observation Survey and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) in the fall and in the spring. The Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test and the Classroom Teacher Assessment of Student Progress were administered in the spring.

            A multivariate analysis of variance was used to determine the equivalency of the two groups on the fall ITBS. In the spring, a series of multivariate and univariate analysis

Procedures were used to compare RR students and control group students.At the end of the year, multivariate and univariate analyses of variance indicated that the RR children were significantly superior to the control group children on three valid and reliable standard measures: a). four of the six subtests on the ITBS, b.) all of the subtests of the Gates-MacGinitie, and c.) all of the tasks of the Observation Survey. The RR children were also significantly superior to the control group on all nine measures of the Classroom Teacher Assessment of Student Progress, an instrument developed and used to demonstrate high test-retest reliability.



Richgels, D. J. (2002). Invented spelling, phonemic awareness, and reading and

            writing instruction. In S. B. Neuman & D. K. Dickinson (Eds.), Handbook

            of early literacy research (pp. 142-155). New York, NY: Guilford Press.


            Richgels reviewed Charles Read’s discovery of invented spelling and the instructional implications behind invented spelling. The author states that many believe that concern for phonemic awareness requires direct instruction with isolated word sounds. This is so despite contrary recommendations concerning developmentally appropriate practice from the International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Because phonemic awareness, invented spelling and word reading comprise only a single, but very significant piece of the larger picture of children’s developing literacy knowledge and competence, fostering insights in all areas of written language is an important consideration when planning the best instruction. One-size instruction does not fit all. Teachers need to use children’s writings to determine their next teaching moves.

            Richgels feels that a goal of future early literacy research should be to continue exploring the invented spelling-phonemic-awareness connection and the invented spelling-word-reading connection.


Rodgers, E. M., Wang, C., & Gomez-Bellenge, F. X. (2004) Closing the literacy

            achievement gap with early intervention. Paper presented at the 2004 Annual

            Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Retrieved April

10, 2005, from


            The following research questions guided the researchers’ inquiry:

1. Does a literacy achievement gap exist along race/ethnicity and economic lines within a

    random sample of first grade students?

2. Do students who have had an opportunity for a full treatment of Reading Recovery,

    whether successful or not, close the literacy achievement gap along race/ethnicity and

    economic lines with a random sample of first grade students?

3. Do students who have been successfully discontinued from Reading Recovery (a

    subset of the treatment group) close the literacy achievement gap along race/ethnicity

    and economic lines with a random sample of first grade students?

Data were gathered and analyzed for three groups of students, from a Midwestern state during the 2002-2003 school year on three literacy measures for An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement in the fall and spring of first grade. The groups were: the treatment group who were Reading Recovery students who had received full treatment of 20 weeks, whether or not they had successfully completed the program; the discontinued group, comprised of students who successfully exited RR because they were reading at average reading levels with their peers; and the control group. Results were disaggregated along two lines: race/ethnicity and economic status.

There was a gap by year-end within the control group on both disaggregated lines.

Significant differences were found between the African American Treatment Group and the White Random Sample in the fall. In the spring the AATG achieved higher fall to spring gains than the WRS on the Hearing and Recording Sounds in Word and Concepts About Print measures, and the effect sizes were reduced, suggesting the gap is closing. The Free Lunch Treatment Group had higher gain scores than the Reduced Lunch Random Sample from fall to spring on the CAP and HRSW measures, meaning the trend was towards closing the gap. In the spring the size of the gap was reduced on Text Reading Level for the African American Discontinued group compared to the White Random Sample group. This study showed that Reading Recovery makes a difference in closing the gap in students’ learning along racial and economic lines.


Rumelhart, D. E. (2004). Toward an interactive model of reading. In R. B. Ruddell,

& N. J. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed., pp.1149- 1179). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.


According to Rumelhart, reading is the process of understanding written

language where a skilled reader must be able to use graphophonic cues, syntactic cues, semantic cues, and pragmatic cues simultaneously in order to accomplish this task. This theory is an interactive model in which each level of thinking informs another level of thinking and all learning is predicting. Rumelhart feels theories by other theorists such as LaBerge, Samuels, and Gough are not correct since these models suppose that we first perceive the letters in a stimulus and then put them together into higher-order units.


Samuels, S.J. (2004). Toward a theory of automatic information processing in

reading,revisited. In R. B. Ruddell, & N. J. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed., pp. 1127-1148). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.


According to the LaBerge-Samuels Model of Automatic Information Processing, the main component, attention, is the driving force in reading. These theorists believe attention can be divided into two categories, one having to do with external and the other with internal components. They also believe that the external aspects of attention are directly observable and are generally related to the orientation of one’s sensory organs; the internal aspects of attention—alertness, selectivity, and limited capacity—are not directly observable.

            The theorists who developed this theory assumed that getting meaning from printed words involves a two-step process: First, the printed words must be decoded; Second, the decoded words must be comprehended. For many students, learning to read is difficult and requires considerable attention. According to this theory, if the reader’s attention is on decoding, then attention can only be given to decoding, not comprehension since the reader can only focus on one aspect of reading at a time. These theorists believe that when a reader shifts to decoding automatically, decoding no longer needs attention and therefore, the reader can devote his/her attention to comprehension.



Scanlon, D. M., & Vellutino, F. R. (1997). A comparison of the instructional

            backgrounds and cognitive profiles of poor, average, and good readers who

            were initially identified as at risk for reading failure. Scientific Studies of

            Reading, 1(3), 191-215.


The goal of this study, which was an extension of their previous study in 1996, was to determine whether the characteristics of the children’s kindergarten language arts program or their cognitive abilities would distinguish the poor readers, average readers and good readers. In this extension study, Scanlon and Vellutino compared the kindergarten instructional programs of three groups of at-risk children. The students in this study came from the classrooms of 38 of the original 43 teachers involved in the larger study (1996).

The kindergarten assessment evaluated the following areas: world knowledge, semantic and syntactic processing; phonological and orthographic coding; verbal memory and new learning; visual processing; concepts of print. Researchers found that only the proportion of time devoted to focusing on the internal structure of words (in this case, writing) reliably distinguishes between groups of at-risk children who differed in reading achievement at the end of first grade. None of the teachers were using a program to teach phonemic awareness. Phoneme-awareness activities generally occurred in the context of writing, typically as sound analysis in the service of encoding words used in a more meaning-based writing activity.  The poor reader group performed at the lowest level, whereas the average and good reader groups did not differ substantially. Although letter identification differentiated the groups significantly, phoneme segmentation provided no significant difference.

The fact that the Letter Identification measure differentiated the groups may suggest that what a child knows about written language when he or she enters school is the best predictor of success in learning to read. The results from this study indicate that, for children who begin kindergarten at risk for reading difficulties, success at the beginning stages of leaning to read is related to both the cognitive abilities of the child and the instructional characteristics of their kindergarten language arts program. This research implies that the best way to teach phonemic awareness and phonics is through writing, not a purchased program.


Scott-Foresman, Inc. (n.d.). Optimize Intervention Program. Retrieved March 8,

2005, from the University of Oregon Website:


The Optimize intervention, a scripted program, was developed for kindergarten as

part of a field-initiated grant from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs. The purpose of the grant was to study the components and intensity of instruction necessary to ensure that all children read by grade 3.

            The Optimize intervention was designed for children who need early, intensive intervention in phonological awareness, letter names, letter sounds, word reading, spelling, and simple-sentence reading. Daily 30-minute lessons include 15 minutes of phonological and alphabetical understanding and 15 minutes of hand writing letters and spelling. There are 126 lessons. In November, 2002, the Optimize Intervention Program became the Scott-Foresman Early Reading Intervention Program, published by Scott-Foresman.


Shanahan, T., & Barr, R. (1995). Reading Recovery: An independent evaluation of

            the effects of an early instructional intervention for at-risk learners. Reading

            Research Quarterly, 30, 958-997.


            The authors analyzed Reading Recovery, considering whether Reading Recovery leads to learning, and comparing the amount of learning accomplished relative to the gains of average and low-achieving students. This analysis considered if the reading gains made as a result of Reading Recovery are maintained once this specialized instruction is discontinued and whether RR leads to instructional changes within the school itself. Costs and benefits were also analyzed.

            It was found that Reading Recovery leads to significant gains in reading that are maintained over time. The authors feel that Reading Recovery is costly and that one way to reduce the cost would be to change its implementation from one student to a group of students receiving instruction. Another suggestion was to increase the amount of phonics within the program so that students might be able to exit the program sooner, cutting down on the expense of the program.


Simmons, D. C., &  Kame’enui, E. J. (2003). Scott-Foresman: Early Reading

            Intervention. USA: Pearson Education, Inc.


            The authors of Project Optimize, now known as Early Reading Intervention, are Dr. Simmons and Dr. Kame’enui.

Dr. Simmons, an associate professor at the University of Oregon, is a researcher in the areas of literacy acquisition and development and intervention for children at risk of reading failure. She has published books, book chapters, and research articles. Her research articles have appeared in The Journal of Educational Psychology, Reading and Writing Quarterly, Reading Today, Journal of Learning Disabilities, and Journal of Educational Research. Dr. Simmons serves on Editorial Boards for several journals and has served on the Assessment Group of the Reading First Initiative for the U.S. Department of Education.

Dr. Kame’enui, a professor at the University of Oregon, has published several college textbooks related to teaching reading and curriculum design. He has published research and articles in journals such as The Exceptional Child, Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Educational Research Quarterly, Journal of Education Research, and  Journal of Reading Behavior. He served as team leader of the Assessment Group of the Reading First Initiative for the U.S. Department of Education and has served on Advisory Boards for the PBS television show Between the Lions and the International Dyslexia Association.




Snow, C. (2002). Reading for understanding: Toward an r & d program in reading

            comprehension. Santa Monica, CA: RAND.


The United States Department of Education Office of Research and Improvement (OERI) asked RAND to examine how OERI might improve the quality and relevance of the educational research it funds. The RAND Reading Study Group developed a research agenda to address the most pressing issues in literacy and the teaching of reading. The RAND Reading Study Group concluded the following about comprehension instruction:

  1. Instruction designed to improve reading fluency leads to significant gains in word recognition, fluency and comprehension.
  2. There are many hypotheses as to the role of instruction in explaining and addressing the problems of poor comprehension. One hypothesis is regarding students who have a history of reading problems. McDermott and Varenne (1995) documented that teachers working with high-achieving students focused on higher-order thinking with text and said that the purpose of reading was understanding. These same teachers, when working with low-achieving students, focused on low-level factual reading and decoding, communicating little about comprehension as the goal of reading.
  3. Using various genres of text diversifies instructional opportunities and improves comprehension.
  4. Teachers who give students choices, challenging tasks, and collaborative learning structures increase their motivation to read and comprehend text.
  5. Effective teachers enact a wide range of instructional practices that they use thoughtfully and dynamically.
  6. Although teachers and administration know the importance of comprehension, comprehension instruction continues to receive inadequate time and attention in classroom instruction in schools.


The RAND Reading Study Group proposed some key questions and issues that need to be addressed by research on the following areas in reading comprehension: comprehension instruction, reading assessment, teacher education and professional development. This information yielded by future research will help improve the quality of reading instruction throughout the nation. The RAND Reading Study Group also noted the importance of a uniform definition of reading.


Snow, C. E., Burns, M. S., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing reading

            difficulties in young children. USA: National Academy of Sciences.


            Of the many conditions that appear to contribute to successful reading by schoolchildren, among the more important are each child’s (1) intellectual and sensory capacities, (2) positive expectations about and experiences with literacy from an early age, (3) support for reading-related activities and attitudes so that he or she is prepared to benefit from early literacy experiences and subsequent formal instruction in school, and (4) instructional environments conducive to learning.

            Both Chall and Adams concur that good readers must have access to many experiences with literacy that go beyond the specifics of phonics instruction. They need exposure to a lot of reading materials as input to vocabulary learning, and they need motivating, interesting reading materials.

            Encouraging children to spell words as they sound (sometimes called invented or temporary spelling) has been shown to hasten refinement of children’s phonemic awareness and to accelerate their acquisition of conventional spelling when it is taught in first grade and up. Children’s independent spellings provide evidence of their level of phonological sensitivity and orthographic knowledge, enabling the teacher to tailor instruction and respond to individual difficulties.


Stahl, K. D., Stahl, S. A., & McKenna, M. C. (1999). The development of

phonological awareness and orthographic processing in Reading Recovery. [Electronic version]. Literacy Teaching and Learning, 4(1), 27-42. Retrieved March 25, 2005, from


The purpose of this study was to use refined measures of phonological and orthographic process along with An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement, an early literacy assessment developed by Marie Clay, to determine whether techniques utilized in Reading Recovery lessons are effective in promoting progress in the metalinguistic areas of phonological awareness and phonological recoding. The participants in this study were first-grade students in a public elementary school in a small city in Georgia.

Students receiving Reading Recovery were the treatment group. The control group was comprised of students who qualified for Reading Recovery service, but who were not accepted into one of the available first-round slots because of the selection criteria. All participants were “at risk” students. Pretest and posttest scores were compared to determine achievement on two subtests of An Observation Survey of Early Literacy Achievement. The subtests relevant to this study were Letter Identification and Hearing and Recording Sounds in Words. The Yopp-Singer Test of Phoneme Segmentation was given as a more refined measure of phonological processing. Also, a pseudoword reading measure developed for this study was used to measure children’s knowledge of orthographic patterns.

            Posttests showed that all Reading Recovery students made significantly greater improvement in phonological processing tasks than students not yet served. Children successfully discontinued from Reading Recovery were also found to perform as well as a group of average achieving first graders on a measure of orthographic processing. This suggests that Reading Recovery has effects beyond those ordinarily claimed. Gains achieved by Reading Recovery students on phonological processing tasks in this study provide strong support for the programs’ effectiveness in promoting these abilities.





Swartz, S. L., & Klein, A. F. (1996, March 8). Reading Recovery: An overview.

            Retrieved March 29, 2005, from California State University, San Bernardino,

            California, web site—http://


Reading Recovery (RR), designed by Marie Clay (1979, 1985), is 12-20 week accelerated, cost-effective program designed to move struggling first grade readers in a short time from the bottom of their class to the average (Dyer, 1992; Swartz, 1992). At the end of the RR program, children have developed a self-extending system that uses a variety of strategies to read increasingly difficult text and to independently write their own messages. These outcomes are sustained over time (Pinnell, 1989; Smith-Burke, Jaggar, & Ashdown, 1993). Studies throughout the world have shown Reading Recovery to be effective with diverse populations.

Reading Recovery provides one-to-one tutoring, five days per week, 30 minutes a day, by a specially trained teacher. RR uses supportive conversations between teacher and child as the primary basis of instruction. For this reason RR teachers are required to train for a year in this method as they work with students. After the year long training, RR teachers are required to meet throughout the year with their RR Teacher Leader to refine their instructional techniques and keep abreast of new findings in the field. RR Teacher Leaders are trained by university professors.

Reading Recovery lesson components consist of the following:

  • Reading familiar stories
  • Reading a story that was read for the first time the day before
  • Working with letters and/or words using magnetic letters
  • Writing a story
  • Assembling a cut-up story
  • Introducing and reading a new book


Sylva, K., & Hurry, J. (1996). Early intervention in children with reading

            difficulties: An evaluation of Reading Recovery and a phonological

training. [Electronic version]. Literacy, Teaching and Learning: An International Journal of Early Reading and Writing, 2(2), 50-68.

Retrieved March 25, 2005, from


This report summarized the findings of a two-year longitudinal evaluation of the effectiveness of two different one-one interventions, Reading Recovery (Clay) and Phonological Intervention (Bradley and Bryant), designed to help six-year-olds who have made a slow start in their reading. Reading Recovery has been developed to offer children a complete teaching program for the initial stages of reading, whereas the Phonological Intervention offers instruction in a specific area, that of phonological awareness.

            To evaluate the effectiveness of these interventions, researchers compared children who had received the programs with similar children who received no special program. Reading Recovery programs were evaluated in seven districts. The following tests were used for pretesting and posttesting: British Ability Scale Word Reading Test, and the Neale Analysis of Reading, Clay’s Diagnostic Survey. Phonological awareness was also assessed. Background information was collected on each child: gender, age, ethnicity, free lunch, days absent, ELL/ESL.

At the end of two years, RR students made significantly more progress in all the reading measures than Control students in non-RR schools. The Phonological Intervention students made significantly more progress in reading accuracy (but not reading comprehension) and in spelling, as well as in the directly phonological skills measured in comparison with Control students attending other schools.

            The researchers claim this pattern of results could be explained by the hypotheses that phonological interventions are particularly powerful at improving children’s spelling skills which, given time, will improve their word recognition. The fact that children’s reading comprehension was not significantly improved is consistent with the finding of other evaluations of primarily phonics-based reading interventions. Interventions with a narrower model of reading tend to have a narrower effect.


Tankersley, K. (2003).  The threads of reading: Strategies for literacy development.

            Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


            The author reviewed the five key areas of reading instruction according to the National Reading Panel (2000) and added a sixth area, higher-order skills, to allow students to evaluate, analyze, interpret, and synthesize. The author suggested activities to enhance phonemic and phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, and higher-order thinking. Tankersley also noted how important writing is to developing strong phonemic awareness skills and how inventive spelling provides teachers with insight into the development of a child’s phonemic understanding.


Williams, E. J. (1999). Developmental Reading Assessment Reliability Study.

Retrieved March 7, 2005, from


            In the spring of 1999 a reliability study was conducted to examine 1.) inter-rater agreement of teachers using the assessment, and 2.) internal consistency of the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) instrument. There were 306 students and 87 teachers from around the country, kindergarten through third grade, in this study. Each teacher was asked to assess 3 or more children form his classroom by conducting and audiotaping the DRA conference. The tape was sent to a second and then a third person to rate. All participants (originating teachers and raters) had prior experience administering the DRA.

            Analyses revealed reliability between the originator and the second rater was strong when calculated across facets. To assess the validity of the DRA, its instructional reading level was assessed. Individual scores on the DRA for the second grade population (N=2470) at the end of the 1998-99 school year from a large urban/suburban school district were correlated with the students’ scores from fall of third grade on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills Subscales. The highest and most meaningful correlation for this assessment was with Total Reading(r=0.71, p<.01).

            Since the DRA instructional reading levels demonstrated a strong correlation with the Iowa Test of Basic Skills Total Reading subscale for one large urban/suburban school district, this evidence adds strength to the belief that the DRA validly measures a child’s ability to decode and understand/comprehend what he/she had read. The DRA is an authentic performance based assessment in which children are responding to real text through retelling. The major purpose of the DRA is to help guide instruction. Ninety-eight percent of the teachers and raters agreed to the statement that the information gained about the reader during the DRA conference helped them better identify things that the child needed to do or learn next.





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