This literature review will define reading and phonemic awareness
and present two differing views on the reading process. The Early
Reading Intervention program and the Reading Recovery program are
described and compared in consideration of the most recent research on
components of effective programs for young struggling readers.
Implications for reading instruction are also provided and
government intervention in this area is also discussed.
Additionally, included within are a biography of Marie Clay, the founder
of Reading Recovery, and the biographies of Dr. Simmons and Dr. Kame'enui, founders of Project Optimize/Early Reading Intervention.
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, and the skills and knowledge to understand
how phonemes or speech sounds are connected to print (International
Reading Association, 1999).
Phonemic awareness is the awareness of the sounds (phonemes) that make
up spoken words. There have been many false claims regarding phonemic
awareness in relation to reading, such as: phonemic awareness is the
single most important factor in learning to read; the cause of reading
problems is lack of phonemic awareness; kindergarten children need
phonemic awareness training in order to become good readers (Chapman,
First of all, there is no single cause of reading problems. The ability
that correlates most highly with literacy achievement is language
development, not phonemic awareness (Chapman, 2003). What a child knows
about written language, not phonemic awareness, when he or she enters
school is the best predictor of success in learning to read. Formal
phonemic awareness training is not needed if children have opportunities
to write (Chapman, 2003; Scanlon & Vellutino, 1997).
Clay notes that children may develop
phonemic awareness in reading in other learning activities such as
playing with rhyme or exploring beginning writing. An essential
component of recording one’s speech in print is to work out how what is
heard can be recorded by letters (Clay, 1991).
a segmentation task that matches sounds to letters (Clay, 1991).
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 (Richgels,
2002; Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998; Tankersley, 2003).
McGuinness (2004) stated
that phoneme-awareness training meshed with teaching letter-sound
correspondences has a much stronger impact on reading and spelling than
training in the auditory mode alone. Children need to attach letters to
sounds as soon as possible according to Hohn’s and Ehri’s research
(1983). Ball’s and Blachman’s research (1988, 1991) found that letters
were more powerful aids to segmenting than blank disks when used in
Elkonin was the creator
of sound boxes, a phonological technique for writing and segmenting
words. Students say a word slowly, segmenting the sounds as they push
their fingers or counters into sections of a drawn segmented box. Eventually students write the letters for
each sound in the drawn segmented box (Clay, 1991).
Encouraging children to spell words as they
sound (temporary/invented spelling) has been shown to hasten the
refinement of children’s phonemic awareness and to accelerate their
acquisition of conventional spelling when it is taught in first grade
and higher grades (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). 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 (McGuinness, 2004).
Presently there are two differing points of
view theorists have on teaching reading. One group of theorists
(Beaver, Clay, Lyons, Pinnell, Rumelhart) stresses research evidence
emphasizing meaning, language context, prediction, anticipation and
graphophonics in their theories of reading processing (Clay, 1991;
Lyons, 1998; Pinnell, 2000; Rumelhart, 2004; Williams, 1999). These
theorists stress integration of reading and writing and encouraging
risk-taking so that children continue to be active discoverers and
meaning-makers with self-extending systems (Jones, 1995; Rumelhart,
2004) The other group of
theorists (Good, Kame’enui, Kaminski, LaBerge, Samuels, and Simmons)
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; and c.) phonemic awareness plays a significant,
causal role in learning to read. These code-emphasis advocates believe
that beginning reading instruction should be comprised of the
development of phonemic awareness, letter knowledge, sound-symbol
associations, and rapid word identification (Jones, 1995).
DRA—A Balanced Approach
The Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA),
developed by Joetta Beaver (1988), is a measurement tool used by
teachers who believe that reading involves meaning, language context,
prediction, anticipation and graphophonics (Williams, 1999).
Since the DRA is
presently the closest assessment to the actual reading process, teachers
can use the information to not only monitor student progress, but to
learn what their next teaching move should be. The DRA provides teachers
with information regarding which strategies the student is using and
which strategies need to be reviewed. Additionally, teachers can
determine if students need instruction in areas of comprehension such as
retelling, adding details, sequencing events, and main ideas (Williams,
1999) Teachers receive
information from the DRA on a student’s fluency and word accuracy in
addition to determining a student’s instructional reading level. When
analyzing a student’s oral reading, teachers can determine whether the
student needs to work on particular areas such as increasing the number
of known high frequency words or areas needing review in phonics
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 (Williams, 1999).
The DRA is both valid and reliable according to research conducted by
Williams (1999). 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 has read. The DRA is an
authentic performance based assessment in which children are responding
to real text through retelling (Williams, 1999).
DIBELS—A Code Emphasis
Teachers who feel that reading should be taught through a code-emphasis
approach may use the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS)
as a measurement tool in their classrooms. DIBELS are a set of
one-minute standardized measures of skills, individually administered,
which Good and Kaminski (2003) 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.
Good, Simmons and Smith (1998) feel that the
DIBELS 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. 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.
Good and Kaminski (2003) believe the
definition 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 a retelling fluency component that is not valid or
reliable since it is not standardized at the present time.
Elliott (1997) investigated the reliability and validity of selected
DIBELS measures in identifying kindergartners who are at risk for
reading failure. This study 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, and Initial Sound Fluency.
Bishop (2003) found that letter identification and phonological
awareness correlate to first-grade reading achievement along with rapid
automatized naming and phonological memory in examining oral reading
A study by Hintze, Ryan and Stoner (2002), found a moderate to strong
correlation between the DIBELS and the Comprehensive Test of
Phonological Processing (CTOPP), providing evidence that these two
instruments are measuring a similar construct, phonological awareness.
However, 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, Hintze, Ryan and Stoner (2002) suggest the use of the
DIBELS as a classification tool in practice should be undertaken with
caution. Using DIBELS and these cut-scores could lead to school
districts: 1.) inaccurately identifying children as “at-risk” for early
reading problems and, as a result, children’s self-esteem could plummet,
and 2.) unnecessarily allocating resources, leading to costly mistakes
for school districts. Further research on benchmark or cut-scores is
warranted due to these problems.
Reading Recovery—A Balanced
Approach for Struggling Beginning Readers
Reading Recovery (RR) is a 12-20 week accelerated program designed to
move struggling first grade readers in a short time from the bottom of
their class to the average (Lyons, 1998; Swartz & Klein, 1996). At the
end of the RR program, children develop a self-extending system that
uses a variety of strategies to read increasingly difficult text and to
independently write their own messages (Clay, 1991). These outcomes are
sustained over time (Lyons, 1998; Shanahan & Barr, 1995; Swartz & Klein,
RR 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 (Swartz & Klein, 1996).
Reading Recovery lessons consist of the following
· Reading a
story that was read for the first time the day before
· Working with
letters and/or words using magnetic letters
· Assembling a
and reading a new book
(Swartz & Klein, 1996)
As a result of RR, learners construct their own knowledge by
actively pursuing meaning, relating new learning to old, and using
strategies to solve problems. Print knowledge and letter-sound
associations become internalized. By learning how to learn as they
explore a variety of stories under expert tutorial guidance, young
children develop a self-extending system; that is, the more they read,
the more they learn about the reading process (Clay, 1991; Jones, 1995).
Studies throughout the world have shown RR to be effective
with diverse populations, closing the gap in students’ learning along
racial and economic lines (Ashdown & Simic, 2000; Center, Wheldall,
Freeman, Outhred, & McNaught, 1995; Lyons, 1998; Pinnell, Lyons, Bryk &
Seltzer, 1994; Quay, Steele, Johnson, & Hortman, 2001; Rodgers, Wang, &
Gomez-Bellenge, 2005; Sylva & Hurry, 1996; Swartz & Klein, 1996). Cox,
Fang, & Schmitt (1998) found 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.
Reading Intervention—A Code Emphasis Approach for Struggling Beginning
Project Optimize 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.
Project Optimize, a scripted program, 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 handwriting letters and
spelling. There are 126 lessons. In November 2002, the Project Optimize
became the Scott-Foresman Early Reading Intervention Program, published
by Scott-Foresman (Scott-Foresman, n.d.).
According to Coyne et. al’s study (2001), Project Optimize
students displayed faster learning rates and higher end-of-year levels
for both phonological awareness and alphabetic understanding. These
researchers believe that attaining proficiency in phonological awareness
and alphabetic understanding in kindergarten allows the instructional
focus to shift to the next higher-order skill (such as blending, word
reading, and comprehension) in optimizing reading development.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
suggests the following principles for exemplary reading intervention
programs (Pinnell, 2000):
perception of letters
· A balanced,
· Early intervention
According to Pinnell (2000), Reading Recovery lessons
contain the components recommended by the NICHD. The instructional
techniques used in Reading Recovery to teach reading and writing appear
to foster both naming speed and phonological awareness (Litt, 2003).
Gains achieved by Reading
Recovery students on
phonological processing tasks provide strong support for Reading
Recovery’s effectiveness in promoting phonological processing abilities
(Stahl, Stahl, & McKenna, 1999).
Pikulski reviewed 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 (Pikulski, 1997):
dependence on a strong, effective program of regular classroom reading
instruction is recognized.
for meaning is an overriding consideration.
~ntervention instruction is frequent, regular, and of sufficient
duration to make a difference.
~Pupil-to-teacher ratio is kept very small.
is a major goal.
~Instructional procedures are used to introduce new books in order to
insure that students are successful in reading them.
carefully selected and sequenced to ensure student success.
learning activities are used to help children become very familiar with
is used to teach and extend student opportunities for reading.
~Assessment is meaningful, practical, efficient, and ongoing.
education is practical and ongoing.
believe in their early intervention programs—and in their students’
ability to learn to read.
build confidence and come to see themselves as readers and authors.
Scanlon’s and Vellutino’s research (1997)
implies that the best way to teach phonemic awareness and phonics is
through writing, not through a purchased program. Research by Bus & van
Ijzendoorn (1999) has shown that reading skills are stimulated more by
phonemic training, including letter or reading and writing practice,
than by purely metalinguistic games and exercises. 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, 1991). This information strengthens the case
for a balanced perspective on reading instruction (Bus & van IJzendoorn,
In reviewing Charles Read’s research on
invented spelling and its educational implications, Richgels (2002)
stated that many believe that concern for phonemic awareness requires
direct instruction with isolated word sounds despite contrary
recommendations concerning developmentally appropriate practice from the
International Reading Association and the National Association of Young
Children (2002). 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 (Richgels, 2002).
Sylva’s and Hurry’s (1996) research found
that Reading Recovery students made significantly more progress in all
the reading measures than control students in non-Reading Recovery
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 taught phonological skills measured
in comparison with control students attending other schools. 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 (Sylva & Hurry, 1996).
Hoffman, Sailors, & Patterson
(2002), when researching state-mandated first grade basal decodable
books, found that there was an absence of two crucial variables,
predictability and engaging qualities. 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 (Scott-Foresman, n.d.).
Both Chall (1967) and Adams (1990) concur
that good readers must have access to many experiences with literacy
that go beyond the specifics of phonics instruction. Children need
exposure to a variety of reading materials as input to vocabulary
learning, and they need motivating, interesting reading materials (Snow,
Burns, & Griffin, 1998).
Legislative proposals, such as “No Child
Left Behind,” which would mandate intensive phonics as the method to
teach beginning reading, are based upon some unwarranted assumptions.
The costs and consequences of these legislative proposals are
potentially harmful to many children in their efforts to become literate
since these struggling readers will think that we read to decode rather
than we read to understand the author’s message (Jones, 1996).
Reid Lyon, a member of the National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), cautioned
against simplistic interpretations of the NICHD research in the name of
‘science’ as supporting phonics instruction as a panacea for literacy
problems (Pinnell, 2000). At the 2004 IRA conference, Dr. Lyon stated
that beginning readers should have a balanced approach to reading (Lyon,
Because there is no best way to teach
beginning reading, professionals who are closest to 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 (International Reading
To improve reading instruction teachers need
to be better educated in the area of reading. Improvement in instruction
in the form of materials will not replace teacher knowledge in helping
struggling readers become independent readers (International Reading
Marie Clay, who developed
the Reading Recovery program, was born
in 1926 in Wellington, New Zealand. She completed her teacher education
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 in 1948 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 understanding of
how to study children’s learning.
As a result of her doctoral dissertation, Clay developed
An Observation Survey of Early Literacy
Achievement (1979), a group of early literacy
assessments that 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
David H. Russell Award from the National Council of Teachers of English,
Dana Award for Pioneering
Achievements in Education.
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
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 (Gaffney, n.d.).
Dr. Simmons and Dr. Kame’enui
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
(Simmons & Kame’enui, 2003).