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Which program produces more significant reading gains for struggling first-grade readers within a twelve week time period:  a balanced literacy approach such as  modified Reading Recovery or a phonetic approach such as Early Reading Intervention?

Studies throughout the world have shown Reading Recovery 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 Reading Recovery 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. The Reading Recovery program is a balanced approach to literacy. A new program emphasizing phonology, Early Reading Intervention (ERI), has been promoted by Dr. Kame'enui, its author, and the National Reading First Centers as a program which will help struggling beginning readers become readers. The goal of this study is to determine which type of program, a balanced approach such as a modified Reading Recovery approach or a phonetic approach such as Early Reading Intervention, produces more significant reading gains for struggling first-grade readers within a twelve week period.


Statement of & Efforts to Solve Problem

            Presently there are two differing points of view theorists have on teaching reading.  One group of theorists stresses research evidence emphasizing meaning, language context, prediction, anticipation and graphophonics in their theories of reading processing. The Reading Recovery program's instruction is an example of this point of view.
            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; and c.) phonemic awareness plays a significant, causal role in learning to read.  The Early Reading Intervention program's instruction is an example of  this point of view.
             This study attempted to discern which point of view is correct by demonstrating whether  balanced reading intervention  or a phonological intervention produced more significant reading gains for struggling first-grade readers within a twelve week time period. The balanced literacy intervention was a  modified Reading Recovery approach. The phonological approach  was the Early Reading Intervention Program.

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Introduction to Reading Recovery

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, 1996).

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 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

        Assembling a cut-up story

        Introducing 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).

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):
~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 student opportunities for reading.
~Assessment is meaningful, practical, efficient, and ongoing.
~Teacher education 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.

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