Addressing Literacy: Effective Methods for Reading Instruction

Article excerpt

As speech-language pathologists work more directly and in concert with educators to address reading problems in school-age children with language-based learning disabilities (LLD), knowledge of current methods in reading instruction will become critical. Eight methods found to be effective with typically developing children and children with LLD are outlined. Word identification is best trained using methods that rely upon knowledge of letter-sound correspondences in varying syllable contexts and word attack skills using letter--sound decoding and analogy. When learning reading comprehension, students benefit from methods that address vocabulary skills and text-level comprehension monitoring.

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On a daily basis, the U.S. public is bombarded with news reports regarding new government initiatives--local, state, and federal--for addressing the seemingly intractable reading problems faced by children and our education system. Over the past 25 years, the amount of involvement of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) in reading interventions has increased as the relationship between reading impairment and school-age language impairment has become more clear. Given the connection between language disorders and reading disabilities, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (2001) expanded the scope of practice for SLPs to include the prevention of, identification of, assessment of, and intervention for reading disorders in children. SLPs are being encouraged to become involved in phonological awareness assessment and remediation, treatment for literacy-related oral language skills, and collaborative consultation with other team members. SLPs also are empowered to provide direct intervention for reading, including instruction in skills and strategies for word identification and reading comprehension (Kamhi, Allen, & Catts, 2001). This expanded role is an exciting opportunity for SLPs to more directly affect the academic success of children. Developing confidence in reading instruction, however, is a challenge, especially given the mountain of reading programs available and in use.

The consensus among experts in evidence-based reading instruction is that there is not just one right program but a set of practices that lead to effective literacy learning (for a complete listing and description, see National Reading Panel, 2000). Some practices considered to be effective are exposure to quality literature, the integration of systematic phonics, explicit strategies-based teaching for decoding and text comprehension, and small-group instruction. In this article we outline several effective methods that focus on word identification and reading comprehension. We believe this information will assist SLPs in providing explicit small-group reading instruction, working cooperatively in the classroom, and advocating as a team member for additional reading services.

DEVELOPING SUCCESSFUL WORD IDENTIFICATION

Word identification is a primary goal of early reading instruction (Briggs & Clark, 1997; Fox, 2000; National Reading Panel, 2000). Successful word identification is built upon several essential skills: (a) knowledge of letter-sound correspondences; (b) skills for blending, chunking, and segmenting words into symbols and sounds; and (c) automatic word recognition or sight reading (Fox, 2000; Kamhi et al., 2001; National Reading Panel, 2000; Walton & Walton, 2002). These skills lead to effective decoding, the ability to sound out unfamiliar written words and, beyond decoding, to the ability to store words as wholes. The goal is for children to develop a sight-word vocabulary that enables them to read familiar words efficiently, applying word attack skills as needed for unfamiliar words.

It is not surprising that children with a language-based learning disability (LLD) struggle to read. They generally present with significant deficits in phonemic awareness--the very skill required to associate sounds with symbols, to blend and segment sounds in words (Blachman, 1994; Catts & Kamhi, 1999). …