Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Evaluating the Practicability and Sustainability of a Reading Intervention Programme, Using Preservice Teachers as Trained Volunteers

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Evaluating the Practicability and Sustainability of a Reading Intervention Programme, Using Preservice Teachers as Trained Volunteers

Article excerpt

Introduction

Reading is one of the most important skills that children develop while in school and the problems faced by struggling readers and the impact of early reading failure have been well documented (Juel, 1988; Stanovich, 1986). For many years schools have used parents and community volunteers to provide additional support to existing programmes and volunteers have assisted classroom teachers with early reading programmes. Moreover, studies suggest, that with a well developed and structured tutoring programme, as well as high quality training and supervision, volunteers can be used to provide tutoring in a one-on-one early intervention reading programme. Early intervention programmes, such as Book Buddies (Invernizzi, Juel & Rosemary, 1997) and the Howard Street Tutoring Program (Morris, Shaw & Perney, 1990), use trained volunteers to act as reading tutors. Wasik (1998) outlined guidelines that schools can follow to implement an effective volunteer tutoring programme. Elbaum, Vaughn, Hughes & Moody, (2000) supported the effectiveness of community volunteers and found that the tutors whose students made the greatest gains as a result of one-on-one instruction were college students. Pullen, Lane & Monaghan (2004) evaluated the effectiveness of an early intervention reading programme using mostly university education students with limited field experience as tutors. The authors believed that their results provided support for a volunteer-implemented, short-term tutoring model with the intervention producing significant improvement in students' phonological awareness and decoding skills, and increased students' rate of reading growth.

While Pullen et al (2004) examined the effect of their programme on growth in reading skills, the study reported on here focused on the practicability and sustainability of using preservice teachers as volunteer tutors in a school reading programme.

The intervention

Six Year One children, from an inner-city Perth primary school, considered at risk of reading failure, were selected by classroom teachers for inclusion in the tutoring programme. To ensure that the intervention was effective, pre-test and post-test measures of the important early reading skills of phonological awareness, orientation to texts and automatic word recognition were included.

The intervention programme provided 32 sessions of the 15 minute tutoring lessons over the course of 8 weeks. The tutoring model, described by Pullen et al (2004), used repeated oral reading, tutoring by a trained volunteer and Reading Recovery graded reading books. Each lesson followed the same three-step structure, and the students progressed through the book levels at their own rates (see Appendix 1). Throughout the study the intervention group continued to participate in classroom reading instructions and activities and the intervention group received tutoring as extra instruction.

The current study

Wasik (1998) outlined guidelines that schools can follow to implement an effective volunteer tutoring programme. She recommended that to effectively develop the reading skills of at-risk students a reading specialist needed to coordinate the programme and supervise tutors. In this instance the reading specialist, an early childhood trained teacher employed at the school as a part time classroom teacher, was also a member of the research team and responsible for recruiting, training and supervising the volunteer tutors. The reading specialist co-ordinated the intervention programme by ensuring that tutors and children attended tutoring sessions, materials were available for each session and classroom teachers were kept informed of children's progress. The reading specialist monitored tutor attendance and performance and was present throughout the tutoring sessions to observe the tutors while they were working with the children and provide immediate advice and support. …

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