Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Road to the Code: Examining the Necessity and Sufficiency of Program Components

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Road to the Code: Examining the Necessity and Sufficiency of Program Components

Article excerpt

As the ability to read proficiently is essential for success both in and out of the school setting, literacy has become an area of particular focus in today's classrooms. While recent assessments indicate that students are making progress in the area of reading (e.g., National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP], 2011), there continues to be many children who encounter difficulty when learning to read (Moats 1999). Some children enter kindergarten with few early literacy skills, which can result in significant difficulty catching up to typically developing peers without some type of intensive intervention (Good, Simmons, & Smith, 1998; Moats, 1999), including identification for special education services (Whitehurst & Lonigan, 2001). Such facts indicate the need for early prevention and intervention efforts in reading.

Phonological Awareness

Early literacy skills are discrete skills that provide a foundation for fluent reading (Nevills & Wolfe, 2009; Daly, Chafouleas, & Skinner, 2005). Examples of early literacy skills include letter naming, knowledge of books, concepts about print, rhyming, alliteration, and identifying commons signs and symbols from the environment. Another important early literacy skill, and one of the earliest to develop due to its connection to oral language, is phonological awareness. Phonological awareness is described as an awareness of both the various sound units of speech and that they are separate from their meaning (Snow, Bums, & Griffin, 1998), as well as the ability to manipulate the sound units (Nelson, Lindstrom, Lindstrom, & Denis, 2013). Phonological awareness can be best described as a continuum of skills (Heroman & Jones, 2004). Specifically, early phonological awareness can first be observed through rhyming and alliteration around 2 to 3 years of age, followed by an ability to segment words by syllables and then by onsets and rimes. The most complex end of this continuum is represented by phonemic awareness, which entails recognizing and identifying individual sounds in a word, and typically begins to develop during the kindergarten year (Heroman & Jones, 2004; Ranweiler, 2004).

Phonological Awareness Instruction and Training

Phonological awareness has been found to have a significant and causal influence on the development of early literacy skills (Hulme, Bowyer-Crane, Carroll, Duff, & Snowling, 2012), as well as a significant, causal, and bidirectional relationship with fixture reading success (Gillon, 2004; Snow et al., 1998). However, phonological awareness is not always easy for children to develop, especially at the phoneme level. This difficulty is due to both the blending of individual sounds in oral language (Gillon, 2004; Ranweiler, 2004), as well as the lack of a true one-to-one correspondence between letters and sounds in the English language (Nevills & Wolfe, 2009; Snow et al., 1998). Such information reinforces the importance of developing a young child's phonological awareness through explicit instruction or training. Researchers have found that providing young children with training in phonological awareness resulted in their learning to read more quickly than children that did not receive such training (Bus & van IJzendoom, 1999; Snow et al., 1998), and they frequently maintained their early success in reading for several years (Lundberg, Frost, & Peterson, 1988; Schneider, Ennemoser, Roth, & Kuspert, 1999).

Researchers have asserted that phonological awareness training should be provided at the phoneme level once children enter kindergarten for several reasons (Gillon, 2004; Smith et al., 1998). First, of all the skills on the phonological awareness continuum, phonemic awareness has been found to be the strongest predictor of future reading achievement (Gillon, 2004; Perez, 2008). Further, phonemic awareness is not easily developed without some type of explicit instruction or training (Nevills & Wolfe, 2009), especially for those children experiencing difficulty with early literacy skills (National Reading Panel [NRP], 2000; National Institute of Literacy [NIL], 2001). …

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