Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

Organising a University-Based Reading Clinic Program for Struggling Readers

Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

Organising a University-Based Reading Clinic Program for Struggling Readers

Article excerpt


Andrew (pseudonym) was a fourth-grade student who had been diagnosed by his teachers as a struggling reader. A struggling reader generally means that the student either experiences difficulty reading (e.g., decoding skills, word recognition, fluency and comprehension) or reads below grade level according to class-based tests or standardised tests (McKenna, 2002). Andrew was referred by the local school district to our university reading clinic because he experienced difficulty in word recognition and comprehension. Furthermore, his reading was below grade level, according to his performance on the school benchmark tests and his reading scores on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR).

By Texas law, students in the third grade must take the STAAR standardised tests to measure learning outcomes and to ensure accountability of the school programs (Texas Education Agency, 2013). Andrew received the Response to Intervention (RTI) tier three one-to-one tutoring sessions for an academic year, as a result of not passing the STAAR tests. This is a three tiered approach used nationwide in US schools, including Texas, for the early identification and support of students with learning and behavioural needs (Texas Education Agency, 2014). However, despite this tutoring, Andrew did not make significant improvement in his STAAR reading scores.

Andrew's challenges with reading can be linked to multiple literacy weaknesses: decoding, pronunciation, reading fluency, word recognition and comprehension, all consistent with the challenges faced by many struggling readers (Cooper, Kiger, Robinson, & Slansky, 2012). Cases like Andrew's are common among an estimated 20 to 25% of school-age children with poor academic achievement, due to limited reading skills in today's American classrooms (Feagans, Gallagher, Ginsberg, Amendum, Kainz, Rose, & Burchinal, 2010).

The university reading clinic setting

For more than five academic years, the first author, SuHua Huang, has taught a reading assessment course to university students who are seeking teacher certification. She also has many years of experience working with struggling readers in a variety of tutorial and clinical settings. As part of the course, she has established a reading clinic in the local school district for students who struggle with reading. The clinic provides her students with the opportunity to work with struggling readers by collecting data, analysing data, developing appropriate interventions and differentiated instruction, helping students overcome reading and writing weaknesses and monitoring progress by using various informal assessments and strategies. Each semester, the students work with two children identified as being below grade level readers by their classroom teachers.

Screening procedures

Angela (pseudonym) worked in the reading clinic in the spring semester of 2014 and was assigned as Andrew's tutor. The intervention was administered over one semester (15 weeks) for 120 minutes a day, two days a week. Angela was a senior elementary/primary education major who had part-time working experiences with young children in different school settings. In the first tutoring session, Angela administered the Basic Reading Inventory (Johns, 2012), the Elementary Reading Attitude Survey (ERAS) (McKenna & Kear, 1990) and some writing and reading interest questions (Harp, 2006). Angela not only interviewed Andrew about how he perceived himself as a reader, she also communicated with Andrew's teacher to find out about his classroom learning experiences and home/ family literacy experiences.

The ERAS instrument used a Likert scale with four possible responses: 'love it,' 'like it,' 'ho hum' and 'don't like it.' Andrew indicated 'I don't like it' for many questions on the ERAS, such as: How do you feel about reading in school? and How do you feel when it is time for reading class? …

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