Who Is at Risk
for Reading Difficulties?
for Early Literacy Programs
Children's literacy experiences prior to first grade are critical for their success in learning to read and write. During these years they must acquire foundational understandings about the uses of reading and writing, strategies for understanding the meaning of various kinds of texts, and the rudiments of how our alphabetic writing system works in order to become successful early readers and writers. In this chapter we describe how researchers predict which young children are at risk for later reading failure. We discuss risk factors which are conditions that historically have predicted failure or success in reading, including factors that are related to the family, community, and the child. We use this information to make recommendations about selecting children for an early literacy program that primarily serves children at risk for reading failure. Then we consider issues related to the nature of such an early literacy program.
At no time in history has learning to read and write at high levels of proficiency and with great insight been both more valued and more hotly debated in our society. Many believe that our children's futures—and the economic future of our nation—in part depend on how well children learn to read and write, especially during the early primary grades. Educators are urged to prepare children for a future that will demand ever higher levels of literacy.