tutoring, “pull-out” remediation programs, and dramatic school restructuring. Reading is an accomplishment that depends not just on discrete skills, but on a wide range of developmental supports and cognitive achievements. Mending an early language link is not by itself likely to have any effect on word reading if other connections in the net are frayed. Because reading is such a complex activity, children need an environment offering rich support and varied learning opportunities for every successive stage of their literacy development.

“Every week I send home a letter telling parents what we’ve done in the class. At the end of the letter, I give them a list of questions to ask the kids to check their comprehension. A lot of my parents would never ask these questions otherwise. When weeks go by and I don’t get any letters back from a family, experience leads me to suspect that maybe the parents can’t read themselves. Then I know that this child is going to need more of my time. I know that this child is out there alone.”

—Ethelyn Hamilton-Frezel

Kindergarten teacher

Dr. Ronald E. McNair Elementary School

New Orleans, Louisiana

Some children are far more likely than others to have difficulties in learning to read. This may seem a simple and obvious fact. Yet it is a fact that is overlooked far too often.

If our goal is to ensure that all children in America can read, then we must target prevention efforts to the children who we know will need them the most. We must do this as early as possible—before children fail in school, before they are labeled, and before costly remediation is necessary.

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