Help in the Early Grades

To the extent that a child falls behind his or her peers in reading, that child is at risk of never reaching adequate literacy levels. Any child who is falling behind should be able to get immediate and appropriate assistance. No assumptions about or labeling of the cause of the problem should be necessary. Unfortunately, under current funding systems, millions of children can get help only if they are classified as learning disabled or impaired in various ways.

If children are having difficulty in first grade reading achievement, their classrooms should be examined to see if they need improvement. If their classroom instruction is appropriate but they are having difficulty in reading achievement, they should immediately receive supplementary reading assistance with one-on-one tutoring by a well-qualified reading instructor. In order to be effective, tutoring sessions should be integrated with what the child is learning and doing in class.

The Need for Reading Specialists

Schools that lack or have abandoned reading specialist positions must reexamine their needs for specialists and provide the functional equivalent of such well-trained staff members. Reading specialists and other specialist roles need to be defined so that there is two-way communication between specialists and classroom teachers about the needs of all children at risk of and experiencing reading difficulties. Coordination is needed at the instructional level, so that children are taught with methodologies that are not fragmented. Schools that have reading specialists as well as special educators need to coordinate these roles. Schools need to ensure that all the specialists engaged in child study or individualized educational program (IEP) meetings for special education placement, early childhood intervention, out-of-classroom interventions, and classroom support are well informed about research in reading development and the prevention of reading difficulties.

The Community Is Needed

Much of this book has been devoted to parents, teachers, day care workers, tutors, and other professionals who work with children every day. Yet enormous power is also in the hands of school superintendents, managers, elected officials, and other policy makers—from the grassroots level to the national stage—who decide how our children are educated, where resources go, and

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