Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children
Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children
Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
National Research Council
NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS
Washington, DC 1998
NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20418
NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
The study was supported by Grant No. H023S50001 between the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Department of Education. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for this project.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children.
Preventing reading difficulties in young children / Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children; Catherine E. Snow, M. Susan Burns, and Peg Griffin, editors.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 0-309-06418-X (cloth)
1. Reading (Primary)United States. 2. Reading disabilityUnited States. 3. Reading Remedial teachingUnited States. 4. Reading comprehensionUnited States. 5. Word recognition. I. Snow, Catherine E. II. Burns, M. Susan (Marie Susan) III. Griffin, Peg. IV. Title.
LB1525.76 .C66 1998
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Copyright 1998 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
First Printing, June 1998
Second Printing, September 1998
COMMITTEE ON THE PREVENTION OF READING DIFFICULTIES IN YOUNG CHILDREN
CATHERINE SNOW (Chair), Graduate School of Education, Harvard University
MARILYN JAGER ADAMS, Bolt, Beranek, and Newman Inc., Cambridge, Massachusetts
BARBARA T. BOWMAN, Erikson Institute, Chicago, Illinois
BARBARA FOORMAN, Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas, and Houston Medical School
DOROTHY FOWLER, Fairfax County Public Schools, Annandale, Virginia
CLAUDE N. GOLDENBERG, Department of Teacher Education, California State University, Long Beach
EDWARD J. KAME'ENUI, College of Education, University of Oregon, Eugene
WILLIAM LABOV, Department of Linguistics and Psychology, University of Pennsylvania
RICHARD K. OLSON, Department of Psychology, University of Colorado, Boulder
ANNEMARIE SULLIVAN PALINCSAR, School of Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
CHARLES A. PERFETTI, Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh
HOLLIS S. SCARBOROUGH, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, Connecticut
SALLY SHAYWITZ, Department of Pediatrics, Yale University
KEITH STANOVICH, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
DOROTHY STRICKLAND, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University
SAM STRINGFIELD, Center for the Social Organization of Schools, Johns Hopkins University
ELIZABETH SULZBY, School of Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
M. SUSAN BURNS, Study Director
PEG GRIFFIN, Research Associate
SHARON VANDIVERE, Project Assistant
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
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The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. William A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council.
"Few things in life are less efficient than a group of people trying to write a sentence" (Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle, 1996). The decision that a group of people should write a report of this size clearly was not motivated by the goal of efficiency; it was motivated by the goals of comprehensiveness and accuracy and made feasible by the expectation of compromise and consensus. The field of reading is one that has long been marked by controversies and disagreements. Indeed, the term "reading wars" has been part of the debate over reading research for the past 25 years. The unpleasantness of the conflicts among reading researchers was moderated, if not eliminated, by the realization that all the participants are primarily interested in ensuring the well-being of young children and in promoting optimal literacy instruction.
The study reported in this volume was undertaken with the assumption that empirical work in the field of reading had advanced sufficiently to allow substantial agreed-upon results and conclusions that could form a basis for breaching the differences among the warring parties. The process of doing the study revealed the correctness of the assumption that this has been an appropriate time to undertake a synthesis of the research on early reading development.
The knowledge base is now large enough that the controversies that have dominated discussions of reading development and reading instruction have given way to a widely honored pax lectura, the conditions of which include a shared focus on the needs and rights of all children to learn to read. Under the treaties that have recently been entered into, furthermore, the focus of attention has shifted from the researchers' theories and data back to the teacher, alone in her classroom with a heterogeneous group of children, all awaiting their passports to literacy.
From the perspective of the teacher, our task can be conceptualized as cutting through the detail of partially convergent, sometimes discrepant research findings to provide an integrated picture of how reading develops and how reading instruction should proceed. It may come as a surprise to the reader to find that consensus in achieving that integrated picture, among the members of this diverse committee, was not difficult to reach. All members agreed that reading should be defined as a process of getting meaning from print, using knowledge about the written alphabet and about the sound structure of oral language for purposes of achieving understanding. All thus also agreed that early reading instruction should include direct teaching of information about sound-symbol relationships to children who do not know about them and that it must also maintain a focus on the communicative purposes and personal value of reading.
In this report, the committee makes recommendations for practice, as well as recommendations for further research that needs to be undertaken. Our discussions also explored how people need to start thinking about reading and reading instruction. This turned out to be harder to formulate, because it evokes the often frustrating and familiarly academic position that "this is an incredibly complicated phenomenon." Although we can see the readers' eyes rolling at the predictability of this claim, we nonetheless persist in the contention that much of the difficulty in seeking real reforms in reading instruction and intervention derives from simplistic beliefs about these issues, and so one step in improving matters involves making the complexities known.
Not only the first-grade teacher, but also the parent, the pediatrician, the school administrator, the curriculum consultant, the text-
book publisher, the state legislator, and the secretary of education need to understand both what is truly hard about learning to read and how wide-ranging and varied the experiences are that support and facilitate reading acquisition. All these people need to understand as well that many factors that correlate with reading fail to explain it, that many experiences contribute to reading development without being prerequisite to it, and that there are many prerequisites, so no single one can be considered sufficient.
The focus of this report is prevention. We thus try to sketch a picture of the conditions under which reading is most likely to develop easilyconditions that include stimulating preschool environments, excellent reading instruction, and the absence of any of a wide array of risk factors. Our focus on trying to provide optimal conditions does not mean that we think that children experiencing less than optimal conditions are in any sense doomed to failure in reading; many children from poor and uneducated families learn to read well, even without excellent preschool classroom experience or superb early reading instruction. Nonetheless, with an eye to reducing risk and preventing failure, we focus on mechanisms for providing the best possible situation for every child.
We submit this report with high hopes that it may indeed mark the end of the reading wars and that it will contribute to the successful reading development of many children. It is the collective product of the entire committee, and it could not have been produced without the selfless contributions of time, thought, and hard work of all members, or without their willingness to confront with integrity and resolve with grace their many productive disagreements with one another.
Catherine Snow, Chair
Susan Burns, Study Director
Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children
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Many people contributed in many different ways to the completion of this report, and we are most grateful for their efforts. First, the committee and staff would like to acknowledge Ellen Schiller (U.S. Department of Education), Naomi Karp (U.S. Department of Education), and Reid Lyon (National Institutes of Health) for assistance given during the project. Judith Heumann, Tom Hehir, and Louis Danielson of the Office of Special Education (U.S. Department of Education) and Duane Alexander of the National Institutes of Health provided support and encouragement. Our thanks to Rebecca Fitch (U.S. Department of Education) and Fritz Mosher (Carnegie Corporation) for their help in developing plans for liaison activities.
During the information-gathering phase of our work, a number of people made presentations to the committee on programs that focused on the prevention of reading difficulties: Steve Barnett (moderator); Elizabeth Segal (Beginning with Books); Marcia Invernizzi (Book Buddies); Andrew Hayes (Comprehensive Family Literacy Program); John Guthrie (Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction); Bob Stark (Early ID: Reading Early Identification and Intervention); Barbara Taylor (Early Intervention in Reading); Jerry Zimmerman and Carolyn Brown (Breakthrough to Literacy); Sabra Gelfond (HAILO); Annette Dove (Home Instruction Program for Preschool Young-
stersHIPPY); Pia Rebello (Home Instruction Program for Preschool YoungstersHIPPY); Darcy Vogel (Intergenerational Tutoring Program); Ethna Reid (Keyboarding, Reading, Spelling); Bob Lemire and Kathy Hook (Phonics-Based Reading); George Farkas (Reading One-One); M. Trika Smith-Burke (Reading Recovery); James Wendorf, Linda Gambrell, and Suzanne Kealey (RIF's Running Start Program); John Nunnary (Success For All); Marilyn Howard (Auditory Discrimination in Depth).
In addition, materials and advice were provided by various programs and professional and advocacy groups. The program materials include: 4 H Family; Books Aloud; Books and Beyond; Children's Television Workshop/Sesame Street; Class-Wide Peer Tutoring; Cornell Cooperative Extension; Dyslexia Training Program; Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound; First Book; Four Blocks; Four Remedial Reading Programs; Friend/Non-Friend; Getting Books in Children's Hands; Ladders to Literacy: Kindergarten; Ladders to Literacy: Preschool; Listening Comprehension; Little Planet Publishing; National Reading Research Center-Georgia; National Speech Language Therapy Center; New Chance; Open Court; Project Read Program; Project Seed; Reach Out and Read; Readnet: Pathways to Literacy Readnet Foundation; Stony Brook Reading and Language; Sound Partners; Waterford Early Reading Program; Wiggle Works; and Youth Opportunities Unlimited.
The professional associations and other groups include the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; American Humane Association; American Library Association; American Psychological Association, Division 37; Child, Youth and Family Services; American Public Welfare Association; Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America; Child Welfare League of America; Families, 4-H and Nutrition; Home and School Institute; Initiatives for Children; Institute for Educational Leadership; International Reading Association; Learning Disabilities Association; National 4-H Council; National Association for Bilingual Education; National Association of Elementary School Principals; National Association of School Psychologists; National Association of State Boards of Education; National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health; National Center for Family Literacy; National Center for Immigrant Students; National Education Association; National School Boards Association; Save the Children International; and School-Age Child Care Project.
The panel was assisted in its deliberations by a number of people who wrote background papers: Steven Barnett, ''The Effects of Preschool Programs on Reading Achievement"; Lynn Fuchs, "Monitoring Student Progress Toward the Development of Reading Competence: Classroom-Based Assessment Methods"; Stanley Herr, "Special Education Law and Young Children with Reading Disabilities or at Risk of Such Disabilities"; Laura Klenk, "Review of Selected Remediation and Early Intervention Programs"; James McClelland, "The Basis and Remediation of Language Impairments in Children"; Kevin S. McGrew, "The Measurement of Reading Achievement by Different Individually Administered Standardized Reading Tests: Apples and Apples, or Apples and Oranges?"; Robert Needlman, "Pediatric Interventions to Prevent Reading Problems in Young Children"; Carol Padden, "Reading and Deafness"; Bennett A. Shaywitz, "The Neurobiology of Reading and Reading Disability"; Margaret J. Snowling, "A Review of the Literature on Reading, Informed by PDP Models, with Special Regard to Children Between Birth and Age 8, Who May Be at Risk of Not Learning to Read."
Numerous researchers also shared their work with the committee, including Catherine Dorsey-Gaines (Kean College of New Jersey); Vivian L. Gadsden (University of Pennsylvania); Russell Gersten (University of Oregon); Robert Rueda (University of Southern California); Rune J. Simeonsson (University of North Carolina); Frank R. Vellutino (State University of New York, Albany); and special education project directors present at our information-gathering meeting in July 1996.
This report has been reviewed by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council's Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the authors and the National Research Council in making the published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The content of the review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
We wish to thank the following individuals for their participation in the review of this report: Benita A. Blachman, School of Education, Syracuse University; Peter Bryant, Department of Experi-
mental Psychology, University of Oxford; Courtney Cazden, Graduate School of Education, Harvard University; Britton Chance, Departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics (emeritus), University of Pennsylvania; Ruth Fielding-Barnsley, Psychology Department, University of New England, New South Wales, Australia; John Guthrie, College of Education, University of Maryland, College Park; Eileen Kowler, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University; Frank Manis, Department of Psychology, University of Southern California; Luis Moll, Division of Language, Reading, and Culture, University of Arizona; P. David Pearson, College of Education, Michigan State University; W. Charles Read, School of Education, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Patrick Suppes, Center for the Study of Language and Information (emeritus), Stanford University; Richard Wagner, Department of Psychology, Florida State University; and Grover J. Whitehurst, Department of Psychology, State University of New York, Stony Brook.
While the individuals listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, responsibility for the final content of this report rests solely with the authoring committee and the National Research Council.
Throughout the research, conceptualization, and writing phase of this work, our coeditor, Peg Griffin, was an invaluable colleaguea strong-minded collaborator, a tireless writer, and a reliably good-natured colleague. Alexandra Wigdor, director of the Division on Education, Labor, and Human Performance, and Janet Hansen, also of the division, provided guidance and support throughout the project. This final product has benefited enormously from the editorial attention of Christine McShane. Marie Suizzo, Marilyn Dabady, Roger Butts, and Sharon Vandivere ably assisted the committee at different stages. The committee extends its sincere thanks and appreciation to all those who assisted us in our work.
Catherine Snow, Chair
Susan Burns, Study Director
Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children
Part III Prevention And Intervention
5 Preventing Reading Difficulties Before Kindergarten
6 Instructional Strategies for Kindergarten and the Primary Grades
7 Organizational Strategies for Kindergarten and the Primary Grades
8 Helping Children with Reading Difficulties in Grades 1 to 3
Part IV Knowledge Into Action
9 The Agents of Change
10 Recommendations for Practice and Research
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