Reading is an essential skill and an integral part of all learning. Language development lays the foundation for reading and writing skills in students as they progress through school. Developing language skills is of absolute significance for every child’s progress in later life as it is directly connected to one’s success in the long term both academically and professionally.
Over the past decade, there has been an immense emphasis on early reading interventions in primary years to strengthen core reading skills. Several pieces of research have proved that Early intervention in reading can impact how students think, learn and perform. Early elementary grades are important as during these years students are in the process of developing reading ability and proficiency. The impact of reading interventions provided in the early elementary grades report higher average impacts on reading outcomes than interventions implemented in the upper elementary. If students do not develop reading skills as per the grade level expectation in primary years, they are most likely to have reading difficulties throughout the school.
Primary years are the formative years of education and it is during this time, reading interventions can help in avoiding reading disabilities and difficulties in learners. An important aspect of reading interventions is helping learners in developing confidence, self-esteem through the acquisition of reading skills and strategies.
One of the most interesting development in reading is the understanding of the literacy skills that can predict later reading problems. Some of the literacy skills that help in identifying these reading difficulties are phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, phonological memory, rapid naming of letters, colours, digits, or objects. These can help to identify at-risk children at an early stage to provide high-quality intervention before failure occurs, and in most cases, normalize their reading ability. Purposeful instruction and early intervention is an important component in the process of helping students to become fluent readers.
Early reading assessment play an important role in identifying and accurately classifying the reading abilities of students. These assessments are helpful for teachers in gathering data and in navigating the reading instruction as per the varied needs of the learners.
Research says that using small group instruction while reading helps students grow in their reading abilities by increasing their self-efficacy. The small group instruction focuses on
- Explicit instruction with an emphasis on phonics and fluency
- Using a language scope and sequence document as a guide
- Scaffolding in reading to promote independence
- Ongoing assessments to monitor and evaluate progress
Small group reading lesson supports students in building mastery of essential literacy skills through learning engagements aligned with Phonemic Awareness, Letter-Sound relationship, Word Recognition, Spelling, Fluency, and Comprehension Strategies. Quality classroom instructions and systematic intervention has a positive impact on the reading skills of at-risk students and further helps in closing the gap between average performers and struggling readers.
Students in kindergarten are often expected to catch up with the classroom instructions without realising that the development of literacy skills are the core foundation of early learning. Hence, development of early reading skills in students is essential and when students enter kindergarten with a basic understanding of phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge and print awareness they perform better in school. In past reading difficulties and delays were often connected to growth and developmental lags, however, research proves that they are directly associated to skill deficits. Instead of waiting for students to fail, early reading intervention is suggested to fill the learning gaps with the help of appropriate instructions.
There are several goals and target areas of intervention such as targeting instructions to students who are clearly at risk of reading failure and demonstrate skill deficit, identifying students who need extra support before the problem becomes severe, supporting literacy development for English language learners and ensure that there is a measurable progress. Many children are at risk of getting reading difficulties, including those who have phonological problems and who have not fully developed oral language skills. If they are not given assistance in learning, they score very low on academic tests and are mislabelled as having a learning disability.
As educators we have all the required information and resources to support the children who are in need of additional support and provide them with the best opportunities to develop their reading skills and become skilled reader. The focus on reading in early years is important as these skills will be required by them to comprehend what they read for the rest of their lives.