the Underachiever in Reading
Diana J. Quatroche
ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English, and Communication
to read is a complex process. Most children learn to read and continue to grow
in their mastery of this process. However, there continues to be a group of children
for whom learning to read is a struggle. This group that continues to struggle
presents a challenge to our schools. Thus the development of effective intervention
programs and instructional strategies for the struggling reader, or the underachiever
in reading, continues to be a topic of concern. This digest will first review
the current status of reading performance, then report on the importance of early
reading instruction. A summary of the components of successful intervention programs
will be presented and the paper will conclude by summarizing the types of instructional
activities present in successful intervention programs.
Current Status of Reading Performance
to the results of the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress
(NAEP) (Donahue, Voelhl, Campbell & Mazzeo, 1999), students continue to make
improvements in their acquisition of reading skills, however this progress is
only being made at the basic level of reading. The NAEP reading report card, which
summarizes reading achievement results for grades 4, 8 and 12, reports results
at three reading levels: basic, proficient, and advanced. Achievement at a basic
reading level is partial mastery of the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed
at each grade level, achievement at a proficient level describes solid academic
performance and competence when presented with challenging material, and achievement
at an advanced level indicates superior performance. Although the average reading
scores for all grade levels increased, the percentages of 4th, 8th and 12th graders
who performed at or above the proficient level were 31, 33, and 40 percent and
the percentages who performed at the highest level were 7, 3, and 6 percent, respectively.
In addition, at grade 4 there were no significant changes since the 1994 and 1992
assessments in the percentages of students attaining any of the reading achievement
levels. These results demonstrate cause for concern as only one third or less
of the students demonstrated an ability to read above the basic level. A particularly
instructive finding of this study is that 12th grade students who had higher average
reading achievement reported coming from homes where there was a variety of literacy
materials available; they read for fun on their own time; they discussed their
studies; and they watched less than the average amount of television. Furthermore,
these students read each day in school, were asked by their teachers to explain
or support their understanding of what they were reading, and were asked to explain
their interpretations of what they had read.
Importance of Initial Reading Instruction
is now increased interest in preventing reading problems before they develop,
and in engaging young children in activities that will enable them to meet success
as readers at the early grade levels. According to a report of the National Research
Council, the type of instruction children receive in the classroom is very important
in the prevention of reading difficulties (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998).
It would seem that effective instruction is a key component of successful acquisition
of reading competency and in helping to prevent underachievement in reading. The
Council makes several recommendations designed to foster instruction that will
prevent reading difficulties before they start and that will allow all children
to succeed. The report suggests that initial instruction:
on using reading to gain meaning from print
an understanding of the structure of spoken words
children understand the nature of the orthographic system
practice of regular spelling-sound relationships
many opportunities for reading and writing
further ensure success in reading beyond the initial level, children need many
opportunities to develop an understanding of how sounds are represented in print,
to develop fluency through practice reading texts, to develop concepts and vocabulary,
and to develop strategies for monitoring their comprehension.
of effective intervention programs have targeted some common characteristics that
make these programs successful (Snow et al.,1998; Pikulski, 1994; Pinnell, 1994;
Wasik & Slavin, 1993). One on one and small group tutoring tend to be most
effective for children who are struggling with reading, as these provide the most
individualized attention and extra instructional time these readers need. The
instruction for struggling readers needs to be congruent with the regular classroom
instruction so that the two programs are coordinated. Children who are struggling
to learn to read need excellent instruction provided by highly skilled personnel.
This includes the instruction provided in the regular reading program and the
intervention program. These components would be essential in any program to help
underachievers in reading.
for Underachievers in Reading
interventions, which have targeted both older and younger underachievers in reading,
have included the following effective instructional practices:
relationships and word identification strategies should be taught explicitly.
Teach phonological awareness, letters, words and word patterns. These skills are
essential for success as a reader (Grossen, 1997).
repeated exposures to words to encourage mastery. Present words in small practice
sets to provide scaffolding for struggling readers (Juel, 1996; McCormick, 1994).
teach strategies for understanding text and monitoring comprehension. Some strategies
to teach include K-W-L, self-questioning, visual imagery, ReQuest, retelling,
and Question-Answer relationships. Provide instruction that will help struggling
readers transfer these strategies to other texts (Dole, 1996; Sorrell, 1996).
multiple opportunities for repeated reading of connected texts to develop fluency.
Methods of encouraging repeated reading include paired reading, modeling, direct
instruction, choral reading, neurological impress, and providing easy reading
materials. Repeated reading also helps to increase the word recognition rate and
accuracy of the reader (McCormick, 1994; Reutzel, 1994; Dowhower, 1994).
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publication was prepared (Digest #141, EDO-CS-99-02, September 1999) with funding
from the U.S. Department of Education under contract number ED-99-CO-0028, and
published by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, English and Communication.
expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies
of Learn2study, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations
imply endorsement by Learn2study.