Blog Posts

21 July, 2008

Vocabulary Learning: Words, Words, Words

Okay, the National Reading Panel found that vocabulary instruction improved reading achievement, especially for older readers. And, research has been showing a clear, substantial empirical link—especially for older kids—between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension (both within reading and readability research) for almost a century. The National Literacy Panel for Language Minority Children and Youth found an even bigger impact of vocabulary teaching with children who were learning English as a second language, and the about-to-be-released National Early Literacy Panel report indicates that vocabulary seems to be a proxy for even more sophisticated oral language skills in reading development. Whew, that’s ...

read more
18 July, 2008

The Implementation Scandal: Why Research-Based Instruction Often Fails

This week I spoke to the research and curriculum directors from the Council of Great Cities Schools. They held their meeting in Chicago. The topic they were focused on was interventions for older readers. Catherine Snow and I sounded off on the first day, and Jim Kemple of RMDC presented a recent federal study of such interventions on day two.   The big topic of discussion was the implementation of interventions. One thing that stands out from recent experiences with trying to implement research-based practices is how often these practices fail to work once adopted in the classroom. There are lots of ...

read more
09 July, 2008

Pulling the Plug on Reading First

I wonder if you have seen the various editorials that have been appearing about Reading First recent weeks? These are reactions to the Reading First impact study and Congressional efforts to defund Reading First that I wrote about in this space recently. The Boston Globe came out for reauthorization of Reading First, as did USA Today. In a deft unsigned editorial, USA Today called for continuation of funding for Reading First, albeit with some needed reforms. Their position: “let’s keep funding a good program even as we try to improve upon it” was their very reasonable position. They paid attention to reports by ...

read more
24 June, 2008

Reading First is Dead

Two very interesting reports came across my desk yesterday--within minutes of each other.   The first one was an Education Week story that said the House Appropriations committee intended to kill off Reading First. This is no surprise since Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., is the chair of that committee and he has shown a strong penchant for using his power for political reasons with little regard for educational needs. He has been anti-Reading First for a long time (mainly, I suspect, because it was proposed by a Republican), and the unfortunate management problems along with the recent interim report (see my earlier ...

read more
16 June, 2008

More on the Reading First Evaluation

I was talking with Dick Anderson today. For those who do not know, Dick is an outstanding scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He was the director of the Center for Reading during the years when the best research on reading was coming from there. His comprehension research is great. Dick is not anti-Reading First in my opinion, but I think it is fair to say he isn’t exactly a big Reading First fan. He isn’t against phonics, but tends to think Reading First makes too much of phonics. He feels the same about fluency and phonemic awareness (and, ...

read more
13 June, 2008

More Pleasure Reading Than We Suspected?

There was more information on pleasure reading published this week in a report from Scholastic, a publisher with a deep financial interest in children’s and adolescent reading. This report, unlike other recent reports, does not paint such a bleak picture of the reading crisis in America. They interviewed more than 500 kids from preschool through age 17 and found that 90% of kids thought reading was important for learning, and that about 75% of kids indicated that they read for pleasure at least once a week (almost 25% claim to read every day). The major reason that they say they ...

read more
12 June, 2008

The Role of Basic Skills in Reading Comprehension

Recently, the impact study on Reading First indicated that the program had shown no effects when it came to improving performance on reading comprehension tests. That is a real problem because the whole idea of Reading First was to improve kids' reading to such an extent that they would comprehend better. I wonder if teachers and principals (and Reading First directors) knew more about reading comprehension if things would have gone better.   I'm asked frequently by schools to come and help with reading comprehension, but as with the Reading First folks, I often sense that there are many things that these ...

read more
28 May, 2008

How Would I Fix Reading First?

A recent research report said Reading First failed to improve students’ reading scores. I was disappointed given the hard work of so many teachers, but the study was far from perfect. The Department of Education was more efficient in getting Reading First underway in the schools than it was in getting the study off the ground, so they couldn’t carry out a nationwide randomized controlled trial. Unfortunately, the study only looked at reading comprehension scores and not at performance in any of the underlying skills that support comprehension (so you can’t tell whether the program impacted those skills or not). Far more ...

read more
27 May, 2008

Interventions for Young Learning Disabled Children

Although I have designed instructional programs for teaching reading to older students who lag in learning, I have never tried to design a beginning reading intervention for such students. My AMP program skips phonics and phonological awareness not because I don't think these are critically important reading skills, but because most students in middle school and high school won't lag seriously in these skills. (I didn't say no older students struggle in these areas. A small percentage, maybe 1 in 7 of struggling secondary school readers, still will need help with alphabetics. But even low middle school readers usually can read at ...

read more
20 May, 2008

Heterogeneous or Homogeneous for Middle School Disabled Readers?

Dr. Shanahan, I am a mother of a child with a reading disability (as well as processing and short term memory) who will be entering middle school in the fall. Our middle school is planning on heterogeneously grouping the students in reading/language arts classes. As I'm sure you know this would be the lowest level readers blended with college level readers. Also, reading interventions will be cut from every day to every other day. I am a little concerned about the implications this may have on the students. Do you happen to know what research says about this concept? What are ...

read more

One of the world’s premier literacy educators.

He studies reading and writing across all ages and abilities. Feel free to contact him.