What is the research and its implications on early intervention in reading?

Question: What is the research and its implications on early intervention in reading?

Answer: We’ve been working with models of responsiveness to intervention for over a decade now and the published work in RTI began right around 2000 and continues.  So I think we can say with some degree of confidence that early intervention in reading reduces the proportion of children at risk for reading failure and reduces the proportion of poor readers overall. There is areas where we feel highly confident in this research and that relates especially to the more isolated early reading skills, for example things like developing the alphabetic principal, which includes understanding that spoken words are made up of sounds and that each of those sounds is represented by a letter or a collection of letters from the alphabet. Those skills are relatively easy to teach and students tend to learn them fairly well. In kindergarten and first grade through intensive, sometimes very short term, maybe just 8, 10, 15 weeks of intervention. But not all children respond to those kinds of intensive early interventions in reading and that’s where we have less confidence, what do we do when children are less responsive.

Where the research base is consistent is in reducing the proportion of children overall who have difficulty reading during kindergarten, first, and second grade. Where we have less confidence is what we should be doing with the children who are less responsive to those early interventions. And what we should be doing about children whose reading difficulty doesn’t lie in the alphabetic principal, but rather in areas of vocabulary and reading comprehension. Sometimes these students are referred to as late emerging reading disabilities and what we mean by that is they may have adequate skills, either strong or at least average, in what we tend to measure as reading in kindergarten and first grade, but as we move in to areas where vocabulary takes up a greater share of what we consider as total reading development and where reading comprehension and language comprehension begin to take over the share of real reading. The kinds of measures that we use in kindergarten and first grade don’t always identify those children. So kids may be very strong in phonemic awareness, may learn letter sound correspondences quite well, and yet if their difficulty is in areas of language comprehension, in levels of vocabulary, and reading comprehension, we may not be catching those children through our early reading interventions. So we have a lot to go in terms of measurements that could be used as screens for children who have language based and reading comprehension based problems. We need to do considerably more research in areas of early intervention for students who are English learners. Now, we’ve had several studies that have demonstrated strong effects for English learners as early interventions outside of an RTI model and recently research in RTI has also been including English learners and finding that in many instances English learners respond very similarly to students who are native English speakers to these early interventions. So our current recommendation is to include students who are English learners in our early intervention efforts.

Developed By: 
National Center on Intensive Intervention