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Early Reading Proficiency in the United States

Early Reading Proficiency in the United States (2014) The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Children who are proficient readers by the end of third grade are more likely to graduate from high school and to be economically successful in adulthood. This KIDS COUNT data snapshot finds 80 percent of fourth-graders from low-income families and 66 percent of all fourth-graders are not reading at grade level. While improvements have been made in the past decade, reading proficiency levels remain low. Given the critical nature of reading to children’s individual achievement and the nation’s future economic success, the Casey Foundation offers recommendations for communities and policymakers to support early reading. Early reading proficiency rates for the nation and each state are provided.

Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind

Kidd, D. C. & Castano, E. (2013) Reading Literary Fiction Improves Theory of Mind. Science, 18 October 2013: 342 (6156), 377-380.

Theory of Mind is the human capacity to comprehend that other people hold beliefs and desires and that these may differ from one's own beliefs and desires. The currently predominant view is that literary fiction — often described as narratives that focus on in-depth portrayals of subjects' inner feelings and thoughts — can be linked to theory of mind processes. The researchers in this study provide experimental evidence that reading passages of literary fiction, in comparison to nonfiction or popular fiction, does indeed enhance the reader's performance on theory of mind tasks — a set of skills and thought processes fundamental to complex social relationships and functional societies.

Is Retaining Students in the Early Grades Self-Defeating?

West, M.R. Is Retaining Students in the Early Grades Self-Defeating? (2012) Brookings Institution, Center on Children and Families.

Whether a child is a proficient reader by the third grade is an important indicator of their future academic success. Indeed, substantial evidence indicates that unless students establish basic reading skills by that time, the rest of their education will be an uphill struggle. This evidence has spurred efforts to ensure that all students receive high-quality reading instruction in and even before the early grades. It has also raised the uncomfortable question of how to respond when those efforts fail to occur or prove unsuccessful: Should students who have not acquired a basic level of reading proficiency by grade three be promoted along with their peers? Or should they be retained and provided with intensive interventions before moving on to the next grade? This paper looks at the background on grade retention, a case study of test-based promotion in Florida, and policy implications.

Third Grade Literacy Policies: Identification, Intervention, Retention

Rose, S. and Schimke, K. Third Grade Literacy Policies: Identification, Intervention, Retention (2012) Education Commission of the States.

This paper examines policies to promote 3rd-grade reading proficiency, including early identification of and intervention for struggling readers, as well as retention as an action of last resort. The authors outline case studies in both Florida and New York City, and identify decisions policymakers must consider as they implement policies around 3rd-grade literacy.

Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading

Graham, S., and Hebert, M.A. (2010). Writing to read: Evidence for how writing can improve reading. A Carnegie Corporation Time to Act Report. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Writing to Read is a new Carnegie Corporation report published by the Alliance for Excellent Education which finds that while reading and writing are closely connected, writing is an often-overlooked tool for improving reading skills and content learning. Writing to Read identifies three core instructional practices that have been shown to be effective in improving student reading: having students write about the content-area texts they have read; teaching students the writing skills and processes that go into creating text; and increasing the amount of writing students do.

Family and Neighborhood Sources of Socioeconomic Inequality in Children's Achievement

Sastry, Narayan, and A.R. Pebley. 2010. "Family and Neighborhood Sources of Socioeconomic Inequality in Children's Achievement." Demography, 47(3): 777-800.

Researchers examined family and neighborhood sources of socioeconomic inequality in children's reading and mathematics achievement using data from the 2000-2001 Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey. The researchers found no inequality in children's achievement by family income when other variables in the model were held constant. Mother's reading scores and average neighborhood levels of income accounted for the largest proportion of inequality in children's achievement. Neighborhood economic status appears to be strongly associated with children's skills acquisition.

PreK-Grade 3 Reading and Literacy Practices That Matter

Ryan, M. PreK-Grade 3: Reading and Literacy Practices That Matter. (2010). Education Commission of the States. New York, NY.

This snapshot of five recent research studies addresses reading and literacy in the early grades. Policy recommendations on practices that matter are included for each of the five studies.

Are Achievement Gaps Closing and Is Achievement Rising for All?

Chudowsky, N., Chodowsky, V., and Kober, N. (2009). State Test Score Trends Through 2007-08: Are Achievement Gaps Closing and Is Achievement Rising For All? Washington, DC: Center on Education Policy.

This report examines testing data from all 50 states to determine if achievement gaps between subgroups of students are narrowing. The report also looks at the achievement trends of subgroups of students at the elementary school level.

Using Research and Reason in Education: How Teachers Can Use Scientifically Based Research to Make Curricular & Instructional Decisions

Stanovich, P. J. & Stanovich, K. E. (2003). Using research and reason in education: How teachers can use scientifically based research to make curricular & instructional decisions. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; Department of Education; and Department of Health and Human Services.

As professionals, teachers can become more effective and powerful by developing the skills to recognize scientifically based practice and, when the evidence is not available, use some basic research concepts to draw conclusions on their own. This paper offers a primer for those skills that will allow teachers to become independent evaluators of educational research.

Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind

Wright, P.W.D., Wright, P.D., Heath, S.W. Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind (2003). Harbor House Law Press.

The No Child Left Behind Act is confusing to parents, educators, administrators, advocates, and most attorneys. In this comprehensive book, you'll find the full text of the No Child Left Behind Act with analysis, interpretation and commentary, advocacy strategies, tips, and sample letters.

Progress in Understanding Reading: Scientific Foundations and New Frontiers

Stanovich, Keith E. (2000). Progress in understanding reading: Scientific foundations and new frontiers. New York: Guilford Press.

From a nationally known expert, this volume summarizes the gains that have been made in key areas of reading research and provides authoritative insights on current controversies and debates. Each section begins with up-to-date findings followed by one or more classic papers from the author's research program. Significant issues covered include phonological processes and context effects in reading, the "reading wars" and how they should be resolved, the meaning of the term "dyslexia," and the cognitive effects and benefits of reading.

Teaching Reading Is Rocket Science: What Expert Teachers of Reading Should Know and Be Able to Do

Moats, L. C. (1999). Teaching reading is rocket science: What expert teachers of reading should know and be able to do. Washington, DC: American Federation of Teachers.

This foundational report reviews the reading research and describes the knowledge base that is essential for teacher candidates and practicing teachers to master if they are to be successful in teaching all children to read well. Developed by the American Federation of Teachers(AFT).

Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children

Snow, C.E., Burns, M.S., & Griffin, P. (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

In this report, we are most concerned with the large numbers of children in America whose educational careers are imperiled because they do not read well enough to ensure understanding and to meet the demands of an increasingly competitive economy. Current difficulties in reading largely originate from rising demands for literacy, not from declining absolute levels of literacy. In a technological society, the demands for higher literacy are ever increasing, creating more grievous consequences for those who fall short. The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asked the National Academy of Sciences to establish a committee to examine the prevention of reading difficulties. Our committee was charged with conducting a study of the effectiveness of interventions for young children who are at risk of having problems learning to read. The goals of the project were three: (1) to comprehend a rich but diverse research base; and (2) to translate the research findings into advice and guidance for parents, educators, publishers, and others.

Why Reading Is Not a Natural Process

Lyon, G. (1998, March). Why reading is not a natural process. Educational Leadership, 55(6), 14-18.
Nearly four decades of scientific research on how children learn to read supports an emphasis on phonemic awareness and phonics in a literature-rich environment. These findings challenge the belief that children learn to read naturally.

Literacy Instruction in Nine First-Grade Classrooms: Teacher Characteristics and Student Achievement

Wharton-McDonald, R., Pressley, M., & Hampston, J.M. (1998). Literacy instruction in nine first-grade classrooms: Teacher characteristics and student achievement. The Elementary School Journal, 99, 101-128.

Classroom observations and in-depth interviews were used to study 9 first-grade teachers from 4 districts who had been nominated by language arts coordinators as outstanding or typical in their ability to help students develop literacy skills. Based on observational measures of student reading and writing achievement and student engagement, 3 groups of teachers emerged from the original 9. The following practices and beliefs distinguished the instruction of the 3 teachers (2 nominated as outstanding, 1 as typical) whose students demonstrated the highest levels on these measures: (a) coherent and thorough integration of skills with high-quality reading and writing experiences, (b) a high density of instruction (integration of multiple goals in a single lesson), (c) extensive use of scaffolding, (d) encouragement of student self-regulation, (e) a thorough integration of reading and writing activities, (f) high expectations for all students, (g) masterful classroom management, and (h) an awareness of their practices and the goals underlying them. Teaching practices observed in 7 of the 9 classrooms are also discussed. The data reported here highlight the complexity of primary literacy instruction and support the conclusion that effective primary-level literacy instruction is a balanced integration of high-quality reading and writing experiences and explicit instruction of basic literacy skills.

Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experiences of Young American Children

Hart, B. and Risley, T. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experiences of young American children. Brookes Publishing Company

The landmark longitudinal study of parent-child talk in families. The researchers recorded one full hour of every word spoken at home between parent and child in 42 families over a three year period, with children from seven months to 36 months of age. Follow-up studies by Hart and Risley of those same children at age nine showed that there was a very tight link between the academic success of a child and the number of words the child's parents spoke to the child to age three. See summary

Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print

Adams, M.J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

This book reconciles the debate that has divided theorists for decades over the "right" way to help children learn to read. Drawing on a rich array of research on the nature and development of reading proficiency, Adams shows educators that they need not remain trapped in the phonics versus teaching-for-meaning dilemma. She proposes that phonics can work together with the whole language approach to teaching reading and provides an integrated treatment of the knowledge and process involved in skillful reading, the issues surrounding their acquisition, and the implications for reading instruction.

Learning to Read and Write: A Longitudinal Study of 54 Children From First Through Fourth Grades

Juel, C. (1988). Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of 54 children from first through fourth grades. Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 243-255.

In this study, of particular concern were these questions: Do the same children remain poor readers year after year? Do the same children remain poor writers year after year? What skills do the poor readers lack? What skills do the poor writers lack? What factors seem to keep poor readers from improving? What factors seem to keep poor writers from improving? The probability that a child would remain a poor reader at the end of 4th grade if the child was a poor reader at the end of 1st grade was 0.88. Early writing skill did not predict later writing skill as well as early reading ability predicted later reading ability. Children who become poor readers entered 1st grade with little phonemic awareness. By the end of 4th grade, the poor readers had still not achieved the level of decoding skill that the good readers had achieved at the beginning of 2nd grade. Good readers read considerably more than the poor readers both in and out of school, which appeared to contribute to the good readers' growth in some reading and writing skills. Poor readers tended to become poor writers.

Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy

Stanovich, Keith E. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 22, 360-407.

The Matthew Effects are not only about the progressive decline of slow starters, but also about the widening gap between slow starters and fast starters. In reading, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. This report presents a framework for conceptualizing development of individual differences in reading ability that emphasizes the effects of reading on cognitive development and on "bootstrapping" relationships involving reading. It uses the framework to explain some persisting problems in the literature on reading disability and to conceptualize remediation efforts in reading.

Why Johnny Can't Read: And What You Can Do About It

Flesch, R. (reprint, 1986). Why Johnny Can't Read: And What You Can Do About It. New York: Perennial Currents.

From Amazon.com:
The classic book on phonics – the method of teaching recommended by the U.S. Department of Education. Contains complete materials and instructions on teaching children to read at home.

Ways With Words: Language, Life and Work in Communities and Classrooms

Heath, S.B. (1983). Ways with words: Language, life and work in communities and classrooms. Cambridge University Press.

This book is a classic study of children learning to use language at home and at school in two communities only a few miles apart in the southeastern United States. 'Roadville' is a white working-class community of families steeped for generations in the life of textile mills; 'Trackton' is a black working-class community whose older generations grew up farming the land but whose current members work in the mills. In tracing the children's language development the author shows the deep cultural differences between the two communities, whose ways with words differ as strikingly from each other as either does from the pattern of the townspeople, the mainstream blacks and whites who hold power in the schools and workplaces of the region. Employing the combined skills of ethnographer, social historian, and teacher, the author raises fundamental questions about the nature of language development, the effects of literacy on oral language habits, and the sources of communication problems in schools and workplaces.

Learning to Read: The Great Debate

Chall, J.S. (1967). Learning to read: The great debate. New York: McGraw-Hill.

From Diane Ravitchs' tribute to Jeanne Chall, in the American Educator, Spring 2001:
In 1961, as the debate about how to teach reading continued, the Carnegie Corporation of New York commissioned Jeanne Chall, who was well established as a careful reading researcher, to review the controversy. Chall spent three years visiting hundreds of classrooms, analyzing research studies, and examining textbooks; she interviewed textbook authors, reading specialists, and teachers.
Chall found that studies of beginning readers over the decades clearly supported decoding. Early decoding, she found, not only produced better word recognition and spelling, but also made it easier for the child eventually to read with understanding. The code emphasis method, she wrote, was especially effective for children of lower socioeconomic status, who were not likely to live in homes surrounded with books or with adults who could help them learn to read. For a beginning reader, she found, knowledge of letters and sounds had more influence on reading achievement than the child's tested mental ability or IQ.

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"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." — Kate DiCamillo