Blogs About Reading

Sound It Out

Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Darn hard work: Working with struggling readers

January 9, 2008

Working with struggling readers is darn hard work. Progress is slow, and it takes an enormous amount of effort. Really concerted, dedicated, sustained effort. The students I work with usually make me want to bang my head against a wall out of frustration and leap across the room for joy, and that's within a 45 minute tutoring session!

The Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR) recently summarized K-3 intervention research. FCRR staff established criteria for selecting studies to include in their review; 12 studies ended up making the review and contributing to Extensive Reading Interventions in Grades K-3. The report provides some guidance for people who work with struggling readers. I think it provides some insight into just what it takes to make a difference (and it's a lot).

Among the findings:
(1) Low cost implementers (aka teacher aides) can be effective interventionists; all the programs they studied that relied on teacher aides used a well structured, written-for-them lesson plan. And included lots of training.
(2) Gains from interventions appear to be maintained over time (hooray!)
(3) All the interventions included attention to the big five areas of reading.

There are other findings too, but these are the most critical. There's no one answer: no single intervention came out on top every time. There was no magic number of sessions (each study included at least 100 sessions. 4-5 times a week), total hours of intervention (range across these 12 studies was 25 to 173), or group size. Just a lot of darn hard work, and dedicated professionals.

NOTE: It's a new year, and I feel like a curmudgeon writing this post. But I mean it in the spirit of: DON'T GIVE UP! WE CAN DO THIS! IT'S TOTALLY WORTH IT!


Benita, Are you getting help for your seven year old? Early intervention is key to his success. If you are not able to help him get caught up then I would suggest talking with his teacher at school and seeing what resources and services they have at school to help him, or finding a good private reading tutor. It may cost some to hire a good tutor now but not doing so now will cost your son MUCH more in the future. Lynda McCartney, Private Reading Tutor, Winter Haven, FL

I am a mom of a 7 year old child that is not reading on his grade level! I am not a good reader, when I have to read out loud! So sounding out helps me to teach my son to read. I need help on this because his grades are low.

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"If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book." —

J.K. Rowling