Decades of research have culminated in a consensus of what is necessary to prevent or remediate reading disabilities (National Reading Panel, 2000; Shaywitz, 2005; Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998). Evidence has demonstrated that early identification and appropriate instruction which includes a range of research-based components and practices, can prevent or alleviate 70% (Barnes, 2007) to 95% (Greenwood & Abbott, 2001) of potential reading disabilities; “at-risk readers can become both accurate and fluent readers” (Alexander & Slinger-Constant, 2004, p. 244) as quoted by Katherine Davidson in her 2011 thesis – The Research to Practice Gap in Reading Disabilities.
Unfortunately the research also concludes that there is a huge gap between research and practice. Teachers are not receiving the training they need to deliver evidence-based instruction. Studies show that teachers have limited knowledge on reading disabilities and evidence-based reading instruction; however the majority feel confident in identifying and instructing students with reading disabilities. This is concerning since we know that informed classroom instruction will only happen with informed well-prepared teachers. Teachers need and indeed deserve preparation programs and instructional materials that support them in developing expert skills and knowledge of language structure and its application and valid, reliable assessment of reading and writing skills.
Teachers deserve this – and so do our kids.
Reading difficulties are the most common cause of academic failure and underachievement. Learning to read and write is not natural or easy for many- if not most- students, especially those with dyslexia and related language problems. Oral language is hard wired into our brains but written language has to be acquired through instruction. Although dyslexia and related reading and language problems may originate with neurobiological differences, they are mainly treated with skilled teaching. Informed and effective classroom instruction, especially in the early grades, can prevent or at least effectively address and limit the severity of reading and writing problems. Potential reading failure can be recognized as early as preschool and kindergarten, if not sooner. A large body of research evidence shows that with appropriate, intensive instruction, all but the most severe reading disabilities can be ameliorated in the early grades and students can get on track toward academic success. For those students with persistent dyslexia who need specialized instruction outside of the regular class, competent intervention from a specialist can lessen the impact of the disorder and help the student overcome and manage the most debilitating symptoms.
What is the nature of effective instruction for students at risk? The methods supported by research are those that are explicit, systematic, cumulative, and multisensory, in that they integrate listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The content of effective instruction emphasizes the structure of language, including the speech sound system (phonology), the writing system (orthography), the structure of sentences (syntax), the meaningful parts of words (morphology), meaning relationships among words and their referents (semantics), and the organization of spoken and written discourse. The strategies emphasize planning, organization, attention to task, critical thinking, and self‐management. *
The Orton-Gillingham approach addresses all of these components. While all such aspects of teaching are essential for students with dyslexia, these strategies also enhance the potential of all students.
Teaching reading effectively, especially to students experiencing difficulty, requires considerable knowledge and skill. Teachers who undertake training in the Orton-Gillingham approach are given both the theoretical knowledge and practical skills necessary to provide effective instruction in reading and writing.
* excerpt from the International Dyslexia Association – Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading – Executive Summary