Early Identification and Intervention for Reading Difficulties using a Teacher and Classroom Based Model

Learning disabilities, that is, severe problems in reading, spelling, writing and/or arithmetic, in spite of average or above average intelligence, represent a significant problem for society. Homelessness, anti-social behaviour and adolescent suicide are consequence of undetected and unremediated learning disabilities. The purpose of this project is to develop an accurate and efficient system for identifying children at risk for reading difficulties before the problems become too severe and to support literacy practices that prevent or remediate identified problems. This project has the potential of preventing or at least reducing learning difficulties in the area of literacy. This project began in 2001 with the establishment of a community-researcher partnership between the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network (CLLRNet) Project Leader, Linda Siegel and the Prince George (School District #57) in British Columbia. When the partnership began, the school district was in the second year of a district-wide literacy initiative intended at improving reading outcomes for all students enrolled in the district. The focus of this collaboration has been both the identification of at risk readers and the enhancement of early reading practices that are intended to prevent reading disabilities among children in classrooms, specifically for primary grade students. The participating school district is a small community in northern British Columbia where there are approximately 800 children who enter kindergarten each year. It has a population of approximately 30 percent First Nations and 7-10 percent children who have English as a second language. Both of these groups are at significant risk for reading disabilities. The current project is both an extension and a continuation of the project from the first year. We extend the research by examining the literacy implementation supports (i.e., inservice and literacy mentoring opportunities) that the district has provided based on the findings from implementation observational study conducted in 2002/3. The school district has provided additional inservice for all district personnel, both teachers and principals, in the area of early literacy skills intervention, has incorporated a literacy mentoring system, and reduced class sizes in areas where proportionately more children are at risk for reading failure. We will examine both the nature of the particular supports the district has provided to enhance instruction of reading to prevent reading failure and, through additional observations in the classrooms, endeavor to link teaching activities to outcomes for children with differing abilities in classroom contexts. Additionally, we continue to monitor reading development through assessment of reading skills for the children who began the study in kindergarten and who are currently in grades two, three, and four. This will allow us to determine the effectiveness of the literacy intervention over time. This project will allow us to learn more about the nature of learning disabilities and how they can be remediated. The reduction in the incidence of learning difficulties will help individual children lead more fulfilling lives, will save the educational system significant amounts of money, will prevent school dropout, and reduce the incidence of social problems.

Just because I don't speak English doesn't mean I'm not smart. I speak another language with my family at home. With the right instruction, I can learn English quickly.

Children like me, who lack English vocabulary skills can draw upon already known language and literacy skills in their first language. And the younger we begin to learn English, the quicker we will acquire these skills. Proper instruction is the key.

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