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6.2: Issues Related to Reading

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    The National Reading Panel report (2000) forms the foundation of much of what we understand about the reading process and how to effectively assess and provide instruction in reading. Reading is a complex task that may be broken down into two primary areas: decoding and comprehension (Pullen & Cash, 2011). Within those two broad dimensions, there are five components typically associated with reading those are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. However, it is generally understood that the two primary areas are intertwined and that fluency at decoding influences a students ability to comprehend written text. One of the big reasons for this is that if a student has issues with the decoding process they are using a lot of metacognitive processes making it difficult to understand what is being read. For example, if the student has difficulty understanding or decoding individual words their ability to make sense of text will be severely limited.

    We discussed progress monitoring in the form of curriculum based measurement in chapter 2, and we’ll touch upon it again here. Because decoding is such a large factor in reading achievement and the ability to comprehend text, assessing and specifically teaching methods to increase decoding are of large import (Pullen & Cash, 2011). With this idea of increasing decoding in mind, Pullen and Cash suggest placing an emphasis on assessing and instruction in decoding nonsense words. In most cases, publishers of curriculum-based measures have developed measures that test students on their ability to decode nonsense words in much the same way as letter naming probes. They further discuss two methods for being able to decode words, the first being a process of decoding each letter in sound form and assembling those letters together. The second process involves a process much like whole word processes, or site words, where the students visually matches the printed word and associate that with a word in memory. Nonsense words don’t allow for the second process, therefore emphasizing the ability to decode these words leads to improvement in phonological processing and decoding.

    Students who have difficulty with reading comprehension and word recognition make up the most common form of reading difficulty (Pullen & Cash, 2011). Research suggests that the students difficulties could be attributed to core deficits in phonological processing, naming speed and orthographic processing, or “the ability to form, store, and access orthographic representations” (Stanovich & West, 1989, p. 404). The most common deficit among students is phonological processing which regards the ability to access the sound structure of words by understanding that individual letters have corresponding sounds and that the sounds together form words. The second characteristic, naming speed refers to the ability to look at the written letter or phoneme and process it’s associated sound. Finally, orthographic processing deficits reflect the ability to perform the previous two tasks and associate them with concepts within working memory.

    Pullen and Cash (2011) describe effective reading intervention for students with difficulties as a process of fortifying the links of the chain. If one of the links of the chain, for example naming speed, is not strong, the entire chain is weak. In other words, the student will have difficulty in all areas of reading. Thus, it is important even at the later grades to continue to work on building a student who has difficulties in reading’s core reading foundation. We will next briefly focus on the five primary areas of reading and recommendations from the national reading panel on how to intervene.

    Print Awareness

    Print awareness is described as letter knowledge, knowledge of the text on the page being read from left to right top to bottom etc. (Pullen & Cash, 2011). Print awareness is generally attained through children accessing books with adults.


    I suggest reading Being and Nothingness (Sartre, 1956) to children at an early age so they can begin questioning their existence and hopefully create some heavy neuroses.

    Phonological/Phonemic Awareness

    Phonological awareness, or the ability to associate sounds with written letters, is the foundational skill of reading. According to the National Reading Panel (2000), phonological awareness instruction is not predicated on a more is better attitude. they recommended small group instruction of just a few minutes a day, perhaps 20 hours per school year, is more than adequate to improve the skills. They also suggest that teachers should focus on no more than two strategies to improve the skills. Suggestions include blending to form words, segmenting words and phonemes, adding or deleting phonemes to make new words and substituting phonemes to make new words (Pullen & Cash, 2011).


    Phonics is generally described as the ability to decode print (Pullen & Cash, 2011). As previously discussed, the ability to decode is integral to reading achievement. According to Pullen and Cash, direct instruction of phoneme-grapheme relationships in a set sequence provides practice for the skills, for example using manipulatives. According to the national reading panel, two years of phonics instruction should be enough and can be delivered and a variety of class sizes.

    Remember Willow? Well, it turns out she was identified as gifted in kindergarten, and was in a gifted program for much of her Elementary and middle schooling. Was she actually gifted? That’s debatable. Turns out her mom was a big advocate of marathon sessions utilizing manipulatives (flashcards) from the time she was 18 month old. Thus, by the time Willow was 3 ½ years old, she had a mastery of the alphabetic principle and was able to decode text on second and third grade level.

    Her mom was able to brag to everyone on Facebook how advanced Willow was compared to hersame age peers. However, is highly unlikely that Willow was actually gifted or advanced but was, rather subject to rigorous direct instruction from a very early age, which accounted for her ability to decode better than her same age peers. Unfortunately for Willow and her mom, by about the third and fourth grade her peers caught up, and Willow was burnout.

    This page titled 6.2: Issues Related to Reading is shared under a CC BY-ND license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Mickey Losinski (New Prairie Press/Kansas State University Libraries) .

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