Children Differ. This might be the best summary of what the research says about teaching children to read.

Had it ever occurred to you that you don’t like to read hard books?

What was the last hard book you tried to read but finally quit reading because it was just too difficult and not at all enjoyable?  Now ask yourself, Was this book selected by you or was it assigned to you?  Imagine going through life never enjoying any book you read and never reading a book that was easy to read.  That is the situation of too many struggling readers.

Are you surprised that the research says that learning and motivation are higher when tasks can be completed with a high degree of success?  Do you think the teachers in your district would believe that difficult work produces better results?  Try to figure out why anyone would believe that?

Reading with 98 to 99 percent accuracy sounds like easy reading, right?

No adult would continue reading a book they could read only at 98 to 99 percent accuracy.  In a John Grisham novel there are 300 to 400 words per page.  Reading even at 99 percent accuracy would still mean there would be 3 or 4 words on every page you couldn’t pronounce and didn’t know what they meant.  In other words, there would be 75 to 100 words in every chapter that you wouldn’t know.  Have you ever read a book that difficult?

Does your school do a better job of teaching kids to read than it does of developing children who do read?  How would you explain the outcomes your school fosters?

Children Differ. This might be the best summary of what the research says about teaching children to read.  Think of instances where you found a technique or teaching strategy that worked for only one child but it worked really well with that child.  Can you understand why having teachers with big teaching toolboxes – filled with different instructional routines and strategies – is the best hope for achieving the goal of all children reading?

Does your school use commercial test preparation products (workbooks, computer-based drill and practice, etc.)?  Since no research supports the use of these products, how is their use rationalized in your school?

Does it surprise you that schools with fewer poor children (fewer than 25 percent) are ranked among the best schools in the world?  What factors other the wealth explains why some kids do so much better than other in schools?

Think about how much reading your struggling readers do every day.  Is it enough reading practice?  Does the volume of reading your struggling readers do pale in comparison to your better readers?

I strongly recommend the book; What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Research-Based Programs, Third Edition 2012 by Richard L. Allington.  The above questions and more will be confronted in this excellent book.

If we care about all kids learning to read, I think we will want to read this book.




3 thoughts on “Children Differ. This might be the best summary of what the research says about teaching children to read.

  1. mstewart

    This blog makes me think of the amazing efforts of our RAISE trained teacher-leaders. When they model “think-alouds” in class, they are showing their own meta-cognitive process, and allowing themselves to be vulnerable in front of students. When you show students that even the all knowing teachers have words that are challenging, or concepts that are difficult, it can give hope to the students who struggle. We need to show our students that we are all learners, and we ALL struggle with academics, but we push on because the education is valuable.

  2. Kristi Teall

    Accuracy is so important. It amazes me how many professionals don’t feel that way. I was given an activity at one of our Courageous Journey sessions that I will be giving to my District Improvement Team to show the importance of accuracy. The impact will be profound.


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