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Two-Week Reading Remediation Success


Q. I feel a lot of pressure to help my second-grader get better and faster at reading, and in a hurry. We can't wait until third grade, or later! We need help now, and we need it fast.

Children who struggle with reading can make dramatic progress in just two weeks when they are given traditional, phonics-based lessons, according to a report from the think tank, Civitas. The findings suggest that it would be wise to hold summer "boot camps" giving young readers supplementary lessons in traditional phonics-based reading instruction to bring them up to speed.

The study showed that primary school pupils in Great Britain increased their reading ages by nearly two years in as many weeks when they were given intensive "synthetic phonics" lessons. (That's the Brits' term for systematic, intensive, explicit phonics instruction.)


The back-to-basics method involves teaching the letter sounds of English and how to blend them together to work out unfamiliar words. Civitas said phonics had the potential to end what it called the "apartheid" between the educational haves and have-nots.


It said thousands of children had been consigned to the educational scrapheap by the failed reading schemes promoted in schools over the past decade.


Synthetic phonics was made compulsory in British schools when results from Scotland showed that it can transform literacy standards.


For the research, Civitas held a summer "supplementary school" with the help of charitable donations. Its pupils were 15 children between six and eight, all from disadvantaged areas. Many had already fallen behind in their reading. The youngsters were given intensive lessons in synthetic phonics for two weeks. The average improvement in reading age was one year and nine months.


The Civitas report said the technique should also be used with older children who are slow readers. Anastasia de Waal, head of family and education at Civitas, said: "Teaching children to read via synthetic phonics can bridge the gap between those from disadvantaged and advantaged homes like no other method."


Her report goes on to say: "Weak reading lies at the heart of the educational apartheid between the advantaged and the disadvantaged, and of England's low social mobility.


"The inability to read properly is the single greatest handicap to progress in school and adult life.

"Poor achievement, related poor behaviour in secondary schools and the vast increase in the number of young people not in education, employment or training connect directly to poor literacy teaching at primary school level."


Homework: See the Civitas website, and note their supplementary schools for after-school and weekend sessions:


By Susan Darst Williams Reading 16 2008


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