If children are at risk for reading difficulties, it's easy for them to fall behind given the pace and amount of learning required in school, says Texas A&M University professor Deborah Simmons.
"It's really difficult to catch a moving target, and that's what is happening in the early grades for at-risk students," says Simmons, professor of special education in the College of Education and Human Development. "The curriculum is pretty aggressive, so children who fall behind early often find themselves unable to keep pace."
Fortunately, the majority of schools now offer reading interventions for kindergarteners to head off the development of future reading problems.
Simmons and seven other Texas A&M researchers collaborated with faculty from the University of Connecticut on a study recently published in the journal Exceptional Children.
The researchers compared the efficacy of two reading interventions — a commercial program called Early Reading Intervention (ERI) and a typical school-designed intervention program. In the study, 206 children in Texas and Connecticut received reading intervention practice sessions for 30 minutes per day for approximately 100 sessions.
"What we found was both groups — the school-designed intervention and ERI — did really well by the end of kindergarten," Simmons says.
"Both reading interventions brought the majority of children up to reading levels that positioned them to be successful in later grades."
"However, we found that ERI was more beneficial for the children most at risk," she adds.
Simmons speculates that ERI provides these at-risk students with the organized instruction, practice and integration of important skills they need to be successful readers. "ERI has a great deal of teacher modeling and opportunities for children to respond frequently and get teacher feedback," she says. "Its sequence of lessons offers activities that build on one another and is designed for students to be successful."