Research in the 'jungle'

29th October 1999 at 01:00
Anyone trying to penetrate the claims of various programmes might agree with the authors of What Works for Slow Readers? The Effectiveness of Early Intervention Schemes that reading research "is a jungle, and quantitative evaluations of early interventions are among its densest thickets". (National Federation for Educational Research pound;8, tel: 01753 574123). Greg Brooks, Nicola Flanagan, Zenta Henkhuzens and Dougal Hutchison take existing evaluations of 20 early intervention programmes (for pupils who are underachieving between Years 1 and 4). Programmes reviewed include Reading Recovery (the largest), the Docklands Learning Acceleration Project, and THRASS (Teaching Handwriting Reading And Spelling Skills) and they are usefully set out in terms of approach, age range, duration, and period of teaching time. Each programme is then described individually and the degree to which they succeed or not is reported.

The range is wide: family literacy, phonologically-based and computer-based approaches, paired reading and education authority programmes.

There are also conclusions that will interest (and perhaps not surprise) teachers and educators. Programmes based on phonological skills are more effective when part of a broader approach; raising children's "self-esteem" as learners is part of helping move them on as readers; computer assisted learning systems are variable in their results.

In Key Stage 2: Helping with Reading Difficulties (National Association for Special Educational Needs pound;8.50, tel: 01827 313005.) Jane Calver, Sandy Ransen and Dorothy Smith establish at the outset that fluent reading requires children to draw on many different kinds of knowledge. They use the words of the influential US academic Marilyn Jager Adams to support their argument that different kinds of knowledge must be activated "interactively and in parallel". Children's phonic and graphic knowledge "must be developed in concert with real reading and real writing and with deliberate reflection of the forms, functions and meaning of texts".

The book develops this theoretical view in a number of practical chapters: an introduction to miscue analysis; approaches which develop the visual, auditory, contextual and motivational aspects of reading; suggestions for patterns of organisation within and outside the literacy hour.

Perhaps more could have been made of the links between children's reading development and their writing. But the book will be certainly be helpful for teachers working in both mainstream and special education.

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