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This lesson highlights early reading intervention programs designed to support students who are at risk for failure in reading. It also discusses why intervention is important.

Reading Intervention

Reading is the gateway to all learning. Without the development of good reading skills, students are placed at greater risk for academic failure.

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There are three areas in which students may experience difficulties with reading: fluency (or rate and automaticity), decoding (or breaking words into syllables), and comprehension (or understanding what has been read).Early intervention refers to ideas and practices that are used to help struggling students as early as possible so that they experience better outcomes in school. Such interventions can be started as early as preschool, depending on the needs of each child. The key is for parents, teachers, and others who are familiar with a child to act quickly when the child first begins to show signs of difficulty in any developmental area. For the purpose of this lesson, however, the focus will be on early reading intervention.

Why Early Intervention?

Many students enter the classroom with poor reading skills.

A child’s socioeconomic status has been noted as a primary cause of poor reading skill development. Children from poor households tend to have less exposure to reading before they start school. As a result, they’re more likely to know fewer words than children whose families are in the middle class or higher.Research has pointed to early interventions as being the best way to improve the reading skills of students who are struggling. Even before they enter school for the first time, children may start to display problems with skills such as being able to identify the letters in the alphabet, word recognition, and word pronunciation. As the student moves on to the next grade, he or she will continue to show signs of poor reading skills if interventions are not put in place.By third grade, poor readers face a higher probability of experiencing academic failure and will have a harder time trying to catch up with their peers.

Early Intervention Programs

Placing students into reading remediation or labeling them as having a learning disability has not been found to have a significant impact on correcting their reading problems. In fact, much of the evidence points to early intervention as being the best possible method for supporting students who have difficulty when learning to read. There are a few early reading intervention programs that have proven to be effective in helping struggling students become better readers. Three of these programs are Reading Recovery, DIBELS, and the Early Intervention in Reading program.

Reading Recovery

Reading Recovery is an early intervention program created to support students who struggle with learning to read. The Reading Recovery program is made up of three components:

  1. A diagnostic survey
  2. A tutoring session
  3. Training for teachers

After the teacher administers the survey to each student, she or he would use the results from the survey to create individualized tutoring sessions for each student.

Tutoring sessions include explicit reading instruction designed to help students develop the necessary skills to become more capable readers. In addition, teachers are trained throughout the year on how to effectively use the program using research-based practices proven to be effective.


The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) are individually administered measures that test early literacy development. Each measure is designed to regularly monitor the progress of students as they develop their reading skills in the areas of phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

  • Phonemic awareness – how children are able to hear sounds and use sounds to correctly say words
  • Alphabetic principle and phonics – how children know letter sounds and can sound out words that are written
  • Fluency – how children are able to read text without making too many mistakes
  • Vocabulary – how children are able to identify words and their meanings
  • Comprehension- how children understand what they have read or what they have heard

Early Intervention in Reading

The Early Intervention in Reading (EIR) program is designed to help young students who have been identified as being at risk for becoming poor readers.

EIR supports reading development as early as possible so that by the second grade, these at-risk students will be on grade level and will continue to make progress throughout their academic years. Using a balanced literacy approach to reading instruction, the targeted areas for support are phonemic awareness, phonics, word recognition, and reading comprehension.In kindergarten through second grade, students receive most of their instruction in whole groups. Small groups are used to provide additional support for students who continue to struggle. Struggling readers in third and fourth grade receive 20 minutes of small group instruction four days each week.

In addition, EIR stresses ongoing professional development for teachers using face-to-face workshop and online formats.

Lesson Summary

Early intervention is important when addressing the needs of struggling readers. The earlier the intervention process is started, the better chances of positive outcomes for the student. Interventions can begin as early as preschool and should be targeted to address the individual student.

Programs such as Reading Recovery, DIBELS, and Early Intervention in Reading have been used and proven effective for supporting children who have been identified as being at-risk for reading failure.

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