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Intensive Reading Programs - Why so intense?

When you're looking to help your dyslexic child get better at reading, you might wonder why those reading clinics push for a strict 5-day-a-week schedule. Why all the focus on intensity? And why are reading experts all about the fast-track approach instead of taking things slow? Let's dig into what the research has to say about this!


As you likely already know, reading difficulties in early elementary school can have long-lasting impacts on a child's academic and personal development. But intensive reading interventions, particularly those implemented during summer, have shown to be highly effective in improving reading abilities for children with reading disabilities. A key study titled "Impact of Intensive Summer Reading Intervention for Children with Reading Disabilities and Difficulties in Early Elementary School" supports the evidence for and clinical push for this approach.


 

Let's take a quick look at the study:

The study conducted by Christodoulou et al. (2017) evaluated the efficacy of the Lindamood-Bell's "Seeing Stars" program, an intensive reading intervention administered during the nonacademic summer months. The study involved 47 children aged 6-9 who were randomly assigned to either the intervention group or a control group. The intervention was conducted over six weeks, with students participating five days a week for four hours each day, amounting to approximately 100-120 hours of instruction per student.


The results of the study were significant and highlighted the effectiveness of the intensive summer intervention:


 

1. Improvement in Reading Skills:

The first reason, is perhaps the most important. Simply put, it works! Intensive reading intervention has been shown to improve core reading skills for children with dyslexia.

The intervention group showed significant improvements in:

  • Word reading

  • Decoding

  • Nonsense word reading

  • Sight word knowledge

  • Spelling

  • Fluency

For example, on the Woodcock Reading Mastery Test-Revised (WRMT-R) Word Attack Subtest, the intervention group had a mean score of 88.09 compared to 79.04 in the control group. Similarly, significant gains were observed in the Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE-2) Phonemic Decoding Efficiency Subtest and the Symbol Imagery Test.





2. Less Review, Less Regression, Better retention:

Dyslexic reading programs require lots of repetition and a carefully planned curriculumn. When teaching reading, skills build off of eachother and overlap, forming new connections in the brain. Any break in lessons impacts the ability of the child to "rewire" their brain's processing, slowing down the entire program and ultimately impacting it's effectiveness. One of the notable findings in the intensive study was that children in the control group, who did not receive the intervention, exhibited a decline in their reading abilities over the summer. In contrast, children who participated in the "Seeing Stars" program either maintained or improved their reading skills. This underscores the importance of continuous learning and the risk of regression in reading skills during the summer break.





3. Catch up to peers more quickly:

When creating a reading intervention schedule, it's important to remember that a struggling child is aiming to catch up with a constantly advancing standard. As time progresses, the educational requirements and knowledge deepen. By stretching out their reading program over 6-12 months, the child's objectives keep changing, making the program more extensive and demanding. However, completing the program within a concentrated 6-10 week period allows them to rapidly bridge the gap, preventing them from falling further behind in essential reading skills taught at school.




4. Automaticity:

The intesive schedule isn't just about completing the program quickly– it provides the perfect environment for long-term mastery of skill. Picture this: one session after another, all perfectly connected to help students really nail down those essential skills and concepts. This continuous reinforcement isn't just about memorizing stuff; it's about automating responses so that understanding becomes second nature. By practicing and repeating within a tight timeframe, students can absorb the material like sponges, making it stick better and empowering them to apply what they've learned. This seamless blend of core skills in the intensive schedule creates a nurturing environment where students can excel in their reading development and build a rock-solid foundation for whatever comes next.


 

Conclusion

Intensive summer reading programs are a valuable resource for children with reading disabilities. By offering structured support and targeted interventions, these programs help mitigate the challenges faced during the summer months. It is imperative for educators and parents to consider the benefits of such programs in enhancing the reading skills and overall academic success of children with reading disabilities.


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