October 17, 2019

6 Research-Based Interventions That Will Improve Your Students' Reading Skills

Ryan Crawley
An image of a young child sitting on a stack of books in the library, reading

There isn’t a more important academic skill for a child to have when entering school than the ability to read. School readiness is a real thing, and the best thing a parent can do for their child entering school for the first time is to make sure they have the basic reading fundamentals down. Early reading ability is directly associated with long-term reading success and overall reading achievement throughout a child’s school years. As such, it’s a wise idea to introduce literacy to children early so they’re not behind the eight-ball when they start their school years.

In order to help struggling readers increase their overall reading skills, research-based interventions may need to be put into place. Below are six research-based interventions that will produce promising results in students if you stick with it long enough.

1. Review Fry’s Instant Sight Words Consistently

When it came to teaching literacy, the Dolch list was once the go-to sight words list of frequently used words in the English language. Today’s updated list, Fry’s instant sight words, represents the most commonly used words in our current society. If a child can master just the first hundred of these words, they will be able to read about 50 percent of all published text. The first 25 words alone make up about one-third of all written material. You can see how knowing these words instantly would help a student of any age.

As an exercise with your students, create a game to be used with the Fry words, or just write them down and use them as flashcards. The student’s reading ability will improve using either method.

2. Repeated Reading

When a student is getting more than 90 percent of the words correctly as they are reading, but their rate is still on the slow side, repeated readings can help. Provide them a short passage at their reading level (one to two hundred words long) and have them read it again and again as you time them. At the one-minute mark each time, check and see how many words they are reading per minute. As they read the same passage and become familiar with it, their fluency rate will improve automatically and their comprehension of the material will get better. By doing repeated readings often enough, their fluency will eventually improve across the board with even new text.

3. Systematic and Sequential Phonics and Decoding

In their Practical Advice for Teachers report, The National Reading Panel emphasized studies that demonstrated phonemic awareness and letter knowledge as the top two predictors on how well a child will learn to read. If a child is able to correctly identify which sounds go with which letters, they can almost sound out any word in the English language. A systematic and sequential phonics and decoding program will provide short 10 to 15-minute lessons for the student every day as they tackle mastering their phonics skills.

4. Increased Independent Reading Time

Reading is just like any other skill: you have to practice to become good at it. If you only give a child five minutes a day to practice their reading skills, they probably aren’t going to blow you away with their achievement. By increasing the amount of time they are independently reading, they have more opportunity to use the strategies they are learning through their other interventions. To put it simply, if you want to get better at something, you have to spend more time doing it.

5. Technology-Assisted Reading

With technology advancing seemingly by the minute, educators and parents have to take advantage of it for academic purposes. There are numerous technology-assisted reading programs in which a child can read along with the words on the screen as they are highlighted and read aloud at the same time. Not only will this greatly improve fluency rates, but it will enhance comprehension as well.

6. Reader’s Theater

Fluency is more than just reading rate. It also involves using proper expression. Reader’s Theater provides students with an opportunity to practice their reading skills while performing. If you want to see a group of young students get excited, break out some reader’s theater scripts and watch them go at it. When you give them a chance to perform and be expressive with their reading, the interest will carry over to all of their reading material.

Helping a child learn to read or trying to improve upon a student’s overall literacy skills will take some time. Success does not happen overnight, so be patient and stick with it. With implementation of literacy learning methods and consistent practice in the upcoming months, you will be astonished at how far they have come along.