Intensive training benefits poor readers

Children with reading and writing difficulties are likely to benefit more from intensive training held for just a limited period as opposed to more traditional tutor-based approaches. This is the finding of new research from the University of Gothenburg, which showed fluency and reading speed can be significantly boosted through structured exercises.

According to the study, young people who took part in focused training programmes coped better than their peers given the usual remedial tuition in a number of areas, such as spelling, word decoding and reading comprehension.

Ulrika Wolff, Senior Lecturer in Education at the Department of Education and Special Education at the institution - home to around 39,000 students - said academic difficulties can often lead to low self-esteem and poor self-confidence in children.

Ms Wolff observed it is important to take action regarding such problems sooner rather than later, adding: "Structured and individual teaching meant that these children made significant progress."

Professor Maggie Snowling from the University of York, Chartered Psychologist and Fellow of the British Psychological Society, commented: "In this paper, Wolff reports the findings of a robust randomized controlled trial (RCT) showing that a 12-week, daily intervention delivered one-to-one, can improve the reading and spelling skills of 3rd grade students with reading difficulties.

"The intervention contained the key ingredients of all effective early reading intervention programmes – training in phoneme awareness linked with phonic decoding strategies and reading from texts to promote fluency and to develop reading comprehension strategies.

"Importantly, gains in phoneme awareness at the end of the intervention partly accounted for subsequent progress in reading and spelling a year later, suggestive of a causal link between the ability to manipulate phonemes and progress in literacy.

"While the present study was conducted in Swedish (a more regular language than English), the findings and their implications concur with those of the Rose Review (2009) on teaching of children with dyslexia.

"A final note of caution - although phoneme awareness contributed to gains in reading comprehension and spelling, this was not the whole story.

"It is likely that other language abilities, such as vocabulary, grammar and morphological awareness played a role in boosting these skills – underlining the importance of training phonics in the context of a rich linguistic environment."