How Reading Remediation Can Help Struggling Readers
No one is born knowing how to read. While some individuals may have a genetic predisposition that makes it easier for them to learn, reading is a skill that requires explicit instruction and practice.
The act itself involves a complex set of cognitive processes, including phonological awareness (the ability to identify and manipulate sounds in spoken language), decoding (the ability to recognize and sound out written words), fluency (the ability to read with speed, accuracy, and expression), and comprehension (the ability to understand and interpret written text).
While we might have a natural aptitude for one or more of these processes, all of them can be taught and improved. For example, phonics instruction can help students learn to recognize the sounds associated with letters and letter combinations, while fluency practice can help students read more quickly and with greater understanding.
It isn’t uncommon for some students to find reading more challenging than their peers. In fact, a 2018 report from the Canadian Council on Learning found that more than 40% of adults lack the literacy skills needed to thrive in our knowledge-based economy, and have a hard time reading instructions, filling out job applications, understanding health information, consuming news articles, or using technology effectively.
These individuals might enjoy being read to but will avoid reading on their own. They will often resort to memorizing whole words, a strategy known as “compensating,” but this approach slows comprehension and limits vocabulary acquisition. Reading difficulties can be related to a variety of factors, such as learning disabilities, lack of exposure to written language, language barriers, or limited access to high-quality reading instruction. The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused significant disruptions to the delivery of special education and support services and increased anxiety and stress levels for many learners, affecting their ability to maintain progress in reading and other academic skills. In these cases, remediation can be highly effective.
“Reading proficiency is the foundation for all academic learning,” said Jim Shelton, former deputy secretary of education in the Obama presidential administration. “If students are not reading at grade level by third grade, they are more likely to fall behind in other subjects and not graduate from high school.”
A study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 2013 found that adults with low literacy skills in Canada earn on average 55% less than those with higher literacy skills. Another study by the Conference Board of Canada in 2017 found that workers with low literacy skills in Canada earn on average 33% less than those with higher literacy skills. These statistics highlight the persistent and detrimental impact of low literacy skills on individuals' earning potential and overall economic well-being.
What Is Reading Remediation?
Reading remediation is a specialized educational approach designed to help underperforming readers improve their skills through individualized instruction that tackles specific areas of difficulty through targeted teaching, practice, and support.
The process typically involves a comprehensive assessment of the student's reading abilities, including an evaluation of their decoding skills, fluency, comprehension, and language skills. Based on the assessment results, a reading remediation specialist will develop a customized remediation plan that addresses the student's specific needs. This may include a variety of instructional methods, such as phonics, sight word recognition, fluency practice, vocabulary development and comprehension strategies. The approach may also include the use of assistive technology, such as text-to-speech software or audiobooks, to help beginning readers access written material.
At Evoke, we use effective research-validated reading intervention approaches based on the science of reading. Our reading remediation program can make significant improvements through direct instruction and training to correct a student’s deficits and undo inefficient word recognition habits. Using proven instructional principles, Evoke’s intervention approaches directly address word-level reading difficulties, train the skills that promote orthographic mapping (the process students use to become fluent readers), and ensure that the student’s learning transfers to the general application of skills. Student progress is measured using standardized assessments administered by a professional speech-language pathologist to determine the success of the interventions.
The Rewards of Remediation
Reading is a critical skill that forms the foundation of learning in all subjects. Students who struggle with reading may have difficulty understanding math word problems, science texts, or historical documents. This can lead to frustration, disengagement, and underachievement. They may also experience behaviour problems and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem or experience social isolation. By addressing reading skill gaps early on, students become better equipped to access and understand academic content in all subjects and avoid these negative outcomes.
Moreover, addressing reading skill gaps creates a more equitable learning environment. Students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds may not have had the same opportunities to develop their reading skills as their more privileged peers. By providing targeted reading remediation, educators can level the playing field and ensure that all students have the tools they need to succeed academically.
According to Dr. Janette Pelletier, professor of applied psychology and human development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. “Reading remediation is critical for students who struggle with literacy skills. It is essential to provide targeted interventions and support to ensure that all students have the skills they need to succeed academically and in life.”
The benefits of reading remediation are manifold. Students who develop stronger reading skills do more than learn to read more effectively and efficiently. They also experience increased self-confidence and well-being, improved social skills, better academic testing results, a wider range of career opportunities, and higher earning potential.
People who are having difficulty reading effectively are often embarrassed to admit it, but there’s no shame in asking for help. It’s like learning to swim or speak a new language—guidance and practice make all the difference. If you or someone you know is struggling with reading despite years of trying and failing, give us a call. Our reading remediation specialists are helping students improve their reading skills every day and watching them succeed and thrive in their academic and personal lives.