Caveat Emptor: Buyer (parent, teacher or school) Beware!
”There is an established, and very rewarding, dyslexia industry. There is considerable academic and commercial vested interest. There seem to be as many aetiologies for (causes for or origins of) dyslexia as there are researchers into it, give or take, and as many wonderfully special assessment methods, remedial schemes, dedicated schools and distinguished gurus as the market will carry” (Kerr p89)
(EEF) = researched by the state-funded Education Endowment Foundation
Controversial dyslexia therapies
”Behavioral optometry claims to treat a wide range of disorders, including learning difficulty and attention problems. But these claims are not based on solid scientific ground, and are not supported by rigorous evidence”
Behavioural Optometry: Not Recommended.
American Academy of Pediatrics: Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision.
– ”Vision problems can interfere with the process of learning; however, vision problems are not the cause of primary dyslexia or learning disabilities…Diagnostic and treatment approaches that lack scientific evidence of efficacy, including eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses, are not endorsed and should not be recommended.”
– ”It is important, therefore, that parents understand that dyslexia and other learning disabilities are not disorders of vision and so visual therapy is misdirected. Scientific evidence shows that behavioural optometry treatments such as eye-tracking exercises, vision therapy, weak glasses to relax the focus, and coloured lenses/overlays do not help children read any better.”
– “Despite Irlen Syndrome being first described in the early 1980s, there is still no sound theoretical basis or evidence that the condition actually exists. A diagnosis of Irlen Syndrome is based solely on symptoms with no quantitative physiological correlation.”
Questioning the benefits that coloured overlays can have for reading…
”Teams from Bristol and Newcastle universities carried out eye tests on more than 5,800 children and did not find any differences in the vision of those with dyslexia…Where there were dyslexic children with eye problems, the occurrence was no more likely than for non-dyslexics, the study found. And a large majority of dyslexic children were defined as having “perfect vision”
The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of coloured filters for reading disability: A systematic review
Papering Over the Reading Gap. James Murphy:
”Terms like visual stress, scotopic sensitivity syndrome & visual processing difficulties sound technical, but apart from most people being unable to say precisely what they mean, there’s also no evidence that they exist.”
”There are a lot of abnormalities of the eyes that normal readers have as well, so tinted lenses and overlays have no foundation as a bona fide treatment for reading problems in any research that I’m aware of.”
(Prof. Vellutino quoted in Mills. The Dyslexia Myth)
”(T)here is no evidence supporting a causal link between visual stress and dyslexia…assessment of visual stress and response to treatment is usually by subjective report”
(Rose 2009. p115)
Primary Movement Project:
Dr Martin McPhillips. http://www.primarymovement.org/background/index.html (*EEF?)
”A unique movement programme which seeks to replicate the early movements of the fetus and to enhance the maturation of the central nervous system”
”The exercise programme, which 1,400 pupils will participate in, has been funded by the government-backed Education Endowment Foundation*”
The 10-minute routines of controlled movements, likened to t’ai chi by one teacher, will be introduced at 40 primary schools to train pupils out of reflexes in their bodies that can hamper their reading and writing”
Son of Brain Gym: Dancing to Nursery Rhymes Boosts A-Levels or something
*There is no mention of this programme on the EEF’s page of completed research projects.
According to the INPP ”Primitive reflexes develop during uterine life. They should be fully present at birth and are gradually inhibited by higher centres in the brain during the first 6 to12 months of post-natal life. If they are activated by minor stimuli in the environment at a later age, they can interfere with the development of more complex skills.”
Quack Watch examines Doman and Delacato’s ‘patterning’ theory.
Psychomotor Patterning =pseudoscience
”(I)t is still a concern that there has been a failure on the part of advocates of primitive reflex therapy to establish any convincing connection between infant motor reflexes and the complex process of learning to read” (Muter p 181)
Dore (formerly DDAT):
‘Bad Science’ on Dore
Miracles Take a Little Longer: Science, Commercialisation, Cures and the Dore Program
Omega Fish Oils:
New research has found no evidence that Omega-3 fish oil supplements help aid or improve the reading ability or memory function of underperforming schoolchildren.
STEP Physical Literacy:
The STEP Physical Literacy programme: have we been here before?
Rhythm for Reading:
”A group reading intervention programme for 5 to 15 year olds that uniquely doesn’t use words!”
The programme ”aims to improve children’s reading ability by taking part in rhythm-based exercises such as stamping, clapping and chanting, while reading musical notation”
It enables ”teachers to accelerate students’ phonological processing, reading accuracy, fluency, engagement and comprehension”
”(R)esearched in a five year study at UCL Institute of Education”
GraphoGame Rime project:
”A computer programme designed to improve pupils’ literacy through teaching phonics via “rhyme analogy”, based on Goswami’s rhythm and rhyme theory. ”The trial found no evidence that GraphoGame Rime improves pupils’ reading or spelling test scores when compared to business-as-usual.”
Notes on three ‘phonics-lite’ intervention programmes with some characteristics in common + four cautions:
1. Optima Reading Programme (formerly Early Reading Research (ERR) and ‘KRM’):
– Only so-called real books are used for word reading practice- see Solity & Vousden’s paper + caution 1.
– 100 high frequency words (HFWs) to be “taught as whole words with no reference to any phonemes within the words” (Shapiro and Solity, 2008) – see caution 2.
– Only 64 ”most common GPC mappings” directly taught using monosyllabic words – see caution 3.
”Optima Reading not validated by DfE as an SSP prog. It teaches reading through a range of strategies (including SSP) from the very beginning. Doesn’t define itself as an SSP prog or ‘promote phonics only to reading unknown words before comprehension strategies’.’’ (J. Solity. Twitter)
”(A) novel intervention that teaches reading through systematic synthetic phonics and real books, rather than the more traditional phonically decodable reading schemes.” (italics added)
Real books vs reading schemes: A new perspective from instructional psychology: J Solity, J Vousden. 2009.
Free download https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233478739_Real_books_vs_reading_schemes_a_new_perspective_from_instructional_psychology
p477. ”The research reported in this article therefore examines a sample of adult literature and children’s real books together with two reading schemes, the Oxford Reading Tree and Rhyme World, to explore their similarities and differences, and thus suitability for use with beginning readers.”
2. Abracadabra (ABRA):
(EEF funded twice) https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects-and-evaluation/projects/abracadabra-abra/
ABRA website: https://literacy.concordia.ca/resources/abra/parent/en/ ”A Balanced Reading Approach”
A small group intervention programme to improve literacy in Y1 pupils.
”It is intended to be additional to usual literacy teaching”
N.B in the original Canadian research, the ”usual literacy teaching” would have been balanced literacy (multi-cueing), not UK-style SSP.
– Only ‘real’ books are used for word reading practice – see Solity & Vousden’s paper + caution 1.
– Only 64 ”most common GPC mappings” directly taught using monosyllabic words -see caution 3.
– ‘Set for variability’ is used from the start – see caution 4.
3. Flexible Phonics with DMSfV (Direct Mapping and Set for Variability):
Developed by UCL Institute of Education. Led by Prof. Robert Savage.
N.B in the original Canadian research, it was used as an intervention with some children, not ”additional to” for all children, and the ”usual literacy teaching” would have been a balanced word reading (multi-cueing) approach, not UK-style SSP.
– Only ‘real’ books are used for word reading practice – see Solity & Vousden’s article + caution 1.
– Only 64 ”most common GPC mappings” directly taught using monosyllabic words -see caution 3.
– ‘Set for variability’ is used from the start – see caution 4.
When examining an intervention programme that expects children to use so-called real books for word reading practice, based on the qualitative research described in the ‘Real books vs Reading schemes’ article, it’s important to note that Oxford Reading Tree’s classic Biff, Chip & Kipper books and Rhyme World books, though described by Solity and Vousden as ”traditional phonically decodable reading schemes”, are actually levelled text reading schemes requiring word guessing and whole word memorisation. They are not UK-style SSP programme-linked, fully decodable book schemes as now required by the DfE (see below).
When early reading or a reading intervention is taught using high-quality phonics along with SSP fully decodable books, children quickly become able to move on to reading ‘real’ books independently, bypassing the dull and repetitive, ‘designed for guessing’ levelled text reading schemes.
In England, the DfE provide the following guidance on the essential core criteria for phonics programmes:
”The texts and books children are asked to read independently should be fully decodable for them at every stage of the programme. This means they must be composed almost entirely of words made up of grapheme-phoneme correspondences that a child has learned up to that point. The only exceptions should be a small number of common exception words that the child has learned as part of the programme up to that point. In the early stages, even these should be kept to a minimum” (2021. DfE phonics programmes essential core criteria ) – and common exception words (HFWs with unusual GPCs) are not to be learned ”as whole shapes ‘by sight” (DfE) see below.
”The 100 most frequently occurring words in 1,500 real books account for 54% of text”.
Monique Nowers’ ‘Sight Words’ article https://howtoteachreading.org.uk/sight-words/
”The problem with teaching sight words as if they are a separate class of words is, first of all, it leads to confusion and secondly, it is likely to have a long-term, detrimental effect on a substantial proportion of your most vulnerable readers. It is confusing because children need to have one, just one, ‘word-attack’ strategy and that is to use their phonic knowledge to decode a word all the way through from left to right. The reason they should be taught this strategy is simply because it is the correct one; it is the one that represents how English works and is the one that will enable them to become the best reader they can be.”
In England, the DfE say that validated phonics programmes must not include the memorising of any words by sight alone: ”It should not include lists of high frequency words or any other words for children to learn as whole shapes ‘by sight’’ (2021. DfE phonics programmes essential core criteria)
”Recent research https://bit.ly/2H4IRUY shows frequency of GPCs in real books reflects Pareto’s Law. Just 20 GPCs enable pupils to read 81% of phonically regular words (PRWs).”
PRWs = words that consist of transparent code spellings. The 64 most common GPC mappings = 90% of spellings in monosyllabic words.
Directly and systematically teaching all or most of the 176 common GPCs (basic and advanced code spellings), along with how to read and spell multi-syllable words, ensures that virtually every child is enabled to accurately decode around 90% of all the words in print they might meet over a lifetime, including the much less common (Tier 3 vocabulary), usually multi-syllable words found in the secondary curriculum. ”(T)hough the words that are used most often are only one syllable long” (D. McGuinness. p291 WCCR), at least 80% of words in the English language are multi-syllabic.
Set for Variability (SfV)/phoneme manipulation:
On the subject of using context to help choose the correct GPC in a word, the DfE requires phonics programmes to ”promote the use of phonics as the route to reading unknown words, before any subsequent comprehension strategies are applied.”
Using ‘real’ books (uncontrolled spellings) from the outset, whilst having little knowledge of the code, inevitably leads many beginning or struggling readers to guess when they encounter words that require both knowledge of the common GPCs and the ability to flip them in and out (phoneme manipulation) of the word to see which one makes sense in context.
”When reading, if pupils aren’t sure, they try the alternatives. However, someone has to teach them the alternatives before they can do this…the pupil will also have to be skilful in taking sounds out of words and dropping in alternatives to ‘try them out” (John Walker)
Dyslexia Action’s Units of Sound:
”From the collected data, neither outcome (reading or spelling ability) showed a significant impact of the intervention on students compared to control students’ achievement.
Headsprout Early Reading:
A computer-based, targeted reading intervention.
”Headsprout is not SSP. It’s a US programme that teaches consonant blends/onset and rime phonics. It should be researched against a UK validated SSP programme/intervention” (Rob Randel. Primary Teacher)
See Headsprout’s ‘Scope and Sequence’ below
For research negating ‘onset and rime phonics’, scroll down to the heading ‘Onset and Rime / Rhyming Analogy Word Reading’ Balanced Approach to Word Reading
In England, the DfE’s new essential core criteria for phonics programmes includes, ”The focus should be on phonemes and not on ‘consonant clusters’ (/s/+/p/+/l/ not /spl/) or ‘onset and rime’ (/c/+/a/+/t/ not c-at, m-at, b-at)”
YouTube video clips https://youtube.com/c/nessy/videos indicate that Nessy is an O-G programme (see O-G below) plus ‘onset and rime phonics’ (see Headsprout above). Activities include- words within words: ”pie in piece”; rimes: ing ang ong…; onsets: thr shr spr spl..; rhyming words: g-ate r-ate h-ate…; mnemonics: ”busy on the bus”; syllable types – six rules; ‘silent’ letters; magic <e>; and that dyslexics are clever and creative people like Branson and Einstein…
Davis® Dyslexia Correction Programme:
”The Davis® Dyslexia Correction Programme was developed by Ronald Davis to overcome his own learning difficulties. Davis sees dyslexia as a talent…The Programme helps the individual to discover his innate gift, and to apply it to the learning difficulty. In this way the blockages to effective learning are removed. Clients are shown how to clear up confusions regarding letters, numbers, words and language symbols and are aided in the process by the use of clay”
Blog post discussing the Davis® Dyslexia Correction Program
The MUSEC verdict: Not Recommended
Words Their Way:
Orton-Gillingham (O-G) / Structured Literacy Programs / Specialist Dyslexia Programmes (UK)
The International Dyslexia Association (IDA: formerly the Orton Dyslexia Society) is the umbrella organisation for Orton-Gillingham teaching programs in the USA. The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) is its UK partner.
In a past article on the IDA’s website requesting donations to carry out research, the IDA admitted that ”(T)here is no substantial body of scientific research supporting the efficacy of the multisensory component in structured-language reading instruction”. In the same article, the IDA acknowledged that, in an ”era of evidence-based instruction, citing clinical intuition and testimony may not suffice, even when authoritative and compelling” and, as a result, they risked ”criticism of the sort directed at whole-language and other unfounded or discredited approaches”.
In 2014, the IDA decided to start using the ‘Structured Literacy’ label for marketing purposes:
”The term “Structured Literacy” is not designed to replace Orton Gillingham, Multi-Sensory, or other terms in common use. It is an umbrella term designed to describe all of the programs that teach reading in essentially the same way. In our marketing, this term will help us simplify our message and connect our successes. “Structured Literacy” will help us sell what we do so well.” (bold in original)
The inadequacy of O-G teaching was confirmed in Singleton’s 2009 Dyslexia Review: ”Brooks (2007) has described ratio gains of between 1.4 and 2.0 as having ‘small impact’ and being ‘of modest educational significance’; ratio gains less than 1.4 he classes as being of ‘very small impact’ and ‘of doubtful educational significance’. On this basis, all the results reported from studies in UK specialist [dyslexia] schools and teaching centres would be regarded as disappointing (or even disregarded altogether) since the largest ratio gain was only 2.0 (except at Moon Hall School) [which uses a linguistic phonics programme]” (Singleton p74)
In 2006, Ritchey & Goeke published a review of the literature of O-G based instruction. They argued that these types of programs are simply accepted from one convinced educator to the next, rather than on empirical evidence. They described its ready acceptance as “fueled by anecdotal evidence and personal experience. … Despite widespread use by teachers in a variety of settings for more than 5 decades, O-G instruction has yet to be comprehensively studied and reported in peer-refereed journals. The small number of existing studies lack methodological rigour that would be required for publication in current peer-refereed journals…There is insufficient evidence to conclude that OG and OG-based reading instruction meet the requirements of scientifically-based reading instruction.” (p. 172, 182)
2021. ‘Current State of the Evidence: Examining the Effects of Orton-Gillingham Reading Interventions for Students With or at Risk for Word-Level Reading Disabilities’
”We conducted a meta-analysis to examine the effects of Orton-Gillingham reading interventions on the reading outcomes of students with or at risk for WLRD. Findings suggested Orton-Gillingham reading interventions do not statistically significantly improve foundational skill outcomes (i.e., phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, spelling…Similarly, there were not significant differences for vocabulary and comprehension outcomes (ES = 0.14; p = .57) for students with or at risk for WLRD.”
LETRS. A research roundup 2022: ”Language Essentials for Teaching Reading and Spelling (LETRS) is an IDA-accredited professional development program” https://www.teachingbyscience.com/letrs
1977. Canney & Schreiner. A study of the effectiveness of selected syllabication rules and phonogram patterns for word attack. ”No relationship exists between knowledge of syllabification rules and successful reading”
1981. Greif. The Utility of the “Vowels in Open Syllable” and “Vowels in Closed Syllable” Phonic Rules When Pronouncing Two-Syllable Words:
”Results indicated that [only] 44.9% of the open syllable words and 56% of the closed syllable words could be pronounced correctly…the utility of the two phonics rules is probably considerably lower than the percentages reported, and the rules should not be taught to children.”
2020. Does English Have Useful Syllable Division Patterns?
”Programs for teaching English reading, especially for students with dyslexia, and educational practice standards often recommend instruction on dividing polysyllabic words into syllables. Syllable division is effort intensive and could inhibit fluency when reading in text. The division strategies might still be useful if they work so consistently that they will help students decode most unfamiliar polysyllabic words. No study of the English lexicon has confirmed that the pattern is highly consistent.” https://ila.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/rrq.342
”Students don’t need to know syllable types or rules and should stay right away from dictionary syllables.” https://thatspellingthing.com/syllables-and-spelling/
Commercial software for the acquisition of reading skills:
A randomised controlled trial of the use of a piece of commercial software for the acquisition of reading skills: One of many actual trials showing that technology does not improve and often harms attainment.
”(T)he software approach yields no relative advantage for improvements, and may even disadvantage some pupils. On this evidence, the use of software, of a kind that is in very common use across schools in England, was a waste of resource”
Reading Recovery (RR):
Reading Recovery is a 1-1 (Wave 3) intervention programme that uses ”word memorisation and other teaching practices from the ‘whole language theory of reading” (UK Parliament. Science & Technology Committee). It is taught by extensively (and very expensively) trained teachers and used with a very narrow age group- children in Y1. Note that, ”teacher judgement of need determines entry to the programme” (Rose 2009 p63). In an article for the Independent, National Co-ordinator for RR, Julia Douetil, claimed that “These are children for whom, for some reason, phonics hasn’t worked” (Independent 30/10/08).
”Reading Recovery is ”a multi-cueing, non-systematic approach”
(Sir Jim Rose. SPELD conference. Australia)
Over the course of a year, the school’s RR teacher will give a handful of children individual tutoring for half an hour daily; around 90-100 sessions for each child. Despite this massive input, a significant number (RR’s own figures say 23%) of children are failed by the programme and are ”referred on” i.e. need further intervention. Because of the extremely high cost of implementing Reading Recovery, many cheaper copies have appeared (cheaper because they can be used with TA-led small groups rather than an RR-trained teacher 1-1) which are based on exactly the same principles -see below.
Karina McLachlain’s letter about Reading Recovery appeared in the LDA Bulletin in May 2014. p40.
”The scheme does not have high aspirations. It is only intended to bring the poorest readers up to ‘average’ for their class. In order to make the scheme look more effective than it is, in practice, the RR teacher in the UK does not select children for the scheme if they have any sort of learning difficulties and those who make no progress are discontinued from the scheme early and eliminated from the stats as if they never took part.”
Dr Singleton was a key contributor to the now archived, DfE-commissioned, 2009 Rose Report on Dyslexia. On the subject of Reading Recovery, he said: ”Only 12%–15% of Reading Recovery children completing their programmes between 2003 and 2007 achieved a Level 2a or above in Key Stage 1 Reading National Curriculum assessments, the level at which children can tackle unfamiliar words and have therefore developed a self-sustaining word recognition system” (Singleton 2009 p11)
Singleton also pointed out that Reading Recovery measured children’s progress using the BAS-II word reading test: RA 6.7 ”was the average reading age of only those children who responded well to Reading Recovery”. Singleton noted that a child can achieve a RA of 6.7 on BAS-II ”with knowledge of only a few words” as ”only 21 words on the test have to be read correctly, which can be easily achieved by a child who has memorised some very high frequency words (e.g. the, up, you, at, said, out) and knows and can use single letter sounds, plus the simple digraphs ‘sh’ and ‘th” (Singleton p117)
”Many ways of teaching reading rely on children learning to ‘sound out’ words they don’t know, but in Reading Recovery we are sceptical of the usefulness of this approach”
(UK RR’s Running Record newsletter Dec. ’04 p8)
In 2002, ”a letter** was sent to members of the U.S. Congress with 31 signatures of the top researchers in the field of reading urging Congress to suspend support for RR because independent research showed the method had no effect. It is extremely costly to implement, re. teacher training, tutoring time, and materials. Not only this, but RR “research” is notorious for misrepresenting the data. In a recent publication by the Institute of Education, the same problems appear. 1. Nearly half of the children from the 145-strong “RR-tutoring group” were dropped from the study at post-testing, while the control group remained intact. (Barely a mention of this, and no attempt to solve the problem this creates.) 2. The RR group received individual tutoring, the control group got none. One could go on. The published paper bears the hallmarks of a bona fide “scientific” journal, until a closer inspection reveals it is published by Reading Recovery. No chance for an impartial peer-review process here.”
(D. McGuinness. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmsctech/memo/evchlint/me1302.htm)
** 2002 letter from top researchers ”urging Congress to suspend support for RR because independent research showed the method had no effect.
Two positive reports on Reading Recovery® (RR), produced by the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC),
are often used to claim that RR is an effective intervention. Professors James W. Chapman and William E. Tunmer examined the claims: Reading Recovery®: Does It Work?
”Conclusions: Changes in the instructional approach of RR have simply not kept pace with contemporary scientific research. As Church (2005) noted in a comprehensive review of research on accelerating reading development in low achieving children, RR was designed in the 1970s prior to most of the modern research into how children learn to read. Not surprisingly, therefore, it lacks a number of elements which have been found by research to be essential in teaching low achieving children how to read. The most notable omissions are the failure to assess phonemic awareness, decoding fluency, or reading fluency, and the failure to provide systematic instruction and practice on phonemic awareness, decoding fluency and reading fluency to those students who are lacking in these kinds of skills. These are major shortcomings. (p.13)”
This article was published in the International Dyslexia Association’s Journal ‘Perspectives on Language and Literacy’ Fall 2011.
Parliament’s all-party Science and Technology Committee questioned the continued use of Reading Recovery:
2009. Evidence Check on Early Literacy Interventions
Having checked all the evidence, the committee said:
”Teaching children to read is one of the most important things the State does. The Government has accepted Sir Jim Rose’s recommendation that systematic phonics should be at the heart of the Government’s strategy for teaching children to read. This is in conflict with the continuing practice of word memorisation and other teaching practices from the ‘whole language theory of reading’ used particularly in Wave 3 Reading Recovery. The Government should vigorously review these practices with the objective of ensuring that Reading Recovery complies with its policy”
RRF’s response to Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee. Evidence Check on Early Literacy Interventions.
Despite RR being incompatible with the 2006 Rose review’s recommendations and despite their promise to implement the review’s recommendations in full, inexplicably, the then Department for Children, Schools and Families (now DfE) continued to encourage and fund schools to use RR as a Wave 3 intervention for Y1 children and recommended that they ‘layer’ RR with a range of other RR derivatives, all found under the Every Child a Reader (ECAR) mantle. In this way, the DCSF continued to endorse whole language and effectively ensured that the multi-cueing word-guessing strategies became deeply embedded in most schools.
2020. “Look at the picture”: cognitive load theory and Reading Recovery
Using cognitive load theory, this article seeks to explain the failure of Reading Recovery as an effective instructional technique.
In a 2020 update to its guidance for ‘Improving Literacy in Key Stage One’, the state-funded Education Endowment Foundation openly recommended using Reading Recovery (RR) as a KS1 intervention, despite it being ”a multi-cueing, non-systematic approach” (Sir Jim Rose).
To support their recommendation, the EEF said RR ”is highlighted by the EIF guidebook for the positive impacts found in several high-quality evaluations conducted in America”
Professor James Chapman commented on each of the RR evaluations used by the EIF guidebook. He wrote:
”Study 1, by Schwartz only includes assessments from Clay’s Observation Survey plus reading book level. No standardised assessments were used, which has often drawn criticism by researchers who have examined RR.
– Study 2, by May et al. was a large study funded mainly by Obama’s i3 stimulus fund following the global financial crisis. Bill Tunmer and I published a critique of the study in the US journal, Reading Psychology. In essence, this study had no proper control group, but a variety of comparison conditions; in violation of RR guidelines and Marie Clay’s explicit recommendation, various schools in the study did not put their “hardest to teach” (Clay) students into the programme, presumably because they didn’t think RR would do any good; the “success” rate was only 53%.
Interesting that Study 1 & 2 received a rating of 3 out of 4. Those who provided the ratings might need to take a graduate-level research methods course.
– Study 3 by D’Agostino et al received a rating of 2, which is generous. That study had numerous caveats about the efficacy of RR.
In the US, Pam Cook et al have been highly critical of the May et al i3 scale-up of RR. She and the others are not academics and have done a tremendous piece of work taking the May et al study to task. Cook et al have written a number of pieces about this.”
Reviews of RR research to support Prof. James Chapman’s comments:
Reading Recovery’s unrecovered learners: Characteristics and Issues.
James W. Chapman and William E. Tunmer
Abstract: ”We conclude that RR does not tailor instruction to meet the needs of individual students, as claimed. The RR instructional model, developed in the 1970s, fails to recognise the importance of explicit, systematic instruction in phonemic awareness and the use of letter–sound relations. Such instruction is essential for most students who struggle with literacy learning during their early years of schooling and especially important for students who experience the most difficulty with learning to read.”
The Reading Wars and Reading Recovery: What Educators, Families, and Taxpayers Should Know
Pamela Cook, Deborah R. Rodes, Kay L. Lipsitz
Published in Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal 2017, Volume 22, Number 2
Is Reading Recovery an Effective Intervention for Students with Reading Difficulties? A Critique of the i3 Scale-Up Study
James W. Chapman & William E. Tunmer
Abstract: ”The recently reported i3 Scale-Up of Reading Recovery (May et al., 2015) found an effect size of + 0.69 in favor of Reading Recovery compared to the control group. We discuss four issues: (a) many of the lowest achieving students were excluded from participation in Reading Recovery; (b) the control group received a range of different experiences; (c) the successful completion rate of students in the program was modest; and (d) no data supported the claim that Reading Recovery leads to sustained literacy learning gains. We question the value of this study as the basis for widespread implementation of Reading Recovery.”
Reading Recovery: A Failed Investment
Dr Jennifer Buckingham.
KPMG Foundation report left out negative findings from its Reading Recovery study.
”I am astonished that Reading Recovery is being encouraged to proliferate in England when it is on the record that research on RR shows weak results and the findings in the much lauded ECAR study [see above] had been deliberately doctored”
(Dr. Jennifer Buckingham. Twitter)
2022. Long-Term Impacts of Reading Recovery through 3rd and 4th Grade: A Regression Discontinuity Study: A follow-up of the i3 Reading Recovery study finds the long-term impact on reading achievement is substantially negative. 1st graders receiving RR had 3rd/4th grade scores 0.19 to 0.43 sd (half to one full grade level) below those not participating.
New research shows that the Reading Recovery program eventually had a negative impact on children. Initial gains from first-grade intervention didn’t last and kids performed worse in third and fourth grade.
Reading Recovery derivatives:
(EEF funded twice) https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects-and-evaluation/projects/switch-on-reading/
”The government has invested considerable funds via the EEF to run randomized controlled trials. One of the RCT evaluations recently released by the EEF was for a programme called Switch-on Reading. What is not apparent in the headline, but appears later in the report, is that the programme is, in fact, a repackaging of Reading Recovery, which is now being aimed at students at the transition between Key Stages 2 and 3”
Switch-on Reading and effect sizes:
Prof. Kathy Rastle tweeted the following comment on the EEF’s Switch-on Reading research:
”The trial for this one to one 10 week intervention showed a small to medium effect against no intervention, at a cost of £627 / pupil including TAs. In a 2nd trial, there was no effect of the intervention. Poor use of public funding.”
Fischer Family Trust Wave 3.
http://literacy.fischertrust.org/overview/wave-3/ is another non-systematic, multi-cueing intervention programme. ”It is based on the pedagogy and practice of Reading Recovery”.
Catch Up Literacy.
(EEF funded twice) https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/projects-and-evaluation/projects/catch-up-literacy/
”Due to the lack of impact in the second trial, the EEF will be removing Catch Up Literacy from the list of promising projects”
”(T)he clearest evidence of the success of the Catch Up Programme is the marked improvement in attitude to reading shown by the children”.
Catch Up Literacy is based on the same multi-cueing principles as Reading Recovery.
Boosting Reading Potential (BRP).
Originally ‘Better Reading Partnership’, now ‘Boosting Reading Potential’. BRP is a Wave 2 non-systematic, multi-cueing intervention programme. It was ”developed by Bradford LEA in 1996 and is based on the Reading Recovery Programme…The reading partner notes the child’s use of the three BRP reading strategies: grapho-phonic (visual), syntactic (structure) and semantic (meaning). Weaknesses are addressed through prompts: “Does that look right?”, “Does that sound right?”, and “Does that make sense?” (Dunford. Literacy Trust).
BRP has been rebranded and updated. There are now primary and secondary versions of the programme.
”BoostingReading@Primary is recognised as an effective intervention by the European Centre for Reading Recovery at the Institute of Education, University of London, and is included in Every Child a Reader”
Pearson-Heinemann’s KS2 Wave 3 intervention
The series editors, Dee Reid and Diana Bentley, also devised the Reading Recovery derivative ‘Catch Up’ programme -see above.
Based on Reading Recovery multi-cueing (word guessing) strategies + Phonological awareness training without print + Levelled reading books:
Peter Hatcher’s book ‘Sound Linkage’: an oral ‘phonological awareness training’ programme where children are trained to manipulate sounds in words orally without the use of letters (see ‘High-Quality Phonics’ for discussion of phonological awareness training) and designed to be used alongside reading interventions based on the Reading Recovery approach: ”In Hatcher’s own work, he has incorporated Sound Linkage into the Marie Clay Reading Recovery framework” (The Study of Dyslexia. p120)
The North Yorks Reading Intervention Project.
”In this study, Peter Hatcher, Charles Hulme and Andrew Ellis from the University of York compared three forms of intervention for 7-year-old poor readers. The first was phonological awareness training (P) based on the work of Lynette Bradley and Peter Bryant, the second was reading instruction (R) based on the Reading Recovery approach of Marie Clay and the third involved a combination of these methods (R+P)”
”In the R+P intervention study reported here, 28% of the 20-week and 21% of the 10-week Intervention group had standard scores below 80 at the end of the intervention…Moreover, children varied in their responsiveness to the teaching they received and about a quarter could be defined as treatment ‘non-responders” (bold added)
Cumbria Reading Intervention.
This R+P intervention was mentioned in the Channel 4 documentary ‘The Dyslexia Myth’ (2005). This perhaps gave it some credence that it didn’t deserve:
”Based upon Marie Clay’s successful, Reading Recovery Programme, the Cumbrian scheme has drawn upon more recent research and incorporated a greater emphasis on phonological skills”
The levelled reading books (repetitive/predictive texts) used throughout the intervention were from Hatcher’s Graded Booklist.
‘Phonology with Reading’ programme (Nuffield Foundation. Language4Reading) was a research project using an R+P intervention with at-risk children. It combined Jolly Phonics materials (teaching 36 GPCs over 20 weeks) with ‘oral phonological awareness’ exercises (Hatcher’s Sound Linkage), plus ”direct teaching in [global] sight word recognition” and immediate reading practice using books levelled using Hatcher’s whole language banding system. ”The Teaching Assistant monitored the child’s reading ability by taking a running record of the child reading a book at the instructional level in each individual session. One new book was introduced per session, which the child attempted to read independently, before finishing off with a guided reading of the new book”.
The resulting research paper by Bowyer-Crane et al (2007) revealed that ”At the end of the intervention, more than 50% of at-risk children remain in need of literacy support”
N.B. the actual Jolly Phonics programme initially teaches a Basic Code of 42 GPCs, with phonically decodable words and sentences provided to avoid children needing to use word guessing strategies and global sight word memorisation.
A version of the R+P ‘Phonology with Reading’ programme -see above, was used in a study for children with Down Syndrome (Kelly Burgoyne et al):
”The Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome combines reading and language instruction in daily teaching sessions that are designed to meet the particular learning needs of children with Down syndrome. It incorporates work on letter knowledge, phonological awareness, whole word and book reading”.
”After 40 weeks of intervention, the intervention group remained numerically ahead of the control group on most key outcome measures; but these differences were not significant”
In contrast, as a result of her own extensive experience and research, an educational psychologist recommends using a systematic synthetic phonics programme with children with Down syndrome. This EP comments, ”Of course we would not deny oral language development work with any children with global learning difficulties, but where we differ would be that we would start with phonics and try to establish phonics as a primary strategy for reading, whereas this new initiative seems to be just a re-hash of oral language with a searchlights type approach”.
Undeterred by the lack of positive results when using an intervention in which the ‘reading strand’ consists of an R+P approach, researchers used this type of intervention again in a study with children ”at risk for dyslexia”. In the description of the intervention it says: ‘’In all reading activities, phonic decoding is encouraged as the primary strategy for reading unknown words; other strategies (e.g. use of context and pictures) are also taught’’ (italics added)
Study’s conclusion ”This new intervention was theoretically motivated and based on previous successful [sic] interventions, yet failed to show reliable effects on language and literacy measures following a rigorous evaluation”.
Active Literacy (Scotland):
Active Literacy is the most common literacy programme in Scotland, purchased by and used in over
half of local authorities. Developed by North Lanarkshire Council, Active Literacy describes itself as a
‘synthetic phonics’ programme. It is important to note however, that although the programme
literature contains quotations from the Independent review of the teaching of early reading (Rose,
2006), it does not follow Rose’s recommendations. Indeed, it would not pass the DfE’s validation
process as an SSP programme as it promotes outdated practices that would disqualify it completely:
the use of sight word memorisation for learning common words, multi-cueing ‘Word Attack
Strategies’ (Look at the first letter, Sound the first few letters, Break the word into syllables, Look at
the last letters, Read the sentence again, Look at the picture, Look for a rime, Look at the shape of
the word) and banded or levelled reading books (rather than decodable texts).
Active Literacy also contains fundamental errors, referring to digraphs as ‘joined phonemes’ and split
digraphs as ‘split phonemes’. Unfortunately, these errors have now spread to many classrooms
Core routines in the programme are weak and lack sufficient reading practice of decodable words,
sentences, and texts. Children are asked to ‘break’ (oral segmentation) a given spoken word, then
‘make’ it by choosing magnetic letters—this is a spelling activity (encoding)—which is insufficient on
its own. And although children are asked to read the word they have just spelled, they already know
the answer as the teacher told them the word. Other activities are often play-based ‘carousel’ style
tasks which tend to focus on code or word level practice. Mini whiteboards are used with magnetic
letters and children engage in ‘reciprocal teaching’ with a ‘shoulder partner’.
Unfortunately, due to a lack of training, guidance, or support for phonics in ITE—and more
generally— in Scotland, most teachers are unaware of these anomalies.
A summary of the most common issues can be downloaded here:
Active Literacy materials were updated by North Lanarkshire in 2021 to include an ‘analytical
Interestingly, the programme appears to have been originally published in 1998 under the previous
title of ‘Think About It: A complete reading programme for the beginner reader’ (North Lanarkshire
Education Department) which incorporated aspects of Reading Recovery.
(Review by Anne Glennie)