Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Professional Read: How to Prevent Reading Difficulties

How to Prevent Reading Difficulties: Proactive Practices for Teaching Young Children to Read 
by Mark Weakland
(Corwin Press, 2021)

Reading is a fundamental and essential skill. Students' success in school and life is linked to their ability to read.

Reading is also a complex skill. Unlike language, our brains are not wired for this task. While learning to read comes easy for some students, it is much harder for others.

Effective instruction in reading is necessary for all students, but especially those who face challenges with learning to read.

In How to Prevent Reading Difficulties: Proactive Practices for Teaching Young Children to Read, Mark Weakland shares insight into instructional practices, based on how the brain learns to read, that support students as they build their skills to become proficient readers. As Weakland explains, there is research pointing to effective ways to teach children to read, write, and spell and reading difficulties can be reduced when instruction in the early grades is aligned with this research.

Chapter One of the book, titled "The Reading Brain," provides an understanding of the complex process the brain undergoes in order to read. Weakland describes the role of semantics, orthography, and phonology in reading, making clear that each is important to becoming a proficient reader. 

Chapter Two focuses on reading difficulties and the importance of identifying the cause of students' reading deficits. The Simple View of Reading is presented as a lens to observe and assess students so that instruction can be designed to ensure students have both the language comprehension and word recognition skills that are necessary for reading.

The majority of the book, chapters three through seven, include techniques, activities, and routines for building the foundational skills associated with reading. These are based on what researchers know about how the brain reads and learns best. Chapter Three describes the following general evidence-based teaching practices that enhance student learning:
  • Repetition and Distributed Practice
  • Direct and Explicit Teaching
  • Instant Error Correction
  • Wait Time
There are chapters devoted to instructional practices for building students' language comprehension, phonological, and orthographic skills. Chapter Seven focuses on practices that involve students in extended and varied reading practice including guided, repeated, and independent reading. 

Throughout the book, Weakland gives examples of the instructional practices he describes. There are also quite a few QR codes included that link to video demonstrations. The clear explanations will help teachers easily implement the ideas from the book. The "For Future Study" sidebars throughout the book consist of resource lists that will be useful to teachers who want to seek out additional information.

How to Prevent Reading Difficulties will be a great resource for any teacher providing reading instruction in the primary grades. Teachers will gain knowledge about the process of reading and the instructional techniques that are informed by research. The book serves as a bridge between the information that exists about how students learn to read and what teachers can do to be effective in helping students become skilled readers.

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