Targeted Interventions in Reading
for Kids Who Struggle

› Reading

How can teachers know exactly what the root cause of a reading problem is?  This is critical for targeting the correct interventions, and keeping reading a top priority for kids who need us to go the extra mile.

Reading is part of the CPA domain. Being able to use comprehension strategies and improving academic content vocabulary are the pieces to the critical link between learning and thinking.

To improve reading comprehension, teachers must be able to effectively teach and intervene with all of the components of reading, without killing the sheer joy of getting into a great book.

child reading a book, reading for kid

Remedial reading programs are full of techniques and strategies to help kids reach proficiency standards.

We also use games, iPad aps, and anything else we can think of to interest kids and develop early literacy skills.

This is all good, but the question comes when teachers wonder exactly what area of reading is the root of a child's difficulties.

This can be more easily answered by using a Classroom Performance Assessment.

Reading is part of the communication domain. The components of reading that support foundations for literacy are:

  • Emergent Reading
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Word Analysis
  • Reading Vocabulary
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Reading Applications

"Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body."
~Joseph Addison

Emergent Skills

Emergent skills in reading means a student understands the alphabet, has sound and word knowledge and understands how print works (left tonight, purposes for types of reading/print).

Without strong emergent literacy skills, a student is at risk for future reading and writing disabilities.

Phonological Awareness is the next step. Without this, a child will not be a successful reader.

There is only so far students can go with sight words alone.  They must have Phonological Awareness, which is "the manipulation and usage of the structure of words, syllables and sounds (this is apart from the meaning)," (NRP, 2000).

The student should:


  • Understand how to hold a book
  • Understand how to use a book
  • Recognize that print has meaning
  • Tries to retell the story by pointing at pictures and using own words
  • Begins to recognize letters and specific known words
  • Recognizes name or parts of name in print
  • Can name upper and lower case letters
  • Understand that words are separated by spaces
  • Enjoys listening to stories (see Reading Aloud to Children for more information)

  • Phonological

  • Isolate and identify sounds of speech (phonemes)
  • Categorize, segment and blend phonemes
  • Make new words from deleted sounds in known words (The word is "bat." Take off the "b" and add an "r." What word do you know have? "Rat.")
  • Add sounds to known words or syllables
  • Use syllabication to distinguish beginning, middle and ending sounds
  • Use syllabication to make new words
  • Recognize word patterns (Brain Research and Learning shows a strong correlation between patterns and making meaning)
  • Identifies onsets and rhymes

Reading Vocabulary

Reading vocabulary has two parts: Word Analysis and Reading Vocabulary Knowledge (generally Tier 2 vocabulary words).

Word Analysis skills means that students can understand apply alphabetic principles to decoding. This ability to decode leads to enhanced vocabulary as they begin to use root words (base words) to make meaning in new words. It also applies to being able to use syllabication skills to break a word down and derive meaning from parts of the word.

Vocabulary Knowledge refers to known words that are necessary for effective reading comprehension. We use different types of vocabulary for different purposes.

In order to make meaning from text (which is the purpose of reading), children must be able to understand high frequency words and phrases (such as those found on the Fry Lists) and more complex words and phrases like idioms and multiple-meaning words.

The student should:

  • Associate sounds and symbols
  • Use decoding skills
  • Understand and uses prefixes, suffixes and root words
  • Uses word family knowledge as a decoding strategy
  • Use context clues to aid in decoding and comprehension
  • Use contractions, compound words and abbreviations
  • Understand and uses homonyms, synonyms and antonyms
  • Use figurative language
  • Can provide age-appropriate definitions for new words
  • Can differentiate between a word being used as a noun or as a verb
  • Use etymologies (word history or origins) to make meaning for new words

Reading Comprehension Strategies

Reading Comprehension and Applications are part of the domain of Reading Strategies. This is the interaction between the text and the reader. To comprehend a text means that the student can purposefully monitor understanding while reading and use experiences to extend meaning.

Applying strategies is how readers connect information within a text, as often we read something that we have little experience with. This is where using critical thinking skills comes in.

The student should:

  • Understand and use a variety of types of sentences
  • Gain meaning from sentence and story structure
  • Make meaning with implied outcomes
  • Effective summarize a story or text
  • Identify main idea and details
  • Understand structure of different genres
  • Draw conclusions and predict outcomes
  • Describe cause and effect, problem and solution and sequencing of events
  • Understands the author's purpose
  • Can use Reciprocal Teaching strategies
  • Understand and remembers simple to complex written demands
  • Retain new information
  • Evaluate reading materials to suit purposes
  • Can justify opinions, inferences and drawn conclusions
  • Demonstrates understanding of a variety of points of view
  • Can analyze and use diagrams, charts and data to extend meaning
  • Will compare and contrast a range of genres
  • Can understand and use a variety of text organizational patterns (problem/solution, cause/effect)
  • Evaluate different cultural perspectives found in texts

After identifying exactly where a student is experiencing reading communication issues, an intervention can be put in place.

Reading Intervention Specialists or Speech Therapists can provide many strategies to help develop literacy skills. And do not dismiss vision difficulties - sometimes a simple color overlay can improve reading comprehension significantly.

But the classroom teacher always must take all of this "stuff" and keep it real. In our quest for developing skills, make sure you are teaching reading for kids, not for tests.

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