The efficacy of two-phase reading intervention on the reading development of at-risk children in the primary grades

The efficacy of two-phase reading intervention on the reading development of at-risk children in the primary grades

First Author: Maria De Palma -- The Hospital for Sick Children
Additional authors/chairs: 
Karen A. Steinbach; Joan Bosson-Heenan; Jan C. Frijters; Jeffrey R. Gruen; Maureen W. Lovett
Keywords: Reading disability, Intervention, Reading outcomes, young readers, Oral Language
Abstract / Summary: 

Purpose: The developmental sequence of reading acquisition is well-established in the research literature. Phonological and letter-sound association skills are acquired first, followed by single-word identification skills and comprehension, with developmental overlap and co-development also marking the emergence of reading skill. The present study reports a two-phase reading intervention mirroring this developmental process, implemented as a community-based design within 8 high-risk urban schools.

Methods: Participants included 72 Grade 2/3 children identified by teachers in Grade 1 as struggling readers. An equivalent number were drawn from non-intervention schools, matched on initial reading, IQ, and SES. Intervention was delivered in two phases: decoding- and spelling-focused, followed by vocabulary- and comprehension-focused. Multiple reading outcomes were measured before and after each phase and across the summer.

Results: Propensity score matching established a well-aligned control group from non-intervention schools. Both groups began intervention with equal skill. Robust decoding gains greater than controls were observed following Phase 1, with smaller gains in comprehension after both phases. Comprehension gains were moderated by initial language skill: intervention children with higher initial language made comprehension gains, in contrast to no gains for those with lower initial language.

Discussion: In a sample of children drawn from an educationally high-risk urban environment, a two-phase reading intervention was successful at producing gains in decoding and single-word reading relative to comprehension. The limitation on comprehension gains by initial language skill suggests a target for pre-intervention remediation. It also speaks to the importance of early language environment as a protective factor for future reading failure.