With the passage of the
No Child Left Behind Act, and the Reading First initiative, there are five
areas of reading instruction that are getting special attention -- Reading
Comprehension, Phonics, Phoneme Awareness, Fluency, and Vocabulary.
The reason these five areas are getting special attention stems from the
report of the National Reading Panel (NRP) which came out in 2001.
The NRP was charged with critically examining the research related to reading
instructional practice to determine what practices were most effective
for helping all children learn to read well.
The panel unfortunately was given
a very limited amount of time and resources to accomplish this Herculean
task. Fourteen people were given one year to critically examine over
100,000 research studies and publish a synthesis of their findings.
That simply was not possible.
The panel decided to prioritize
their search of the research literature, focusing on the areas that were
considered central to learning to read. The panel decided to focus
on Alphabetics (subdivided into two areas: Phoneme Awareness and Phonics
instruction), Fluency, Comprehension (subdivided into three areas, Vocabulary,
Text Comprehension, and Teacher Preparation in Comprehension instruction),
Teacher Education, and Computer Technology.
The panel did not neglect other
areas of reading because they felt they were not important. Quite
the contrary, the panel debated and discussed dozens of possible topic
areas. They restricted their examination of the research literature
to these areas only because it would be impossible to critically examine
research in all relevant areas of reading instruction and reading acquisition.
Important areas such as second language learning influences, background
knowledge, text variables, and motivation were not examined simply because
it would have been impossible to do so given the resources available.
After the report of the findings
of the National Reading Panel, five of the areas that were critically examined
were surfaced in both the media and in policy and legislation as the “five
big areas of reading.” The No Child Left Behind legislation and the
Reading First initiative highlighted these five areas, and explicitly mandated
that they be a central part of any reading initiative being funded with
federal money. Further, policy and legislation clearly indicated
that these five areas of reading should be assessed regularly, and that
the success or failure of any reading initiative would depend upon measurement
of children’s growth in these five areas.
The emphasis that has been placed
on these five areas of reading instruction is substantial, and all educators
should become very familiar with all five of the areas, and should make
sure that children are given adequate instruction in these areas, and that
children are regularly assessed in each of these five areas.
To help with assessment, we are
providing a free, downloadable assessment that can be used for testing
four of the five areas. The Abecedarian assessment contains subtests
that test Vocabulary, Phoneme Awareness, Decoding Fluency, and letter-sound
knowledge (a.k.a. Phonics) measured through regular word decoding. Click
here to download a free copy of the Abecedarian.
Also, we have sections dedicated
to each of the five areas so you can learn more --
is for Fluency
is for Phonics
is for Phoneme Awareness
is for Reading Comprehension
is for Vocabulary