Helping a child learn to read by the time they finish third grade is one of the most important things our community can do. It is one of the greatest predictors of later success in school.
In early 2016, the Read Charlotte team spent over 1,000 hours reviewing nearly 30 databases and clearinghouses that catalogue “what works” for a variety of education and social programs. We read hundreds of peer-reviewed journal articles and reviewed dozens of interventions. Our work today is guided by what we learned — both about “what works” and what doesn’t.
Specific practices, programs and program models supported by Read Charlotte have evidence of being able to improve specific outcomes key to third grade reading proficiency. They also offer an attractive “social return on investment” when we take into account the time, energy and resources required for implementation.
There is a set of skills and competencies that all children need to master starting at birth to become successful readers by the end of third grade. These skills encompass both code-focused (word reading) and meaning-focused (vocabulary, comprehension and writing) skills. They were comprehensively identified in the 2000 National Reading Panel report and the 2009 National Early Literacy Panel report. The term “science of reading” refers to the research that reading experts, especially cognitive scientists, have conducted on how children acquire these skills and learn to read. Children who struggle with reading often need targeted help to get back on the Pathway to reading success. Since 2016, we have used the Reading Success Pathway to anchor the specific strategies we stack and align in Mecklenburg County. We look for evidence-based strategies proven to move the needle on one or more of the Pathway skills.
Children need both code-focused (word reading) and meaning-focused (vocabulary, comprehension and writing) instruction. This instruction can be “managed” either by an adult or a child (individual or peer work). Together these comprise four possible types of instruction. Children need different amounts of daily minutes of these four types of instruction at different times based upon the combination of their word reading, vocabulary and comprehension skills. The Four Types of Reading Instruction interact with each other and students’ reading and vocabulary skills to shape reading outcomes. It applies to all types of readers: struggling readers, English language learners, on-level readers and advanced readers. This model first appeared in a 2004 peer-reviewed paper by Carol Connor and has been confirmed in seven subsequent experimental studies. The model deepens and expands upon the “Simple View of Reading” — which focuses on the interaction of decoding and language in reading comprehension. Since 2017, we have used this framework as Read Charlotte’s fundamental model for understanding effective literacy instruction. Where the “science of reading” focuses on the process of learning to read, the Four Types of Reading Instruction tells us what actions adults should take to help children move through this process.
There are specific practices that families can do at home that help children build Reading Success Pathway skills. These practices span both code-focused (word reading) and meaning-focused (vocabulary, comprehension and writing) skills. This research-based model was originally developed in 2002 by Monique Sénéchal and Jo-Anne LeFevre. The model has been replicated over a dozen times in various settings by multiple researchers. In 2017, we confirmed the model operates as predicted in a research project we conducted focused on families in high poverty local schools whose students were proficient readers (College and Career Ready) on the North Carolina state third grade reading assessment. Nonetheless, we find that relatively few people are familiar with the Home Literacy Model. This understanding of what families can do to support literacy at home is the anchor for all of our family-focused strategies.