Early Intervention in Reading: An Overview of Research and Policy Issues

CRS Report for Congress
Early Intervention in Reading:
An Overview of Research and Policy Issues
November 13, 2003
Gail McCallion
Specialist in Labor Economics
Domestic Social Policy Division

Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress

Early Intervention in Reading:
An Overview of Research and Policy Issues
A significant body of research has emerged examining the potential short-term
and long-term effects of early intervention for children having difficulty in acquiring
reading skills. Many researchers believe that early intervention with children who
experience difficulty in learning to read is more efficacious, and ultimately more
cost-effective, than attempts at later remediation. This research, in conjunction with
data indicating that the majority of children with learning disabilities have a primary
disability in reading, has led Congress to support efforts to intervene early to assist
children with reading difficulties develop the skills they need, rather than attempt
remediation with impaired readers later in their school years. Reading First and Early
Reading First were drafted with the intent of incorporating the latest scientific
understanding on what works in teaching reading.
Recent longitudinal data indicate that an above average home literacy
environment, as well as good health, possession of certain literacy skills, and a
positive approach to learning, are all positively related to reading achievement (even
after controlling for race/ethnicity and poverty). Overall the research on early
intervention finds positive short-term effects of high-quality early childhood
programs in terms of cognitive skills, school readiness and social behavior; and
positive long-term effects in terms of greater high school completion rates, higher
earnings, less criminal activity and less welfare use for “model” early intervention
programs. Long-term effects from more “typical” programs, such as Head Start, are
not conclusive. In part this is due to the difficulty of separating the influence of early
intervention from all the other factors that are significant in influencing long-term
Much of the reading research has focused specifically on the word-level reading
difficulties that many children with reading difficulties experience. In this regard, the
National Reading Panel (NRP) report has provided concrete suggestions on how to
improve the teaching of reading. The NRP report has received significant positive
as well as critical attention; and its research conclusions have been important in
implementation of the new Reading First and Early Reading First programs.
Many reading researchers assert that a strategy of early intervention focused on
identification and instruction of children with reading difficulties would significantly
decrease the number of older children identified with learning disabilities, would be
more efficacious than later remediation, and would reduce the need for special
education placements. Practically, reading research has important policy
implications in helping to craft programs that will effectively provide early
intervention in reading with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of proficient
readers and diminishing the need for subsequent intensive and expensive
intervention. This report will not be updated.

Background: Early Intervention......................................1
Reading Research..................................................3
Factors influencing Reading Success...............................3
The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of
1998-1999 (ECLS-K)...................................3
Impacts of Early Intervention on Reading.......................4
Word-Level Reading Difficulties..............................6
Research on Efficacy of Reading Interventions.......................7
National Research Council (NRC).............................7
The National Reading Panel (NRP)............................7
Critical Perspectives on the National Reading Panel Report.........9
Policy and Implementation Issues....................................12
Remedial Education...........................................16
Co-Occurring Disabilities and “Treatment-Resistors”............18
Glossary of Selected Terms Used in This Report........................20

Early Intervention in Reading:
An Overview of Research and Policy Issues
There is a significant body of research examining the potential short-term and
long-term effects of early intervention for children with difficulty in acquiring
reading skills. Many researchers believe that early intervention with children who
experience difficulty in learning to read is more efficacious, and ultimately more
cost-effective, than attempts at later remediation. This research, in conjunction with
data indicating that the majority of children with learning disabilities have a primary
disability in reading, has led Congress to support efforts to intervene early to assist
children with reading difficulties develop the skills they need, rather than attempt
remediation with impaired readers later in their school years. Reading First and Early
Reading First were drafted with the intent of incorporating the latest scientific
understanding on what works in teaching reading.1 This report summarizes evidence
regarding the effectiveness of early intervention in general; and in specific, examines
early intervention to improve reading skills.
Background: Early Intervention
There is an extensive and growing body of research examining the effectiveness
(usually measured by cognitive functioning, school readiness, and/or social
adjustment in the shorter-run; and by subsequent wages, high school graduation rates,2
criminal activity, and welfare use in the longer-run) of early childhood programs.
In some instances, subsequent placement in special education is also considered.

1 Reading First and Early Reading First were authorized in P.L. 107-110. For ongoing
updated information on Reading First and Early Reading First see CRS Report RL31241,
Reading First and Early Reading First: Background and Funding, by Gail McCallion.
2 In Dec. 2000, a study titled Eager to Learn was released by the Committee on Early
Childhood Pedagogy. The Committee was established by the National Research Council
in 1997 to review and synthesize the theory and research on early childhood pedagogy, and
to make recommendations, based on the present state of knowledge, for early childhood
education programs and public policy. Eager to Learn included 19 specific
recommendations in four major areas: (1) teacher training; (2) teaching materials; (3) public
policies to support quality preschools; and (4) dissemination of information on preschool
development. The Committee made recommendations in all four of these areas that it
argued would significantly improve the U.S. system of preschool education and care. The
Committee agreed that “the case for a substantial investment in a high-quality system of
child care and preschool on the basis of what is already known is persuasive.” One of the
strongest recommendations made in Eager to Learn was regarding teacher training. The
committee recommended that all children in early care programs be provided with a teacher
who has a bachelor’s degree and specialized education in early childhood.

Overall the research on early intervention finds positive short-term effects of
high-quality early childhood programs in terms of cognitive skills, school readiness
and social behavior; and positive long-term effects in terms of greater high school
completion rates, higher earnings, less criminal activity and less welfare use for
“model” early intervention programs.3 Long-term effects from more “typical”
programs, such as Head Start, are not conclusive.4 In part this is due to the difficulty
of separating the influence of early intervention from all the other factors that are
significant in influencing long-term success.
There is also an extensive body of literature that specifically examines the
impact of early intervention on reading outcomes. Many reading researchers assert
that a strategy of early intervention focused on identification and instruction of
children with reading disabilities would significantly decrease the number of older
children identified with learning disabilities, would be more efficacious than later
remediation, and would reduce the need for special education placements.5 Reid
Lyon, et al. state:
We estimate that the number of children who are typically identified as poor
readers and served through either special education or compensatory education
programs (as well as children with significant reading difficulties who are not
formally identified) could be reduced by up to 70% through early identification6
and prevention programs.
Many reading researchers contend that early intervention is more efficacious in
improving reading than later intervention. If a child is experiencing difficulty early
in the process of learning to read, they say, the child will fall behind in building
vocabulary, may fall behind in developing reading comprehension strategies, and
may develop a negative attitude towards reading. A child with reading difficulties
will read less than good readers and without early intervention, will fall further
behind normally progressing readers over time as these readers are rapidly increasing

3 For more information see CRS Report RL31123, Early Childhood Education: Federal
Policy Issues, by Gail McCallion.
4 GAO indicates that research to date is not definitive on the effectiveness of Head Start.
GAO-03-840T, Head Start Key Among Array of Early Childhood Programs, but National
Research on Effectiveness Not Completed. For more on the issue of the long term effectsth
of Head Start see CRS Report RL30952, Head Start Issues in the 108 Congress, by
Melinda Gish and Alice Butler. W. Steven Barnett, Director of the National Institute for
Early Education Research has recently issued a report arguing that properly designed studies
show that educational effects from Head Start are long lasting (The Battle Over Head Start:
What the Research Shows). Available at [http://www.nieer.org].
5 Reid Lyon, et al, state that 80% of children with learning disabilities have reading as their
primary difficulty. Reading disability may consist of learning disability in basic reading
skills or learning disability in reading comprehension. Reid Lyon, Jack Fletcher, Sally
Shaywitz, Bennett Shaywitz, Joseph Torgeson, Frank Wood, Ann Schulte, and Richard
Olson, “Rethinking Learning Disabilities,” in Chester Finn, Andrew Rotherham, Charles
Hokanson, eds., Rethinking Special Education for A New Century (Thomas Fordham
Foundation, May 2001), pp. 259-287. (Hereafter cited as Lyon, et al., Rethinking Learning
6 Ibid., p 260.

their repertoire of sight words throughout elementary school, according to these
researchers. In addition, they say, following years of failure, older poor readers may
be less motivated to learn to read. Joseph K. Torgesen argues that:
... to the extent that we allow children to fall seriously behind at any point during
early elementary school, we are moving to a ‘remedial’ rather than a ‘preventive’
model of intervention. Once children fall behind in the growth of critical word
reading skills, it may require very intensive interventions to bring them back up
to adequate levels of reading accuracy, and reading fluency may be even more
difficult to restore because of the large amounts of reading practice that is lost7
by children each month and year that they remain poor readers.
Reading Research
Factors influencing Reading Success
The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of
1998-1999 (ECLS-K). Recent longitudinal data from the U.S. Department of
Education have provided more information on factors related to reading achievement.
These data indicate that there are a host of child and family characteristics that are
correlated with reading achievement in kindergarten and first grade.8
The ECLS-K is a longitudinal study that, beginning with the 1998-1999 school
year, tracks a nationally representative sample of children, and measures, among
other things, their reading achievement from kindergarten through 5th grade. This
study will provide an ongoing source of data on factors that are related to later
success in reading (up through 5th grade). Data on these children for their first 2
years of school (kindergarten and 1st grade) are now available. Upon kindergarten
entry, children with multiple risk factors for school failure (a mother with less than
a high school education, single parent family, welfare receipt, primary language not
English) scored lower on measures of reading skill than children with zero or one risk
factor(s). During kindergarten these at-risk children made gains toward closing the
gap with other children in simple reading skills (such as letter recognition), but the
gap widened between the two groups in more complicated reading skills (such as
recognizing sight words). In addition, home literacy environment (children who have
more books, records, etc, than average and are read to and sung to frequently) was
related to childrens’ reading skills at the beginning of kindergarten, as well as to their
reading skills at the end of kindergarten and 1st grade. This relationship between
children’s reading achievement and their home literacy environment was found both
in children in families with incomes above and below the poverty threshold.
The ECLS-K data also showed that children who could recognize letters,
numbers, and shapes, and the relative size of objects at the beginning of kindergarten,

7 Joseph K. Torgesen, “Catch Them Before They Fall,” American Educator, spring/summer

1998, p. 32. (Hereafter cited as Torgesen, Catch Them Before They Fall.)

8 U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of
Education, 2003, p. 6.

did better in reading at the end of kindergarten and 1st grade when compared with
children who did not have those skills upon entering kindergarten. In addition,
childrens’ reading performance was positively related to whether or not they had a
positive approach to learning and were in good health at the beginning of
Data on effects of half-day versus full-day kindergarten were also examined.
The ECLS-K data suggest that public school students attending full-day kindergarten
made more gains in reading during kindergarten than those attending half-day
kindergarten. 9
The ECLS-K data also indicated some differences in the frequency that certain
skills were taught in full-day versus half-day kindergarten:
Full day classrooms were more likely than half-day classrooms to spend time
everyday on the following skills: letter recognition, letter-sound match,
conventions of print, vocabulary, making predictions based on text, using context
clues for comprehension, rhyming words, reading aloud, reading multi-syllable10
words, and alphabetizing.
Impacts of Early Intervention on Reading. Steven Barnett has surveyed
model and more typical preschool education programs in order to assess their impact
on subsequent reading achievement as well as on measures such as IQ, employment,
and special education placements. In order to consider studies that would best
measure program effects on these specific outcomes and exclude the effect of other
differences among the children, he considered 12 model programs that used random
assignment (participants were randomly assigned to either the experimental group
(i.e. with the intervention), or else they were assigned to the control group).11 Most
of the studies either had small initial sample sizes and/or had significant attrition
(children leaving before the end of the study period). Two studies without these12
limitations were the Abcedarian and Perry Preschool studies. These two studies

9 Ibid.
10 Ibid., p. 10.
11 Research studies that employ random assignment of comparable subjects to both a control
and a treatment group are considered the most reliable. However, because educational
research is conducted with children, it is difficult to justify the random assignment of
children to control and treatment groups if it means some will be deprived of instruction that
they would have otherwise received. Partly for this reason, many studies rely on a similar
group of non-participating children, but this can result in biased results because of family
and child characteristics that influence participation in the program. Even those studies that
do use random assignment often have a very small initial sample size, and/or experience a
great deal of attrition (children not continuing in the study) over the course of the study, or
there are limitations on the sample of children (e.g., only children with low IQ) which may
affect the results.
12 Steven Barnett, “Preschool Education for Economically Disadvantaged Children: Effects
on Reading Achievement and Related Outcomes,” in Susan Neuman and David Dickinson,
eds., Handbook of Early Literacy, (New York: Guildford Press, 2001), pp. 421-443.
(Hereafter cited as Barnett, Preschool Education.)

found positive effects on reading and literacy test scores that persisted into early
adulthood. Barnett argues that the fade-out effect in reading found in many studies
may be due to:
... problems with research design and procedures that bias estimated effects
toward zero and attrition in achievement test data that decreases statistical power13
Barnett notes that participation in other preschool education (not the “treatment”
being investigated) by children in the control group may lead to underestimating a
treatment’s effect. In addition, Barnett argues that the fade-out effect in the long-
term found in many reading studies may be due to the reduction in statistical
reliability of study results because of attrition (the loss of participants over time); and
to limitations in the research design and implementation that bias the effects
downward.14 For example, he notes that many large studies rely on grade level
school administered tests. Barnett raises several concerns about the use of these
tests. They are administered to an entire class by a teacher (in contrast to individually
administered by a specialist). Additionally, over time, fewer and fewer poorly
performing students will be tested with their age cohort (due to grade retention), and
the sample of poorly performing students will decrease due to special education
placements and other factors.15

13 Ibid., p. 436.
14 Ibid., p. 436. There are other data issues that concern researchers investigating the
efficacy of reading interventions and other early interventions. These data limitations can
influence researchers’ ability to conclusively determine the effectiveness of an intervention
and to determine which children will benefit the most from the intervention. One of these
data issues is so-called prediction error — i.e., false positives (e.g., children who are
incorrectly identified as at risk of reading difficulties) as well as false negatives (e.g.,
children who are incorrectly found to not be at risk of reading difficulties). For example,
measures of phonological awareness during kindergarten are correlated with later success
or difficulty in reading. However, the choice of a cutoff score for children to be found at
risk or not at risk can result in children being incorrectly identified. If a lower cut-off score
is chosen to try and minimize the number of false positives, then the group of students
identified as at risk of reading difficulty will be smaller and as a consequence the number
of children incorrectly identified as not at risk of reading difficulty will rise. If a higher cut-
off score is chosen to try and minimize the number of false negatives, then the group of
students identified as at risk of reading difficulty will be larger and as a consequence the
number of students incorrectly identified as at risk will rise. If intervention is delayed untilst
1 grade when test scores become more reliable, then kindergartners who are at risk of
reading difficulties will be deprived of needed intervention. Torgesen, Catch Them Before
They Fall, p. 35.
15 Barnett, Preschool Education, p. 436 states: “At best, studies relying on school-
administered tests have reading test data with lower reliability and sample sizes that decline
over time, both of which would reduce their ability to detect long-term program effects. At
worst, such studies systematically lose the more poorly performing students from year to
year as the cumulative percentage of children retained in grade, placed in special education,
or otherwise omitted from testing grows. The result is that any differences between program
and comparison groups are gradually hidden as grade level rises because the children for
whom achievement tests are available become more similar across the two groups.”

Barnett concludes that well-designed studies do indicate that early intervention
can produce positive long-term effects on reading outcomes for children in poverty.
There are also long-term improvements in math and language achievement and in
school success (measured by grade retention and special education placements), but
not in IQ. The long term gains have been found to occur even without subsequent
... It is also consistent with the view that the first few years of schooling have an
important influence on future school success, for example, by affecting reading
group placements and other ability tracking, teacher expectations, parental
expectations, and the child’s sense of self-efficacy, motivation and classroom
behavior. None of this suggests that society should abandon efforts to improve
the elementary education of disadvantaged children whether by such structural16
changes as decreased class size or through improved pedagogy.
Word-Level Reading Difficulties. The discussion thus far has focused on
the relationship to subsequent reading success or failure of intensive early childhood
interventions such as enriched child care; and of SES status, and other child and
family characteristics. However, much of the research on reading intervention has
focused specifically on word-level reading difficulties. Many reading researchers
agree that poor readers experience difficulties in the early process of learning to read
because they have difficulty learning accurate and fluent recognition of words. This
section briefly explains word-level reading difficulties. The efficacy of interventions
with children who have such difficulties is addressed below.
Many empirical studies focusing on word-level reading weaknesses have found
these weaknesses to be largely attributable to phonological processing difficulties17
and to a lessened ability to quickly and accurately read words (also referred to as
rapid word naming):
Research, grounded in a common theoretical framework, now provides evidence
that instruction that heightens phonological awareness and that emphasizes the
connections to the alphabetic code promotes greater skill in word recognition —18
a skill essential to becoming a proficient reader.
Research has also indicated that word-level reading difficulties are not linked
to intelligence, and that intervention can significantly reduce the number of children
in early elementary school experiencing these difficulties. Some reading researchers

16 Barnett, Preschool Education, p. 438.
17 Phonological processing requires the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate phonemes,
as well as broader skills of word manipulation (e.g., the ability to identify rhymes, words,
syllables, onsets and rimes). These difficulties are also linked, to a lesser extent, with
phonological memory.
18 Benita Blachman, “Phonological Awareness,” in Handbook of Reading Research, Vol. III
(Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Pub.), p. 495. Joseph Torgesen, Ann Alexander, Richard
Wagner, Carol Rashotte, Kytja Voeller, and Tim Conway, “Intensive Remedial Instruction
for Children with Severe Reading Disabilities: Immediate and Long-term Outcomes From
Two Instructional Approaches,” Journal of Learning Disabilities, vol. 34, no.1 (Jan./Feb.

2000), p. 33.

argue that identifying children for early intervention in reading based on weaknesses
in phonological processing, rapid automatic word-recognition, and phonological
memory will be more effective in identifying children who need early intervention
in reading, than identifying children for early intervention by looking for a
discrepancy between general verbal ability and reading achievement. However,
children with higher general verbal ability than their word-level reading skills, may
ultimately achieve higher reading comprehension levels because they have greater
cognitive skills in other areas critical to reading comprehension.19
Research on Efficacy of Reading Interventions
Two influential research reports on reading are frequently cited by policy
makers working on reading issues. They are: Preventing Reading Difficulties in
Young Children and Teaching Children to Read.
National Research Council (NRC). In 1998, the NRC published a report
titled: Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. The NRC report
examined skill and environmental factors that facilitate acquisition of reading skills;
it did not explicitly investigate how those skills could be transferred to classroom
settings. The NRC report concluded that: (1) early exposure (in the home and in
school) to language and books is critical; (2) effective reading instruction requires
well trained preschool and elementary school teachers; and (3) elementary school
teachers should include all of the following components in reading instruction:
alphabetics, reading sight words, techniques in sounding out letters and words, and
achieving fluency and comprehension.
The National Reading Panel (NRP). In 2000, the NRP issued a report
titled: Teaching Children to Read. The NRP was convened by the National Institute
of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) with the consultation of the U.S.
Department of Education (ED) in response to a congressional charge to review the
literature on reading and use it to assess the effectiveness of different techniques for
teaching reading, and whether these techniques were ready to be applied to classroom
settings. The NRP research was intended to build on the earlier research conducted
by the NRC.
The NRP conducted a literature review of studies which met “rigorous scientific
standards in reaching conclusions” — it focused only on experimental and quasi-
experimental studies. The following instructional topics were examined by the NRP:
phonemic awareness and phonics, fluency, comprehension, teacher education and
reading instruction, and computer technology and reading instruction. The selected
topics were chosen based on the NRP’s assessment of issues central to reading20

instruction and achievement; and based on input received from public forums.
19 Joseph Torgesen and Stephen Burgess, “Consistency of Reading-Related Phonological
Processes Throughout Early Childhood: Evidence From Longitudinal-Correlational and
Instructional Studies,” in Jamie Metsala and Linnea Ehri, eds., Word Recognition in
Beginning Literacy (NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 1998), pp. 161-188.
20 Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, “National Panel Readying Guidance to Build Foundations for

In summarizing the implications of its work for the teaching of reading, the NRP
noted that not all the areas it investigated contained sufficient data to reach
conclusions; however, it did find that the data supported the following conclusions:
!Systematic phonics instruction (the teaching of a planned sequence
of phonics elements) is effective for children in grades K-1, and for
children in grades 2-6 in word decoding and pseduoword reading,
and for children who are having difficulty learning to read.
Systematic phonics instruction was found to be so successful, that
the NRP recommended it as appropriate for routine classroom
!Phonemic awareness is a crucial building block for phonics.21
!As early as kindergarten, children benefit significantly from phonics
!Children with learning disabilities, low-achieving children, and
those from low socioeconomic levels benefit from systematic
phonics instruction in conjunction with synthetic phonics instruction
(teaching students to convert letters into phonemes and then blend
the phonemes to form words).
!Reading fluency, word recognition, and comprehension are
enhanced by repeated, guided oral reading. The NRP found the
research data insufficient to conclude whether or not encouraging
children to read on their own is effective in improving reading
fluency, word recognition, and comprehension, although there is
correlational evidence of its effectiveness.
In particular, looking at the effects of phonics instruction (an area that has
received much public attention), the NRP found statistically significant results from
phonics instruction across multiple domains.22 The effect sizes of phonics instruction
were found to be greatest for students in kindergarten and 1st grade. Researchers
surmise this occurs because phonics is more effective if taught before students are
reading on their own. The largest effects of phonics training overall for

20 (...continued)
Reading,” Education Week, Jan. 30, 2002, p. 5. Three new federal panels have been formed
following the issuance of the NRP report. One is examining more quantitative research on
reading, one is examining qualitative research on reading, and the third is examining reading
issues for English as second language learners. In addition, the National Institute for
Literacy and the National Center for Family Literacy have formed a panel to examine early-
childhood studies to identify predictive factors for later reading proficiency, as well as
effective practices for building pre-reading skills for children from birth to age 5. Its report
is expected in Dec. 2003. Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, “National Panel Readying Guidance
to Build Foundations for Reading,” Education Week, July 9, 2003, p. 13.
21 Phonemes are the smallest units of spoken language (the word go, for example, consists
of two phonemes).
22 Jacob Cohen, Statistical Power Analysis for the Behavior Sciences, (Hillsdale, NJ:
Erlbaum, 1988). An effect size of .2 is considered small, .5 is considered moderate, and .8
or above is considered large.

kindergartners and first graders were in decoding regularly spelled words (d=0.98),23
decoding pseudo words, and in spelling words (d=0.67). The effects of phonics on
comprehension measures were mixed across sub-populations. Youngest students
benefitted the most in comprehension measures (d=0.51 for kindergarten and 1st
graders), in part because the youngest readers’ comprehension of text is strongly
influenced by the ability to read the words in the text; probably more so than for
children in later grades.24 The effects of phonics instruction on comprehension for
students beyond first grade were relatively small for disabled older students (d=0.32),
and were even smaller for older students overall (d=0.12).25
Thus, research indicates that early intervention in phonics instruction benefits
children in learning to read words; however its impact on comprehension is more
limited. As indicated by the research of the NRP, this intervention does have a
moderately significant effect with young children and a small effect with disabled
older students on comprehension. The correlation between phonics instruction and
comprehension for older students in general, is not significant. This may be
attributable to the many additional factors, beyond being able to read words, that
influence comprehension. Reading comprehension requires, in addition to word-
reading skills, vocabulary, subject area knowledge, thinking and reasoning skills,
effective reading strategies, and motivation, among other things.26
Critical Perspectives on the National Reading Panel Report. The
NRP report has prompted significant critical response: (1) because of the perceived
narrowness of the topics examined; (2) because of methodological concerns; and (3)
because of its substantive and policy conclusions.
Joanne Yatvin, a member of the NRP, wrote a minority view criticizing the
perceived narrowness of the topics selected for review. In her minority view attached
to the NRP report, Yatvin states that the NRP effectively excluded: “any inquiry into
the field of language and literature”; and that the research reviewed by the NRP
would be “of limited usefulness to teachers, administrators, and policymakers
because they [the reviews] fail to address the key issues that have made elementary

23 Report of the National Reading Panel, Reports of the Subgroups, pp. 1-10. (Hereafter
cited as Reports of the Subgroups.) Effect size=d. Effect sizes equaled how much the mean
of the phonics group exceeded that of a control group in standard deviation units. “When
appropriate and feasible, effect sizes were calculated for each intervention or condition in
experimental and quasi-experimental studies. The subgroups used the standardized mean
difference formula as the measure of treatment effect.”
24 Reports of the Subgroups, pp. 2-107. The effect of phonics instruction on oral reading for
kindergartners and 1st graders, although significant, was only d=0.23.
25 Reports of the Subgroups, pp. 2-108. The effect of phonics instruction on oral reading for
older students was statistically greater than zero at d=0.27.
26 Joseph K. Torgesen, “Individual Differences in Response to Early Interventions in
Reading: The Lingering Problem of Treatment Resistors,” Learning Disabilities Research
and Practice, vol. 15, no. 1, 2000, pp. 55-64.

schools both a battleground for advocates of opposing philosophies and a prey for
purveyors of ‘quick fixes’.”27
Elaine Garan, an associate professor of education at California State University,
has authored a book written in a question and answer format that is directed at
questions that teachers may have as they investigate how to implement scientifically
based reading research in their classrooms. Garan argues that the conclusions of the
NRP are based on limited research and are focused on a few limited topics and thus
fail to provide useful information on reading instruction as a whole entity — which,
she argues, is how teachers must confront it:
Because the NRP focused its research on isolated skills they ignored the
complexities of the reading process, as well as the incredible complexities of real
children in real classrooms. In fact, only about 16% of the studies in the phonics
report even looked at the impact of its scientific methods on children’s reading28
comprehension of authentic, connected text.
And Garan expresses concerns about the potential impacts of applying the
NRP’s findings on teachers and classrooms: “The federal government has decided
it knows better than we do — what we should teach, how we should teach, and even
when we should teach it.”29
One recent study attempted to replicate the NRP’s results on the influence of
phonics on beginning readers by conducting its own meta-analysis of the studies
examined by the NRP.30 Gregory Camilli (Professor at Rutgers’ Graduate School of
Education), SadakoVargas (Assistant Professor at Kean University), and Michele
Yurecko (Ph.D. student at Rutgers’ Graduate School of Education) began with the
38 studies examined by the NRP and deleted one because it lacked a control group
and added three others that they felt should not have been rejected for inclusion by
the NRP. After conducting their meta-analysis, the authors concluded that “the
methodology and procedures in Teaching Children to Read were not adequate for
synthesizing the research literature on phonics instruction.”31 Camilli, Vargas, and

27 Report of the National Reading Panel: Reports of the Subgroups, Minority View of
Joanne Yatvin, 2000.
28 Elaine Garan, Resisting Reading Mandates (N.H.: Heinemann, 2002), p. 5.
29 Ibid.
30 G. Camilli, S. Vargas, and M. Yurecko, “Teaching Children to Read: The Fragile Link
Between Science and Federal Education Policy,” Education Policy Analysis Archives,

11(15), May 8, 2003, p. 3. Retrieved from [http://www.epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v11n15/].

(Hereafter cited as Camilli, et al., Teaching Children to Read.) A “meta-analysis” is a
statistical procedure for summarizing the results of multiple studies in a systematic way.
The authors note: “Though some of the methodological steps taken by the NRP analysts
were retraced, our goal was to verify whether an independent team of researchers would
arrive at conclusions consistent with those in the NRP report. We did not examine how the
original 38 studies were chosen.”
31 Camilli, et al., Teaching Children to Read, p. 12. Among other things, the authors believe
that there were differences among control groups that might have biased the results, and

Yurecko did find a statistically significant effect of systematic phonics instruction
compared to nonsystematic or no phonics instruction on learning to read, but of much
lower magnitude than the effect found by the NRP (d=0.24 and d=0.41, respectively).
However, the authors also found that the effect of individual tutoring (d=0.40) was
greater than the effect of phonics instruction (d=0.24); and they found that the effect
of systematic language activities was comparable (d=0.29) to the effects of phonics
instruction. The authors believe that these effects are likely additive, and that when
all three instructional techniques are combined the effect size may be triple that of
phonics alone:
As federal policies are formulated around early literacy curricula and instruction,
these findings indicate that phonics, as one aspect of the complex reading32
process, should not be over-emphasized.
Michael Pressley, a professor in the psychology department at the University of
Notre Dame, argues that the NRP report was too methodologically and conceptually
narrow. He contends that the NRP should have examined influences in early
childhood that can affect reading outcomes; rather than relying solely on school age
Effective reading instruction occurs over years and changes with the
developmental level of the child, with these dynamics not captured at all by the
Panel’s emphases on discrete skills appropriate at only particular developmental
levels (i.e., mostly when children are mastering letter-sound associations and
beginning word recognition). Effective literacy instruction is a balance and33
blending of skills teaching and holistic literature and writing experiences.
Additionally, Pressley argues that there are scientifically validated findings on
the effects of the following factors that should have been included by the NRP: home
storybook reading, television (e.g., Between the Lions), community resources such
as tutoring, language of instruction, and school reform movements. Pressley also
argues that the NRP should have included information on the positive effects of
whole language instruction (which Pressley states is “the most pervasive approach
to reading instruction in schools in the 1990s.”). Further, he argues that the NRP:
“Could have done a great deal of good for educators by attempting to separate out the
instructional wheat from the instructional chaff in whole language, for there is both

31 (...continued)
that more moderator variables should have been employed: “By moderator variable, we
mean a component of treatment delivery that leads to a stronger or weaker effect. Four new
moderator variables were constructed for specifying the treatment conditions: degree of
phonics systematicity; degree of coordinated language activities; whether treatments were
regular in-class or pullout programs; and whether basal readers were used. These variables,
which were coded from the research studies by means of rubrics, provided the explanatory
power missing from the simple comparative design used in the NRP analyses. That is, the
NRP design did not fully account for variation in the mixtures and degrees of treatment
delivered to both experimental and control groups.”
32 Camilli, et al., Teaching Children to Read, p. 12.
33 Michael Pressley, Effective Beginning Reading Instruction: A Paper Commissioned by the
National Reading Conference, 2001, p. 3

wheat and chaff in what is conventional instruction for many children in American
Policy and Implementation Issues
Reading First and Early Reading First were created to broaden and expand
existing reading programs in order to address concerns about student reading
achievement and to try and reach younger children. These programs draw upon
recent reading research, and, in particular, upon the recommendations of the NRP,
by requiring that Reading First and Early Reading First programs implement
scientifically based reading and pre-reading curricula. These significant new reading
initiatives were part of the January 8, 2002, reauthorization of the Elementary and35
Secondary Education Act (P.L. 107-110). These new programs are part of a broader
initiative by the Administration to, among other things, increase the quality and
quantity of academic and pre-academic skills low-income children are receiving, with
the goal of ensuring children participating in these programs are able to read by third
grade. One of the purposes of the Early Reading First program is to integrate
scientifically based reading research into existing Head Start, childcare and preschool
programs. These preschool programs, are intended to be integrated with the Reading
First program, which may serve some of these same children in early elementary
school (grades K-3).
In addition to Reading First and Early Reading First, there are several other
federally funded programs that provide early education and care to low-income
children. The largest federal program with early childhood development as its
primary mission is Head Start. The program’s reauthorization is currently being
considered by Congress — the House has passed a Head Start reauthorization bill
(H.R. 2210) and reauthorization legislation has been approved by the Senate Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (The Head Start Improvement and School
Readiness Act).36 Head Start provides educational services to low-income children
to prepare them to enter kindergarten, as well as health, nutrition and other services.
The last reauthorization of the Head Start program in 1998 increased the share of
appropriations targeted for quality improvement activities; and also required the
administering agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, to develop
specific education performance standards for the program. In its FY2004 budget, the
Administration proposed transferring Head Start to ED to better ensure coordination
with other preschool programs with the goal of ensuring all children participating are
prepared to enter kindergarten. In addition to Head Start, other large federal
programs funding early education and care are the Child Care and Development
Block Grant (CCDBG), the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), the Elementary and

34 Ibid., p. 13.
35 For ongoing updated information on Reading First and Early Reading First see CRS
Report RL31241, Reading First and Early Reading First: Background and Funding, by Gail
36 CRS Report RL30952, Head Start Issues in the 108th Congress, by Melinda Gish and
Alice Butler.

Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Title I-A, and the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA).37
This section focuses on the Reading First and Early Reading First programs, and
in particular, on the application of reading research to the implementation of Reading
First; and on the potential impact of early intervention in reading on the numbers of
children needing remedial education.
The Reading First program, with funding of $900 million in its first year,
FY2002, is principally a program of formula grants to states, distributed based on a
poverty formula.38 Beginning in FY2004 a portion of Reading First funds will be
allocated ($90 million or 10% of funds in excess of the FY2003 appropriation,
whichever is less) as targeted assistance grants for states that have increased the
percentage of 3rd graders who are proficient readers and have improved the reading
skills of 1st and 2nd graders. The purposes of the Reading First program are:
!To provide assistance to state educational agencies (SEAs) and local
educational agencies (LEAs) in establishing scientifically based
reading programs for children in kindergarten through grade 3;39
!To provide assistance to SEAs and LEAs in providing reading
related professional training for teachers, including special education
!To provide assistance to SEAs and LEAs in selecting or
administering screening, diagnostic, and classroom-based
instructional reading assessments;
!To provide assistance to SEAs and LEAs in selecting or developing
effective instructional materials, programs, learning systems, and
strategies; and
!To strengthen coordination among schools, early literacy programs,
and family literacy programs, in order to improve reading
achievement for all children.40
The Reading First program is intended to focus on the general education
classroom in grades K-3. ED has indicated that:

37 See CRS Report RL31817, Child Care Issues in the 108th Congress, by Melinda Gish.
38 States are allocated funds in proportion to the number of children aged 5-17 from families
with incomes below the poverty line who reside within the state.
39 Section 1208 (6) of P.L. 107-110 defines scientifically based reading research as follows:
“The term ‘scientifically based reading research’ means research that (A)applies rigorous,
systematic, and objective procedures to obtain valid knowledge relevant to reading
development, reading instruction, and reading difficulties; and (B) includes research that —
(i) employs systematic empirical methods that draw on observation or experiment;
(ii)involves rigorous data analyses that are adequate to test the stated hypotheses and justify
the general conclusions drawn; (iii) relies on measurements or observational methods that
provide valid data across evaluators and observers and across multiple measurements and
observations; and (iv) has been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal or approved by a panel
of independent experts through a comparably rigorous, objective, and scientific review.”
40 Section 1201, P.L. 107-110.

Reading First will provide support to all K-3 students and their teachers in the
schools that are served, and it is the Department’s view that the classroom
provides the most important teaching venue for reaching these early readers. It
is the classroom where the program will build and support the scientifically
based reading foundation. Reading First seeks to embed the essential
components of reading instruction into all elements of the primary, mainstream41
K-3 teaching structures of each State.
LEAs receiving Reading First funds are required to use these funds to select and
administer “screening, diagnostic, and classroom-based instructional reading
assessments.”42 LEAs are also required to implement a scientifically based reading
program that includes the essential components of reading instruction. Additional
required uses include: procuring and implementing scientifically-based instructional
materials; providing professional development to teachers (grade K-3, and K-12 for
special education teachers) that will prepare them in all of the essential components
of reading instruction; collecting, summarizing and reporting data; and promoting
reading and library programs that expose students to “engaging reading material.” 43
Reading First defines the essential components of reading instruction as:
(A) phonemic awareness;
(B) phonics;
(C) vocabulary development;
(D) reading fluency, including oral reading skills; and
(E) reading comprehension strategies.44
The Early Reading First program, with funding of $75 million in its first year,
FY2002, is a competitive grant program. LEAs eligible for Reading First grants, as
well as other public or private organizations serving preschool age children, or
combinations of one or more of the above, may apply for these grants. There are five
stated purposes underlying the Early Reading First program:
!To support local efforts to enhance the early language, literacy, and
prereading development of preschool age children, particularly those
from low-income families;
!To provide preschool age children with cognitive learning
opportunities in high-quality and language-rich environments;
!To demonstrate language and literacy activities based on
scientifically based reading research that supports age-appropriate
development of pre-reading skills;
!To use screening assessments to effectively identify preschool
children who may be at risk for reading failure; and
!To integrate such scientifically-based instructional materials and
literacy activities with existing programs of preschools, child care

41 U.S. Department of Education, Guidance for the Reading First Program, Apr. 2002.
42 Section 1202 (c)(7)(A)(i), P.L. 107-110.
43 Section 1202 (c)(7)(A), P.L. 107-110.
44 Section 1208 (3), P.L. 107-110.

agencies and programs, Head Start Centers, and family literacy
servi ces. 45
The passage of Reading First in particular, because of its size and scope, has
focused considerable attention on it, and on the requirements states must meet in
order to receive Reading First money.
In response to congressional and public concerns, ED has stated that there is no
approved list of reading programs and assessments that will be required for states to
receive Reading First funds. Nevertheless, ongoing concern has been expressed
regarding what some perceive as overly prescriptive requirements of Reading First;
and about whether states will be able to use locally developed reading initiatives and
other supplemental programs such as Reading Recovery.46
Reading First is still very new, and as a consequence, performance data from
states in implementing these grants are not yet available. However, the International
Reading Association (IRA) has published a study examining the successful
application experience of 13 states under Reading First.47 The review included
interviews with the application coordinators of the 13 states (via telephone and
email), as well as examination of the actual applications (available on the Web).
The IRA wanted the following areas of concern about the application process
explored: whether states would be limited to specific curriculum materials or to
specific assessment measures; and how the eligibility of providers of professional
development would be determined. In the review of these 13 applications, the IRA
noted that some states privately expressed ongoing concerns about the extensive
revisions to their applications that were required before final approval. The IRA also
expressed concerns about a document distributed at Reading First Leadership
Academies and relied upon by many states in completing their applications.48 The
document titled: A Consumer’s Guide to Evaluating a Core Reading Program
Grades K-3: A Critical Analysis, was authored by Deborah Simmons and Edward
Kame’enui. The IRA noted that the publication recommended the use of decodable

45 Section 1221 (a), P.L. 107-110.
46 “Reading Recovery is a highly effective short-term intervention of one-on-one tutoring
for low-achieving first graders. The intervention is most effective when it is available to all
students who need it and is used a supplement to good classroom teaching. In Reading
Recovery, individual students receive a half-hour lesson each school day for 12 to 20 weeks
with a specially trained Reading Recovery teachers. As soon as students can read within the
average range of their class and demonstrate that they can continue to achieve, their lessons
are discontinued, and new students begin individual instruction.” At
[ h t t p : / / www.r e a d i n gr e c ove r y.or g] .
47 Margie Bell, “The International Reading Association’s Review of Reading First Grant
Recipients,” The Reading Teacher, vol. 56, no. 7, Apr. 2003, pp. 670-674. (Hereafter cited
as Bell, The International Reading Association’s Review.) In addition, the Education
Commission on the States has constructed an online database to examine states’ literacy
policies. See [http://www.ecs.org].
48 Reading First Leadership Academies were conducted by the ED to assist states in
understanding the requirements of the new law.

text in reading programs, even though the NRP had found the research insufficient
to reach a conclusion on the effectiveness of decodable text.49 Nevertheless, if states
are not required to use materials that include decodable text, this concern will be
satisfied, according to Cathy Roller director of research and policy for the IRA:
... it is not clear exactly how each of the approved states will use the Consumer’s
Guide, it is not clear how serious this problem may be. It is unlikely that any
series would meet all of the criteria listed in the Consumer’s Guide. If it is
possible to use materials that do not include decodable text, then there is little
cause for concern. However, if the states are required to use materials that
include decodable text, then that would be a cause for concern.
The IRA study conclusions were generally positive. The study found that “the
U.S. Department of Education so far has not restricted states to the use of specific
curriculum materials or specific tests and that there is a broad range of plans for50
determining eligible providers of professional development.” The IRA survey
noted that the 13 states surveyed were not limited to specific commercial programs
and that state officials were satisfied overall with the application process.
Remedial Education
Part of the rationale for early intervention in reading is that it is more
educationally effective, and ultimately more cost effective, than subsequent
remediation with already impaired readers:
... although the reading instruction provided by special education is more
effective than general education classroom instruction for children with reading
disabilities, current instruction in many special education placements is not
sufficient to accelerate reading growth so that there is reasonable hope for these51
children to achieve average-level skills in a reasonable time.
Part of the promise of early intervention for students who need it in general
education classrooms is that it will result in fewer children needing more extensive
(and expensive) remediation such as that provided under Title I of the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for children attending relatively high poverty
schools, and the specialized services provided under the Individuals with Disabilities52

Education Act (IDEA).
49 Decodable text refers to books containing the letter-sound relationships that children have
been taught.
50 Bell, The International Reading Association’s Review.
51 Joseph K. Torgesen, Ann W. Alexander, Richard K. Wagner, Carol A. Rashotte, Kyta S.
Voeller, and Tim Conway, “Intensive Remedial Instruction for Children with Severe
Reading Disabilities,” Journal of Learning Disabilities, vol. 34, no. 1 (Jan./Feb. 2001), p.


52 Torgesen, Catch Them Before They Fall, p. 32. “It is a tragedy of the first order that while
we know clearly the costs of waiting too long, few school districts have in place a
mechanism to identify and help children before failure takes hold. Indeed, in the majority

To what extent might early reading intervention reduce the number of children
requiring subsequent remedial services? The Congressional Research Service (CRS)
has examined the potential growth in the population of children with learning
disabilities in order to project full funding costs of IDEA under alternative
assumptions.53 One of these alternatives assumes that the percentage of children
identified as learning disabled could be reduced over time by 50% (via an estimated
70% reduction in the 80% of learning disabled children whose primary disability is
in reading) due to early reading interventions such as those provided by Reading First
and Early Reading First. It should be emphasized that CRS does not predict that such
a reduction will actually occur, but is only exploring the implications of such an
assumed reduction in pupils with disabilities. Employing these assumptions, the
number of children identified as learning disabled would be significantly reduced
over time. Under these assumptions CRS estimates that by 2010, 6.6 million
children would be identified as learning disabled compared to the ED’s Budget office
projected estimate of 7.4 million.54

52 (...continued)
of cases, there is no systematic identification until third grade, by which time successful
remediation is more difficult and more costly.” For more on ESEA Title I see CRS Report
RL31487, Education for the Disadvantaged: Overview of ESEA Title I-A Amendments
Under the No Child Left Behind Act, by Wayne Riddle.
53 See CRS General Distribution Memorandum, Estimating Maximum Funding for IDEA
Part B Grants to States Under Current Law, H.R. 1350, and A. 1248, by Richard N. Apling,
July 30, 2003. (Hereafter cited as Apling, Estimating Maximum Funding for IDEA.) Under
IDEA, a child with a disability is defined as one:
(i) with mental retardation, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech or
language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious
emotional disturbance (hereinafter referred to as “emotional disturbance”),
orthopedic impairments, autism, traumatic brain injury, other health impairments,
or specific learning disabilities; and
(ii) who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services. IDEA
also permits states and LEAs to include a child as having a disability who is:
“experiencing developmental delays ... in one or more of the following areas:
physical development, cognitive development, communication development,
social or emotional development, or adaptive development.” IDEA, Section 602,


In addition, children aged 3-9 may be classified as a child with a disability, under the
discretion of the LEA, if they are experiencing developmental delays, and as a consequence
need special education and related services.
54 These assumptions on the overall percent decline in children with learning disabilities are
based on research by Reid Lyon. CRS further assumes that the slowing growth in the
number of children with disabilities due to these reading interventions will be gradual, i.e.,st
in the first year after implementation it assumes a reduction of children in 1 grade identified
as learning disabled; in the second year, the reduction in growth will affect children in first
grade and the previous first graders now entering second grade. This trajectory is assumed
to continued over time. See Apling, Estimating Maximum Funding for IDEA.

Co-Occurring Disabilities and “Treatment-Resistors”. When
considering how to reduce the number of children who will require intensive
subsequent intervention it is important to briefly mention the issue of co-occurring
disabilities and so called treatment-resistors. First, there are children who suffer from
multiple disabilities. Children with co-occurring disabilities may respond positively
to reading interventions, but may still require ongoing intensive treatment (such as
special education and related services) for other disabilities. The U.S. Department
of Education’s 22nd Annual report on the implementation of IDEA (2000) includes
a chapter discussing available data on co-occurring disabilities. ED notes that
although co-occurring disabilities are common, because of data limitations, including
differing definitions of disability and differences in populations studied, estimates of
co-occurring disabilities have varied from 19% of special education students to55
48%. Secondly, reading researchers have pointed out that there are a group of
children called ‘treatment-resistors’ who do not respond positively to typical reading
interventions. Torgesen, et al., have noted in their research that the non-responders
were children with multiple areas of reading related difficulties, i.e., they had
weaknesses in phonological awareness, rapid automatic naming ability, and
knowledge of letter-sound correspondences, as well as weaknesses in general oral
language skills. Thus, even if early intervention in reading succeeds in significantly
reducing the number of children requiring more intensive intervention, the research
is clear that there will remain a group of children who will continue to need
subsequent intensive intervention.
Assuming that early intervention in reading succeeds in significantly reducing
the pool of children who need intensive remedial education, such as the services
provided under IDEA; there remains an issue regarding whether these remedial
services are being effectively targeted to the children who continue to need it. Some
researchers argue that current eligibility determinations for receiving IDEA services
may be delaying and limiting the pool of children who are receiving intensive reading
assistance under IDEA. In order to be eligible under IDEA a child must be found tord
have a disability, and many children are not identified as having a disability until 3
grade. In addition, many states and LEAs employ a discrepancy standard (e.g., the
point spread between IQ and achievement scores) to determine whether a child
qualifies for services under IDEA as having a specific learning disability.56

55 U.S. Department of Education, Twenty-Second Annual Report to Congress on the
Implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 2000, p. II-34.
56 Many children are covered by IDEA because of Specific Learning Disability(s), which is
defined as:
“(A) IN GENERAL. The term ‘specific learning disability’ means a disorder in one or more
of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken
or written, which disorder may manifest itself in imperfect ability to listen, think, speak,
read, write, spell or do mathematical calculations.
(B) DISORDERS INCLUDED. Such terms includes such conditions as perceptual
disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental apahsia.
(C) DISORDERS NOT INCLUDED. Such term does not include a learning problem that

Some researchers contend that the discrepancy standard is not a valid indicator
of learning disabilities, arguing that most children who experience difficulty in
acquiring early word reading skills have phonological processing difficulties, and that
these difficulties occur in children with low general intelligence as well as those with
normal general intelligence.57 Lyon, among others, contends that applying this
discrepancy standard results in a ‘wait to fail’ model because the discrepancy
formulas usually cannot reliably identify a child as learning disabled until 3rd grade.58
Legislative proposals in the 108th Congress to reauthorize IDEA (H.R. 1350 and S.
1248), include a provision that specifically states that LEAs need not use the
discrepancy standard in determining whether a student has a specific learning

56 (...continued)
is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of
emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage.” IDEA,
Section 602, item 26.
57 Torgesen, Catch Them Before They Fall, pp. 33-34. Phonological processing is often
measured by assessing phonemic awareness, defined as “the ability to identify, think about,
or manipulate the individual sounds in words.”
58 Lyon, et al., Rethinking Learning Disabilities, p. 260. “Because there is no strong
evidence that the IQ-achievement discrepancy criterion either (1) describes an intrinsic
reading-related processing difference within low-achieving readers (nondiscrepant versus
discrepant), or provides a differential prediction of response to intervention or education
outcomes, the use of such discrepancy requirements to deny specialized services and/or
accommodations to nondiscrepant poor readers is arbitrary and problematic.”
59 For more on IDEA see CRS Report RL31259, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act:
Statutory Provisions and Selected Issues, by Richard Apling and Nancy Jones.

Glossary of Selected Terms Used in This Report
The definitions included in this glossary are taken verbatim from the
publication: Put Reading First. Ambruster, Bonnie, Fran Lehr, and Jean Osborn.
June 2003. This report was published by the Partnership for Reading, which includes
the National Institute for Literacy, the National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development, and the U.S. Department of Education. Put Reading First is intended
to provide teachers information on what works in teaching reading based on
scientifically-based reading research.
!A phoneme is the smallest part of spoken language that makes a
difference in the meaning of words. English has about 41
phonemes. A few words, such as a or oh, have only one phoneme.
Most words, however, have more than one phoneme: The word if
has two phonemes (/i/ /f/); check has three phonemes (/ch/ /e/ /k/),
and stop has four phonemes (/s/ /t/ /o/ /p/). Sometimes one phoneme
is represented by more than one letter.
!A grapheme is the smallest part of written language that represents
a phoneme in the spelling of a word. A grapheme may be just one
letter, such as b, d, f, p, s, or several letters such as ch, sh, th, -ck, ea,
!Phonics is the understanding that there is a predictable relationship
between phonemes (the sounds of spoken language) and graphemes
(the letters and spellings that represent those sounds in written
!Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate
the individual sounds — phonemes — in spoken words.
!Phonological awareness is a broad term that includes phonemic
awareness. In addition to phonemes, phonological awareness
activities can involve work with rhymes, words, syllables, and onsets
and rimes.
!A syllable is a word part that contains a vowel or, in spoken
language, a vowel sound (e-vent, news-pa-per, ver-y).
!Onsets and rimes are parts of spoken language that are smaller than
syllables but larger than phonemes. An onset is the initial
consonant(s) sound of a syllable (the onset of bag is b-, of swim,
sw-). A rime is the part of a syllable that contains the vowel and all
that follows it (the rime of bag is -ag; of swim, -im).