Reading Development, Reading Disorders, And Reading Instruction: Research-Based Findings Luckily, some children learn to read and write with ease. Even before they enter school, they have developed an understanding that the letters on a page can be sounded out to make words. Some preschool children can even read words correctly that they have never seen before and comprehend ... Article
Article  |   May 01, 1999
Reading Development, Reading Disorders, And Reading Instruction: Research-Based Findings
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • G. Reid Lyon
    Child Development and Behavior Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
Article Information
Articles
Article   |   May 01, 1999
Reading Development, Reading Disorders, And Reading Instruction: Research-Based Findings
SIG 1 Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, May 1999, Vol. 6, 8-16. doi:10.1044/lle6.1.8
SIG 1 Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, May 1999, Vol. 6, 8-16. doi:10.1044/lle6.1.8
Luckily, some children learn to read and write with ease. Even before they enter school, they have developed an understanding that the letters on a page can be sounded out to make words. Some preschool children can even read words correctly that they have never seen before and comprehend what they have read. As Marilyn Adams (1990)  has reported, before school, and without any great effort or pressure on the part of their parents, children pick up books, pencils, and paper, and they are on their way, almost as though by magic.
However, the magic of this effortless journey into the world of reading is available to only about 5% of our nation’s children. It is suggested in the research literature that another 20% to 30% learn to read relatively easily once exposed to formal instruction, and it seems that youngsters in this group learn to read in any classroom, with any instructional emphasis (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998) . Unfortunately, it appears that, for about 60% of our nation’s children, learning to read is a much more formidable challenge, and for at least 20% to 30% of these youngsters, reading is one of the most difficult tasks that they will have to master throughout their schooling (Shaywitz, 1997; Shaywitz, Escobar, Shaywitz, Fletcher, & Makuch, 1992; Shaywitz, Shaywitz, Fletcher, & Escobar, 1990). Why is this so unfortunate? The answer is, simply, if you do not learn to read and you live in America, you do not make it in life. Consider that reading skill serves as the major avenue to learning about other people, about history and social studies, the language arts, science, mathematics, and the other content subjects that must be mastered in school. When children do not learn to read, their general knowledge, their spelling and writing abilities, and their vocabulary development suffer in kind (Stanovich, 1986) . Within this context, reading skill serves as the major foundational skill for all school-based learning, and without it, the chances for academic and occupational success are limited indeed. Because of its importance and visibility, particularly during the primary grades, difficulty learning to read squashes the excitement and love for learning with which many youngsters enter school. It is embarrassing and even devastating to read slowly and laboriously and to demonstrate this weakness in front of peers on a daily basis. It is clear from our National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)-supported longitudinal studies that follow good and poor readers from kindergarten into young adulthood that our young poor readers are not used to such failure. By the end of the first grade, we begin to notice substantial decreases in the children’s self-esteem, self-concept, and motivation to learn to read if they have not been able to master reading skills and keep up with their age-mates. As we follow the children through elementary and middle-school grades these problems compound, and, in many cases, very bright youngsters are unable to learn about the wonders of science, mathematics, literature, and the like because they cannot read the grade-level textbooks. By high school, these children’s potential for entering college has decreased to almost nil, with few choices available to them with respect to occupational and vocational opportunities. These individuals constantly tell us that they hate to read, primarily because it is such hard work, and their reading is so slow and laborious. As one adolescent in one of our longitudinal studies remarked recently, “I would rather have a root canal than read.”
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