Reading Recovery offers short-term boost for students who fall behind in reading and writing
CASTLE ROCK – Learning to read and write is one of the most important skills students learn in elementary school. If a child is struggling to keep up, the Douglas County School District has a safety net – a short-term intensive intervention designed to support students by assisting them in acquiring skills that not only quickly bring them back to grade-level, but also help to build a strong foundation for learning throughout their lifetime.
Reading Recovery is one of the intensive interventions deployed for first-grade students struggling with literacy. Teachers and support staff may provide this intervention when targeted literacy interventions within the school's Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) are not working.
“At first, students who are still having trouble accessing that content may go into a targeted intervention,” explained DCSD Literacy Intervention Coordinator Kathy Tirrill.
“That might be co-teaching or small group instruction by a literacy specialist. If they are still falling behind in the targeted intervention then they will go into the intensive intervention, which could be Reading Recovery.”
For 12 to 20 weeks, students are paired with a specially trained Reading Recovery teacher for 30-minute daily sessions.
“During an intensive intervention, they are able to work in a quiet environment, where they learn strategies for reading and writing.”
In addition to learning those basic, foundational skills, a lot of time is also spent helping students become resilient problem solvers. Reading Recovery lessons are based on specific student needs and will be adapted to provide direct instruction in those areas. The goal is to provide students a toolbox of skills as well as the knowledge and patience to determine which ones to choose, as they are reading and writing.
“Strong literacy skills are essential for success in school and later life so getting help quickly will make a huge difference in learning. Students gain strategies for reading and writing, but they learn problem solving techniques that will take them into other content areas and will empower them to access the World Class Outcomes in the classroom,” Tirrill said. “It bleeds into the rest of their day and the rest of their lives. They become resilient problem solvers because of the strategies they learn in Reading Recovery.”
For most students the difference is easy to see, even in such a short amount of time.
“Within that period of time, the literacy gap is closed and students become confident and proficient learners,” Tirrill said. “Once the Reading Recovery intervention is implemented that acceleration is amazing. Every child can learn and every child can succeed. It takes a team to make that happen, the student, teachers, and parents.
“We have heard from parents that say, ‘The Reading Recovery Program has been instrumental in our daughter’s academic achievements this year. It has instilled confidence and a love for reading in a safe and private environment, giving her the chance to learn and grow at her own pace. It also provided the encouragement and tools she needed to become successful and it has given our family the tools to ensure her success going forward. I’ve never had my child work intensely with one person and it has just made a huge difference in her self esteem and how she looks at herself.’”
“It changes kids’ lives,” Tirrill added.
Additionally, Tirrill says Reading Recovery is not a “box program.” Instead of just following a plan, the Reading Recovery teachers must go through an intensive year-long university course and then engage in ongoing professional development every year. Ensuring the teachers have a depth of understanding in literacy education and employing interventions tailored to the individual student is the goal.
“It helps us as teachers and professionals to further the intensity of the instruction we give our students,” Tirrill said.
While the Reading Recovery success rate is more than 80 percent in Douglas County, some students do require longer-term support.
“Usually for those students there is something that is keeping them from accelerating and we need to look at longer-term support,” Tirrill said.
Literacy specialists work closely with their classroom and special education colleagues to determine what further actions should be taken.
Parents encouraged to read with their children, seek help if needed
Tirrill says the best thing parents can do for their students is to read with them.
“I encourage parents to spend a few minutes every day reading to their child and to take an interest in what their child can do,” Tirrill said. “Reading should be a shared happy time together. It's not a test; it shouldn't feel like hard work. Listen to them read. Take an interest in what they have to say, enjoy and talk about what they are learning. Praise and keep giving them support that they can do it.”
If a family believes their child is falling behind, they should first talk to their classroom teacher. They can provide more targeted interventions and pull in additional support, if needed.