New research conducted by the University of Alberta builds on the existing body of knowledge telling us that children who struggle to read in grade 1 can catch up with their peers by grade 3 or sooner if they have the right supports in school. A total of 290 children from 11 schools in Edmonton that demonstrated difficulties in reading at the start of grade 1 in 2015 received additional support in small groups three times a week for up to two years. When they were tested again two years later, at the start of grade 3, all but seven of them were reading on level with their peers. That equates to a 98% success rate!
While the findings of the research may reinforce what we already know rather than teach us something new, this new data is still useful for several reasons.
First, it provides us with much needed local data conducted by Alberta-based researchers, something that we don’t have enough of. The best learning from each school can be shared with and copied by other schools province-wide.
Second, the study was also replicated in Quebec and Ontario, allowing us to make a cross-jurisdictional comparison when the data is made publicly available. (The research has not yet been published.)
And third, the findings of the research and subsequent actions taken by the school reinforce much of what Calgary Reads promotes and practices through the Alberta Reads Network:
- Individual or small group tutoring provided at least twice per week for 35-45 sessions can improve outcomes for young readers that just need a little boost
- Teachers in Alberta need—and are asking for—more support and professional development in teaching reading to their students
- The window between ages 5 to 8 is critical for remedying deficiencies in reading and the end of grade 3 is a pivotal time for students to read at grade-level
- When children can read well, their confidence increases, the joy they derive from reading increases, and they read more.
Read more about this study in the original article by Janet French in the Edmonton Journal here. Her colleague Paula Simons penned a fiery column expressing frustration at our collective inaction on doing what we know we need to do to improve reading outcomes as a community.