I spent 18 years as a general education classroom teacher in a variety of grade levels. Over that time, I encountered many students, who despite my best efforts, still struggled to read. Some problems were severe, like one fourth grader who read on a Kindergarten level, while others had more mild challenges. Some students ended up receiving special education services, but most did not. It was a frustrating road that often left me feeling inadequate and ineffective. That changed in 2014.
A colleague approached me about a local training on something called "Orton-Gillingham." I had heard of it and knew it was a method used to help dyslexic students read. I wanted the tools to help my students and couldn’t wait to dive in. This intensive graduate level program opened my eyes to the reading science and a Structured Literacy™ approach to teaching reading. For the first time, I felt empowered by having a set of tools to help any student who walked through my door.
I simultaneously felt relieved and annoyed by my newfound knowledge: relieved that I was now ready to help my students but annoyed that I had spent almost ten thousand dollars of my own money to learn something I should have learned in college or from my school district. Teachers shouldn’t have to wait until 15 years into their teaching career to grasp these foundational literacy concepts. The information has been available since 2000, when the National Reading Panel published their report on the reading research, yet the science isn’t making it into the classroom.
Why aren’t teachers learning the science, and where does change begin? Does it begin at the federal or state level? Does it start with the Universities bringing the reading science into their teacher preparation programs? I don't have the answers to these questions, but I do know that every teacher of reading should have the fundamental knowledge of how the brain reads and what methods have been validated by research. Whether we call it Structured Literacy™, a term coined by the International Dyslexia Association, or Orton-Gillingham, the first method of helping dyslexics created my Samuel Orton in the 1930's, our teachers need to learn more about it. This methodology is essential for the 10-20% of our population who are dyslexic, necessary for the 30-40% of our students who require explicit training in phonemic awareness and phonics (Kilpatrick, 2016), and helpful to the remainder of the population who will likely learn to read quite well with any instructional approach.
In the primary grades it isn’t always clear which students are going to struggle, so why not provide all students with systematic explicit instruction that aligns with the reading science? So yes, Structured Literacy approaches like Orton-Gillingham belong in general education classrooms. With over 60% of American fourth graders failing to read proficiently, it’s time to make a change. It’s time to follow the science.
To learn more about evidence-based instruction, visit: https://learn.readintervention.com/
Meet the Author
Jennifer Cerra is the founder of R.E.A.D. Intervention. She has been working with students as an educator since 1998. Jennifer received her B.A. in English Literature from Boston University and her M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Lesley University. She is also a certified reading specialist and Orton-Gillingham practitioner who received training through Fairleigh Dickinson University, an accredited IMSLEC graduate level program. After working in the public school sector for over 20 years, Jennifer decided to dedicate her passion for literacy instruction to private students struggling to read and founded R.E.A.D. Intervention. Based on R.E.A.D.’s success with students, she was approached by educational leaders and asked to provide in-person professional development on using evidence-based methods such as Orton-Gillingham. In order to deliver the content to a wider audience in a cost effective manner, R.E.A.D. created online learning modules and resources to support the delivery and implementation of this instruction. We are excited to partner with educators to help their students unlock the code and experience reading success! To learn more about R.E.A.D.'s online training offerings, visit: https://learn.readintervention.com/