What Really Matters for Struggling Readers

FULL DISCLOSURE:  I have not read this book.  However, Amanda J. has, and graciously sent me her favorite quotes from this important book:   What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Researched-Based Programs by Richard Allington.

“Research Based” is a term that gets thrown around a lot now as a result of NCLB funding.  Why?  For schools to receive some types of federal funding, they have to ensure that their reading programs are “research based”.  For a teacher primarily using their classroom library and years of experience in a balanced literacy model, this could be confronting because your teaching does not come out of a box with the words “research based” on it.  This book provides a strong research base that supports our approach to literacy instruction.


  • The observations pointed to the importance of good teaching—modeling and demonstrating useful reading strategies. For instance, even very small increases in the amount of daily teacher demonstration produced improved reading achievement… For only one minute a day, on average, was the teacher offering explanations or demonstrations of elements of reading, though about fourteen minutes a day were spent in providing general directions about assignments.
  • Effective strategy instruction focused on the thinking that students needed to apply while reading.
  • Effective comprehension strategy lessons immersed students in teacher demonstrations of the thinking, the strategy-in-use, and the application of the strategy repeatedly across a number of different texts.
  • Instead of assign and assess lessons these students need demonstrations of effective strategy use and lots of opportunities to apply the demonstrated strategy over time.
  • The potential of effective strategy instruction to improve students’ performance on school comprehension tasks is well documented. Unfortunately, too few classrooms routinely offer the sorts of strategy teaching that produces better comprehension. In order to enhance reading comprehension, more children need regular access to this sort of teaching. However, a caution should be heeded: Children and adolescents also need to read a lot. Do not get so taken with strategy instruction that the classroom gets out of balance in terms of time spent reading versus time spent on the other things.


  • Taylor and her colleagues demonstrated that the minutes of reading per day during reading period contributed significantly to individual reading growth, whereas time spent on home reading did not.
  • As reading achievement tests have changed, the ability to sustain independent reading over longer texts and for periods of an hour or more has become an increasingly important proficiency.
  • Wide, independent reading has been shown to be the most critical factor in acquiring new word meanings.


  • These finding indicate that interventions for struggling readers that provide far greater opportunities to engage in literate discussions are a necessary component of effective intervention designs.

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