In our modern society, a lot depends on being able to read well. Therefore, a main goal of school is to ensure that children develop strong reading skills. However, it is not so easy to learn to read. It requires years of instruction and practice, and unfortunately many children do not manage to reach a sufficient level of reading skill.
In this project we are particularly concerned with reading fluency. To read fluently means to read the words accurately, with good speed and expression. Fluency is very important. If one struggles to get through the text, then it becomes tiresome to understand the content; then, rather than a source of information and enjoyment, reading becomes a chore. Surprisingly, and despite decades of studying reading, we understand very little about what makes reading fluent. This hinders us from helping children who struggle with reading.
To learn more about reading fluency, we will study what happens when fluency improves. We will apply a reading intervention to children in Grades 2 and 5. The children will improve their reading fluency. Before and after the intervention we will measure a wide range of skills that are related to reading. We will analyze in great detail exactly what is affected by the intervention and what is not. For example, we will track the children's eyes as they read and measure how far ahead in the sentence they look and how long it takes to recognize and pronounce each word. In this way we will learn how the different elements of reading skill are related. We will also find out which elements are not improved by the intervention. This will help us create new interventions that will improve reading more effectively.
At the end of the project, we will make all the data and our new methods available for further research. We will also make the reading fluency intervention freely available, along with all materials and instructions, so that practitioners will be able to use it with children who struggle with reading.
So far, new tests and intervention material have been prepared, and we are currently piloting materials for 2nd grade children. Furthermore, the project has been presented to parents in anticipation of recruitment.
Reading is essential in our literate societies, and literacy is a major goal of education. Learning to read is a stunning cognitive achievement, which requires instruction and practice; and many children do not manage to achieve sufficient reading skills.
Reading fluency refers to the ability to read out aloud with accuracy, speed, and proper expression. It is a stable and strong index and predictor of reading skill, including reading comprehension, which is the goal of reading. Yet fluency remains poorly understood, because all existing theories miss a crucial element, namely the role of sequential processing, and this prevents the development of efficient interventions.
In this project we set out to fill this major gap in our understanding of reading with new knowledge produced with innovative methods, leading to both theoretical and concrete applied outcomes for education. Specifically, we will apply a reading intervention that is known to be effective and we will study a range of skills to unprecedented breadth and depth, in order to identify those most closely associated with the effect of the intervention. In addition to standard psychoeducational assessment, we will apply eye tracking methodology and derive joint gaze-voice measures to precisely track reading efficiency on a word-by-word basis. We will measure word processing automaticity and serial naming efficiency with materials designed to pose specific processing demands. The comprehensive battery of measures before and after the intervention will help us understand the malleability of dimensions underlying fluency and its relationship to comprehension, and will suggest targets for early screening and novel interventions.
The project will make data available for further research, and will provide fully validated intervention and training materials for immediate use in reading interventions by practitioners. Online announcements and a workshop will maximize awareness and uptake in special education.
FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren