A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows that students with dyslexia are underperforming their peers at an earlier age than previously thought. The study asserts that the achievement gap between typical readers and students with dyslexia is evident as early as first grade. Click here to download the full study.

Preschool InterventionFor over a century, dyslexia has been defined as an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual’s chronological age or intelligence. Students with dyslexia have a weakness in phonological processing, a component of spoken language. Young children with weak phonological processing—a difference that can be identified as early as preschool—are most at risk for developing dyslexia.

The ability to identify dyslexia and its risk factors in such young children is a promising step toward closing the achievement gap while it’s still relatively narrow. This new research encourages educators to consider early intervention as a way to prevent students at risk for dyslexia from falling further behind. Currently, intervention for students with dyslexia most often occurs in grades 3 and higher. The authors of the study discuss the merits of implementing effective programs and interventions as early as kindergarten or even preschool.

As you know, intervention at such a young age is a touchy topic. The Common Core State Standards have been scrutinized for imposing too much academic rigor on children who aren’t developmentally ready for it. Many early educators believe that preschoolers and kindergartners should be focused on play, not on reading instruction. However, if risk factors for dyslexia can be identified as early as preschool, and if the achievement gap is already measurable by first grade, it’s beneficial to address these issues sooner rather than later. So, with these concerns in mind, what should “early intervention” for young students at risk for dyslexia look like?

From research, we know that phoneme awareness (the understanding of how spoken words are broken into individual sounds) contributes more to learning to read and spell well than any other factor (National Reading Panel, 2000; Snider, 1995). An effective early intervention could focus on fostering this important skill in a developmentally appropriate way.

Our grapheme-free program, Read Naturally Funēmics, focuses specifically on phoneme awareness and offers a fun and playful approach to helping young students at risk for reading difficulty. The research-based lessons in Funēmics develop phoneme awareness through song, rhyme, and word play. Because the instruction is fun and playful, young students gain phoneme awareness easily and without frustration. To them, the lessons seem to be all about moving, tapping, clapping and singing. Because students focus only on the sounds, knowledge of letters is not a prerequisite for using the program. In fact, students using the program are not exposed to letters or written words at all, making it appropriate for students as young as preschool age. And, since it is grapheme-free, Funēmics can be used concurrently with other reading programs for students in kindergarten or grades 1 and 2.

We’re pleased to offer Funēmics to our youngest learners—and we’re pleased to say that this intervention is as enjoyable as it is effective. Contact us to learn more about Funēmics, or click here to download a free sample. If you are looking for a beginning reading intervention that includes phoneme awareness as well as the other components of reading instruction, check out Read Naturally GATE. GATE is an ideal intervention for students in first through third grade who are reading at a first-grade level. Contact us to learn more about GATE, or click here to download a free sample.

References & Further Reading:

National Reading Panel.  (2000).  Teaching children to read:  An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading instruction.  Washington, DC:  National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Snider, V. A.  (1995).  A primer on phonemic awareness:  What it is, why it’s important, and how to teach it.  School Psychology Review, 24(3), pp. 443-456.