Advances in Reading Intervention: Research to Practice to Research
reviewed by Timothy Rasinski - January 13, 2016
Title: Advances in Reading Intervention: Research to Practice to Research
Author(s): Carol McDonald Connor and Peggy McCardle
Publisher: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company, Baltimore
ISBN: 1598579681, Pages: 281, Year: 2015
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Carol McDonald Connor and Peggy McCardles Advances in Reading Intervention: Research to Practice to Research is a collection of papers presented at the 14th symposium in the Extraordinary Brain Series. Their book is a collection of 21 chapters, and two integrated summaries, that examines reading and writing difficulties from a variety of perspectives. This publication is timely given the recent report on intervention approaches that suggests current practices may have negative effects on student achievement (Balu, et al., 2015).
I write this review as a literacy professional who is interested in research-based approaches to interventions for struggling readersI have directed the reading clinic at Kent State University for over 20 years. I was intrigued by the subtitle of the bookResearch to Practice to Researchwith my background in mind. My expectation from the subtitle was that I would be reading reports on innovative interventions for reading difficulties. What I found was a bit different.
The chapters deal with reading difficulties, but I cannot say that they offered much in the way of promising new research-validated practical instruction. The volume is divided into four major parts. In the introductory section, the editors provide a chapter overview that explains the reciprocal relationship between research and practice. In a second introductory chapter, Maureen W. Lovett discusses what has been learned about reading interventions and what still needs to be discovered. The reader is not provided with an in-depth description of the nature of these interventions although results of a few studies are presented.
The second part of the volume contains seven chapters dealing with basic considerations for reading interventions. These papers are wide-ranging and explore topics such as self-regulation, eye movement research, neurobiological findings related to treatment of dyslexia, data analysis, and genetic factors that can influence reading difficulties and inform interventions. Although I find the papers interesting, I was constantly looking for a way to connect the information to instructional interventions in reading such as the chapter on self-regulation that provides a good description and review of research concerning this topic. Evidence of the impact of self-regulation interventions on reading, or even general implications of this research on reading interventions, is also very limited. The chapter on eye movement studies notes that there are no known instructional interventions that apply findings from this type of movement research. Similarly, the chapter on neurobiological findings related to reading difficulties notes the challenges in creating and monitoring pharmaceutical interventions. I was disappointed that these chapters did not provide me with any new actionable insights or implications for working with students experiencing reading difficulties while I acknowledge the importance of this research.
The third part of the volume deals with research to inform practice and I felt that these nine chapters would offer research-based interventions for reading difficulties. Again, I was a bit disappointed with what I discovered. These papers mainly deal with specific issues and populations often associated with reading interventions including children with dialects, English language learners, and early intervention. The early intervention chapters provide evidence of the efficacy of some intervention models, but fail to describe their essential nature in any detail. Although the volume focuses on reading interventions, two of the chapters in this section deal with writing.
A few chapters offer solid insights into reading interventions. Nonie K. Lesauxs chapter on reading development among English learners illustrates the power of high-quality language use in the classroom. In the following chapter, Melodee A. Walker, Philip Capin, and Sharon Vaughn describe distinct features of intervention programs successfully used with English learners. This chapter not only presents the effects of such programs, but also provides sufficient information to visualize the structure and protocol involved in the interventions. An entire chapter devotes itself to a single programJuan E. Jiménezs research on the Letra Program. Ironically the program itself is not an intervention for students; rather it is a program for improving early grade teacher instruction. Although research on this program finds changes in teacher beliefs and knowledge, no information is provided on possible effects the program may have had on student reading achievement.
The final part of the book consists of three chapters examining the future of reading intervention research. David J. Jodoin writes his chapter as an experienced businessperson who has little expertise in instruction or scientific research by his own admission. His discussion on innovation as an impetus for creating effective reading interventions is nevertheless both informative and provocative. He describes an exercise for nurturing innovative solutions called reverse designing. It is a playful approach to innovative thinking that challenges participants to design the worst possible outcome for a problem. Such unconventional thinking can potentially yield unexpected and useful results. Donald L. Compton and Laura M. Steacys chapter identifies reading intervention themes that future researchers may wish to explore. These include subgroups and substrates of reading difficulties, the efficacy of new and innovative instruction, and technology use. Editors McCardle and McDonald Connor return in the final chapter to summarize what has been covered and offer insights into future work in reading intervention.
Overall, I found the individual chapters in the book interesting and informative. Reputable scholars in their respective fields of expertise provide readers with a state of the art review of the current standing of reading intervention scholarship. However, I was a bit disappointed by the book as a whole. The chapters within the two major portions of the book were quite disparate from one anotherspecifically in Parts Two and Three. For example, what is the connection between a chapter dealing with data summary measures and another focusing on neurochemical knowledge related to reading difficulties and interventions? What does research related to English language learners who struggle in reading have to do with the Letra program? If the book deals with reading interventions, why are there two chapters on writing? No doubt there are connections to be made between chapters within each of these two major portions of the book, but no links are offered. Even the integrated summaries concluding different sections only provide a synopsis of each chapter and just a cursory attempt to make connections between them.
Individual chapters within sections lack coherence, and connections between major sections of the book, research to practice to research, are unclear. A reader might logically expect that the chapters dealing with practice would emerge, at least to some extent, from the earlier chapters dealing with research since the book is subtitled, Research to Practice to Research. Such connections are not apparent.
Perhaps my disappointment with the book comes from my perspective as a practitioner looking for research to offer new approaches for reading intervention. While a few chapters address this topic, most do not. The book may be appropriate for anyone wishing to learn about new and lesser-known trends in research and scholarly-thinking related to reading intervention. If this were the case, perhaps the book might benefit from a revised title like Current Understandings of Various Research Agendas in Reading Intervention. Advances in Reading Intervention is certainly informative but not what I had anticipated. Finally, a volume on research-based practical models of reading intervention is needed given the current lack of successful models of reading intervention.
Balu, R., Zhu, P., Doolittle, F., Schiller, E., Jenkins, J., & Gersten, R. (2015). Evaluation of Response to Intervention Practices for Elementary School Reading. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.