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Reading is NOT “One Size Fits All”

by Sue Whitney

A reading program needs to be chosen based upon the unique and individual needs of a particular student.

One reading program will not work for all students, even if the reading program is research based.

Is your child not making progress in reading?  Do you know why?

Where to Start

If your child is not making progress in reading, a comprehensive evaluation is the place to start to find out why the instruction is not closing the gap.

Get a comprehensive evaluation that examines, in detail:

  • auditory processing
  • auditory discrimination
  • phonological awareness
  • decoding, encoding
  • listening comprehension
  • reading comprehension
  • vocabulary
  • reading rate
  • fluency

A comprehensive evaluation will indicate any deficits. Once your child’s  needs and skill levels have been determined, reading instruction needs to address those specific deficits.

Instruction Required: What Kind/How Much

For a nondisabled student, we expect reading instruction to be for 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week, kindergarten to grade three.  If your child has a reading disability, she will require more instruction than that. If your child has been allowed to fall behind, she will need even more intensive instruction to catch up.

If your child has dyslexia, there are research based reading programs that have proven to be effective for teaching reading.  However, if a child needs more than, or something different than, what a particular reading program provides – it is the wrong program for that child. No matter what the research says about its effectiveness for children with a certain profile of needs, the program must fit the needs of each individual reader.

What Skills Must Be Taught

Decoding and comprehension are only part of reading.

If your child is not responding to decoding and comprehension instruction, look beyond these skills.

Look at what is the level of auditory discrimination, phonological awareness, oral language ability, vocabulary knowledge, and reading fluency.

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10 Comments on "Reading is NOT “One Size Fits All”"


Many older struggling readers may have to give up certain classes in high school to get the type of remediation that is necessary. Many cannot do remediation after school due to extracurricular activities. Some of them needs the after school activities. It is the older struggling reader who is willing to give up art, or gym,or music, or social studies, etc. that can receive the type of instruction necessary to help him/her. It is a hard pill for them to swallow to miss the fun classes with their friends. My child is in a lot of stuff after school with friends to make up for missing all the specials. Such is the reality as my child needs supportive help, OG and reading fluency training. It is making a difference but at his cost. It is not easy. Some kids refuse such extra help.


You are so right. One size does not fit all. For example, the most popular reading fluency program is Read Naturally. Although there is much that is “right” about Read Naturally for some students, there is much that is also “wrong” about this fluency intervention program and how it has been applied in our schools. Check out Read Naturally to learn 1. a brief overview of the program for the uninitiated 2. the controversies regarding the program’s research base and 3. the pros and cons of the program from the perspective of an MA reading specialist who has personally used Read Naturally with students and also supervised Read Naturally intervention programs at several elementary schools.


I remember thinking several years ago that there was no help for my son but after 5 reading programs in a 2 school years, without any improvment I started to look at ways to change things. We finally found a reading program that worked for him. With the help of a wonderful teacher in the district he began to show progress. Six years later he is only one year behind in his reading level. Remember parents you are your children’s best advocate. Learn all you can and make the school districts do their job. I never acepted their excuses, I kept voicing myself until the dirstrct did something.


What about high school students reading at a 4th grade level with dyslexia?
Is it true that high school does not concentrate on improving decoding skills but rather focuses on content area skills and compensatory strategies.

Any ideas?


Visual Processing was not listed with these deficits. My son has Convergence Insufficiency and took way too long to find the problem. The attitude of school professionals is to think that this particular list of deficits are not real. Until they accept these deficits as real and begin creating real diagnostic evaluations to determine the source of the problems then a solution cannot be found for the child.