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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”"

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08/21/2011 1:34 pm

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… Read more »

06/15/2010 2:35 pm

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… Read more »

05/12/2010 7:05 pm

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… Read more »

05/11/2010 5:01 pm

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?

05/11/2010 1:46 pm

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.

05/11/2010 11:12 am

I also believe that reading is not “natural”. It must be taught. Words are encoded using letters of the alphabet and children must be taught the code. Otherwise, why have a code? When reading instruction is taught explicitly via phonics instruction, children learn to read and spell. I am wondering if many LD labels would be removed if all schools began to provide real reading instruction in K-2?

05/11/2010 11:03 am

I believe that reading instruction in public schools is deficient for ALL children. Real reading instruction does not really take place in our school. Of course, teachers THINK they are teaching reading. They are basically teaching children how to sight read a few words. In first grade, this seems to work well. Teach kids to memorize 200 Dolch words that are in most first grade leveled readers. Voila! First graders are “reading” on grade level! The trouble starts in second grade, when many more words are introduced in lengthy chapter books that children have not been… Read more »

Bridget C
05/11/2010 9:45 am

I was excitedly hopeful when I saw the headline of this article. Reading is not one size fits all and it sounded like perhaps someone was finally getting it. Alas, you missed by a mile.

Generally speaking, in my experience, children with reading problems have them precisely because they are pushed to learn to read before they are ready. This sets up a cycle in which they are taught to believe they are ‘behind’ and therefore not as intelligent as their peers who do read – which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If we allow children to develop… Read more »

05/11/2010 10:55 am

What some of the experts say about “natural reading”… Check the Reading at Wrightslaw page. On that page you’ll find “Why Reading is Not a Natural Process” by Reid Lyon from LD Online at

Discussion of the natural- learning view from Douglas Carnine at

“Reading is a learned skill, not a natural skill…” from Genes and Dyslexia at

05/10/2010 8:33 am

Also, do not give up! I have heard school staff say there is no reading instruction available for students beyond 4th grade, or 5th grade. This is usually simply when they stop offering reading instruction to ALL students. If your child has a learning disability, whatever the cause, reading instruction can go on as long as they need. My son did not read fluently until 8th grade. I insisted that he receive daily reading remediation and instruction until he be came a fluent reader. Another student was in 10th grade with a 2nd grade… Read more »