Reading is a skill that must be taught, and the idea that reading comes naturally to children and “just happens” is fiction (Wolf, 2008). The real story is that learning to read and write takes time to master, but, like any other skill, it can certainly be done when given appropriate instruction. Of course, reading will invariably come more easily to some children, and there will be many others who have challenges. As our readers will see in this issue of The Beacon, screening at entrance to school, early intervention, and research-based teacher training are essential to support children who struggle with reading.
Emily Solari, PhD, our 2022 Schwartz Lecture keynote speaker, showcases the staggering amounts of research that have supported the notion that early intervention, ideally in kindergarten or first grade, can reduce or even eliminate reading difficulties. Furthermore, Jamie Williamson, EdS, and John J. Russell, EdD, both emphasize in their respective articles that timely and reliable skills screening is most successful when implemented in conjunction with early intervention. The partnership between screening and early intervention will not only identify children who are at-risk for reading failure but also establish better markers of reading progress for all students.
Enacting new system-wide processes is no easy feat, but Annie Stutzman, MS, and Danielle Scorrano, MPS, encourage educational leaders to adopt a learning mindset when embracing the Science of Reading (SoR). Teaching is a craft, and it is a skill, like reading, that will take time in developing to a level of mastery. And training teachers appropriately in the proven SoR methodology will better serve children in their reading development (Solari, 2020).
Finally, special education attorney Regina Skyer crystallizes the bigger picture of this intensive work to improve literacy—providing children with the appropriate education has a significant lifelong benefit. There are many players involved in supporting a student with learning disabilities, from legal experts who advocate for financial and educational resources to teachers who build the necessary academic skills to families who comfort their struggling child.
This issue of The Beacon expresses how we can turn the page on this story of more than 30 years of discouraging literacy rates (NAEP, 2019). We know there are no such things as late bloomers when it comes to reading development, so there is no time to wait to take action.