Promoting Reading Success for Australian Year 4 students: A pilot study utilising the Simple View of Reading.

Year: 2017

Author: Westerveld, Marleen, Peach, Jennifer, Barton, Georgina, Brooke, Bronte

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The ability to read accurately and fluently for meaning is one of the greatest academic achievements of school-age students worldwide. It is of concern that Australia has seen declining levels of reading literacy over the last 15 years (Thomson et al., 2012), with the latest data showing that approximately 24% of Australian Year 4 students achieve at the Low or Below international benchmark. Our Reading Success project aims to address this important issue by implementing and evaluating theory-driven, evidence-based initiatives to identify and remediate reading difficulties in a cohort of Australian Year 4 students.

According to the Simple View of Reading, successful reading comprehension requires both word decoding ability and listening comprehension. The assessment stage of our pilot project draws on a substantial body of research demonstrating the robustness of the Simple View of Reading for classifying struggling readers (Catts et al., 2015). It involves all Year 4 students (n=80) attending a typical primary school (ICSEA 1000) in Queensland. Results showed that 45% (n=36) of students demonstrate reading comprehension difficulties, based on a standardised test of reading achievement, with 14 students showing significant word-level decoding problems; 11 demonstrating significant specific reading comprehension difficulties, and 11 students showing a mixed reading disability profile. This result is significantly high despite the school's focus on effective and systemic core reading instruction and implementation of literacy-related initiatives to improve reading.

The intervention stage of our pilot project uses a mixed methods design. A small-scale randomised control design (n=20) study is currently underway. Students are provided with targeted individualised evidence-based intervention programs, aimed at improving their reading abilities, including oral language-based instruction (Carke et al., 2010), and phonological processing based instruction (Snowling & Hulme, 2011). Acknowledging the importance of social and cultural values and literate practices, we also conducted robust qualitative research whereby leaders, teachers and students were interviewed in order to understand the socio-cultural aspects of the school and community. Results will become available at the end of Term 2, 2017.

Despite ample international empirical literature on how to address reading challenges in primary school-age students, our pilot project has clearly shown that more needs to be done. If reading comprehension is not improved, the gap between high and low achievers will widen, and students will have limited options post-schooling, impacting on society. The presentation will share the findings of our Reading Success intervention pilot and provide an overview of the assessment protocol.