Children who fail to learn to read are disadvantaged in life. Not only are these children disadvantaged academically, but they also tend to have psychological, behavioural, and, as adults, economic problems. These disadvantages make it essential that we ensure that all children learn to read at a functional level - not only for the good of the individuals themselves, but also for the good of society as a whole. The present investigation aimed to evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention, Reading for Life, that used a combination of self-concept enhancement and instructional strategies to develop skills in reading for students with reading difficulties, in a semi-structured volunteer-administered tutoring program of 15 weeks duration.
A total of 253 students (male = 155) across 14 primary schools in New South Wales, Australia, participated in the present investigation. These students were identified as at risk of reading failure. Students were randomly allocated to either the experimental (n = 140) or wait-list control group (n = 113). Trained volunteers administered the intervention. Students completed standardised tests of reading skills and a survey measuring self-concept and motivation constructs before the intervention and then again after the intervention was completed to test its effectiveness. The long-term effects of the intervention were assessed by administering the tests and surveys six months later. The wait-list control group received the intervention at the conclusion of the experimental period.
Results indicated that, in comparison to the wait-list control group, the intervention significantly enhanced phonological awareness skills, reading self-concept, and intrinsic motivation for the students in the experimental condition.
The findings provide strong support for this volunteer-administered intervention. Moreover, they add further weight to the growing body of research substantiating the focus on domain specific facets of self-concept most relevant to the goals of an intervention and the need to enhance self-concept simultaneously with skills training. In consideration of the research linking positive self-concept to success in life, these findings suggests that participation in Reading for Life creates possibilities for achieving success in life for children with reading difficulties.