A leading United States literacy expert has launched an attack on the school based reading program know as Reading Recovery. She has stated at a Department of Education event that some aspects of the remedial reading program are harmful. Dr Louisa Moats went on to say that it was indefensible to spend money on the program, which is designed to help struggling Year 1 readers while infact may really be doing more harm than good.
“The whole approach is based on ideas that have not held up to scientific scrutiny. So it is indefensible to keep on spending money on this, Dr Moats said in a video that was uploaded to YouTube. Speaking at the Department’s Treasury Place building, Dr Moats said if she had a child with a learning disability she would refuse to let them take part in a Reading Recovery lesson.”
Her comments come at the same time as new figures showing only 10 percent of Victorian government primary schools offered the early-intervention program in 2014 which is a significant decrease from 25 percent the previous year.
The early-intervention program gives poor readers in Year 1 daily, one-to-one, 30-minute sessions with a trained teacher and was developed in New Zealand but is now runs in Australia, Britain, United States and Canada. Dr Moats explained that the instruction is directing their attention away from what they should be paying attention to.
“The department’s website said “Reading Recovery has a strong tradition of success with the lowest-achieving children”. In 2014, 119 government primary schools in Victoria ran the Reading Recovery program.”
However learning Difficulties Australia council member Alison Clarke, who is also a speech pathologist states that Reading Recovery was not achieving its goals as it is not teaching kids to de-code it’s teaching them to guess. Reading Recovery did not give children a phonological awareness – an awareness of sounds in words – or spelling patterns.
“Some of the activities in Reading Recovery set children back. The whole look at the picture and guess. I teach children to sound out and then they come back from Reading Recovery and they are looking at the picture and making things up, said Alison Clarke”
Dr Moats has been brought to Australia by the group and visited the department to speak to the staff, stakeholders and academics about learning disabilities. She raised these concerns regarding Reading Recovery following a question from the audience. Many still argue however that the program has its merits.
“Monash University associate professor Janet Scull said the program was a success and boosted children’s literacy skills. She states that one of the criticism is it doesn’t address phonological awareness and that is not found. It addresses the teaching of phonics through both reading and writing. It helps children notice of a range of information sources in text. Dr Scull, who has done extensive research on Reading Recovery and also trained tutors for the program, said reading difficulties were a complex issue and there was no single solution. She said the program worked with the bottom 20 per cent of children in a school”
In 2012 the former state government ceased funding for Reading Recovery tutors and schools have absorbed the cost out of their own literacy budgets. The program has brought about a lot of controversy in Australia, divided academics due to mixed opinions of the program’s merits.