Learning Leader

Reading RULES: Research Results in Comprehensive Reading Intervention Programs

Dr. Carolyn Denton is a professor at CLI whose research focuses on school-aged students with reading difficulties and disabilities in Kindergarten-Grade 12. Funded primarily by grants from the US Department of Education and the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Denton’s research has addressed topics such as appropriate treatment of children in Grades 2-5 who have both ADHD and reading difficulties, reading comprehension in students in Grades 7-12, and the prevention and remediation of reading difficulties in Grades K-4. Since 2010, Dr. Denton has led a series of projects designed to translate what we know from science about effective reading instruction for children with reading difficulties into classrooms. In these projects, funded by the US Department of Education, Dr. Denton and her team have developed a set of materials teachers can use to teach reading to children who struggle. Used together, these materials comprise a comprehensive reading intervention program named Reading RULES.

Reading RULES was first developed as an intervention for children in first grade who are at-risk for reading failure. Reading RULES (which stands for Read-Understand-Listen-Enjoy-Succeed!) has components through which a teacher can provide instruction in comprehending books to the whole class, as well as a set of small-group reading lessons for children who struggle. The small group lessons teach phonics and word reading, spelling, how to read books accurately and fluently, and reading comprehension. In the Reading RULES word study lessons, children receive explicit, carefully sequenced instruction designed to build step-by-step from what students know to what they need to learn. These lessons are different from those in many phonics programs; children spend time every day in purposeful hands-on practice activities using magnetic letters, letter tiles, and other manipulatives. These game-like practice activities are highly motivating and actively engage struggling learners in learning how to read and spell words. Children practice the word reading strategies they are learning in a set of attractive and motivating little books that go along with the program. These books were specially written by a children’s author to follow the order in which Reading RULES teaches the sounds of letters and recognition of words, so when children read one of these books they have already been taught everything they need to know to be able to read it successfully and independently. 

Dr. Denton and her team conducted a pilot study of Reading RULES, in which first grade children who received Reading RULES from their regular classroom teachers made significantly more progress than a group of children in the same schools who received the typical instruction they would have gotten had the study not taken place. Because of these promising results, Dr. Denton and Dr. Emily Solari of the University of California at Davis received a grant to conduct a larger, ongoing study of Reading RULES for first grade children. Through the support of the Brown Foundation and the Dan L. Duncan family, Dr. Denton and her team developed a first draft of a Kindergarten version of Reading RULES, which is designed to prevent reading difficulties in these young children. Dr. Denton and her team also developed higher levels of Reading RULES that can be used to provide small-group, intensive instruction to children in grades 2-4 who have serious reading difficulties or reading disabilities such as dyslexia. The team developed a special program for this group of older children called Idea Detectives.

Idea Detectives is designed to teach reading comprehension and to support children’s self-regulation skills. The Idea Detectives program teaches children with serious reading problems to set goals, monitor their own use of the reading strategies they are learning, and give themselves positive messages when they start to feel frustrated or have negative thoughts such as, “I can’t read this; I’m not smart enough.” The program also teaches students to have a growth mindset, which is a belief that intelligence and talent can grow and change rather than a fixed mindset, which is a belief that qualities like intelligence and talent are fixed and unchangeable. Research has shown that students with a growth mindset tend to have better educational outcomes.

In the current school year, Dr. Denton has partnered with schools in Midlothian ISD, Galena Park ISD, and Stafford ISD to study the effectiveness of these programs. Dr. Denton says, “Our hope is to continue partnerships with schools in the 2018-2019 school year in order to learn more about how these programs work when they are implemented by teachers in typical classrooms.” With significant Initial results, there is growing interest in the use of these reading interventions. In the near future, the Reading RULES program and training will available for purchase from the CLI Solutions Group, for use by other interested schools.

Visit www.readingrulesworks.org to learn more about Reading RULES and Idea Detectives.





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