Articles on: Literacy

Why is a Junior Primary Prevention Strategy Important?


"Most researchers and practitioners agree that reading problems are more difficult to remediate than prevent." Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998.

“A little help early on may significantly improve the child’s life throughout the school years and beyond. Heroic efforts later on, data suggests, may be difficult. Which is it to be?” Butler, 1999: 17.

“Catch them before they fall” (Torgeson, 1998) “One of the most compelling findings from recent research is that children who get off to a poor start in reading rarely catch up.”


Marilyn Jager-Adams (1990) “Beginning to Read”:
“If students can be brought up to grade level within the first three years of school, their reading performance tends not to revert but stay at grade level thenceforth; if we fail to bring students reading to grade level within those first few years, the likelihood of their ever catching up is slim, even with extra funding and special programs.” (P: 27-28).

Likewise, Becoming a Nation of Readers (1985) Commission of Reading, National Academy of Education concludes:
“... the research reveals that the returns are highest from the early years of schooling when children are first learning to read.” (P.1)

"Prevention of Reading Failure” (1996):
“The focus must be on early instruction, because the problems magnify over time ... Initially small differences between more and less skilled readers become exaggerated by enormous differences in the degree to which children practise their developing reading skills: the least skilled Year 1 reader reads about 16 words per week compared with almost 2000 words read by the most skilled Year 1 student (Allington, 1984). Failure to engage in reading also interferes with vocabulary and general language development and with children’s potential for achievement in other subject areas. The impact of the failure to develop age-appropriate reading competency increases as children move through the primary grades because of the reduced chance of receiving reading instruction suited to their needs. Added to these more direct effects of early reading difficulties are the effects of self esteem problems associated with initial failure. Thus, difficulty in the early stages of reading has reverberating consequences; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer (Stanovich 1986). To prevent this vicious cycle we must optimise initial instruction.” (Page 84).

Torgeson, J.K. (1998) American Educator, Catch Then Before They Fall; Identification and Assessment to Prevent Failure in Young Children.
One of the most compelling findings from recent reading research is that children who get off to a poor start in reading rarely catch up. As several studies have now documented, the poor first grader almost invariable continues to be a poor reader (Frances et al, 1996, Torgesen & Burgess, 1998). And the consequences of a slow start in reading become monumental as they accumulate exponentially over time. As Stanovich (1986) pointed out in his well known paper on the “Matthew effects” (the rich get richer and the poor get poorer) associated with failure to acquire early word reading skills, these consequences range from negative attitudes towards reading (Oka & Paris, 1986), to reduced opportunities for vocabulary growth (Nagy, Herman & Anderson, 1985), to missed opportunities for development of reading comprehension strategies (Brown, Palinscar & Purcell, 1986), to less actual practice in reading than the other children (Arlington, 1984). The best solution to the problem of reading failure is to allocate resources for early identification and prevention.

Updated on: 17/05/2023

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