Efficacy of small group reading intervention for beginning readers with reading-delay: a randomised controlled trial


Charles Hulme, Department of Psychology, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, UK; Tel. 01904 433145; Fax 01904433181; Email: CH1@york.ac.uk


Background:  This study evaluated the effectiveness of an intervention for reading-delayed children in Year-1 classes.

Methods:  A sample (N = 77) of children drawn from 14 schools representing those with the weakest reading skills were randomly allocated to one of two groups. A 20-week intervention group received the intervention for two consecutive 10-week periods, while a 10-week intervention group only received the intervention for the second 10 weeks of the study. The programme was delivered in daily 20-minute sessions that alternated between small group (N = 3) and individual teaching. The programme combined phoneme awareness training, word and text reading, and phonological linkage exercises.

Results:  The children receiving the intervention during the first 10-week period made significantly more progress on measures of letter knowledge, single word reading, and phoneme awareness than children not receiving the intervention. However, the children who only received the intervention during the second 10-week period made rapid progress and appeared to catch up with the children who had been given the more prolonged intervention. Failure to respond to the intervention was predicted by poor initial literacy skills and being in receipt of free school meals.

Conclusion:  A reading intervention programme delivered on a daily basis by trained teaching assistants is an effective intervention for children who show reading delays at the end of their first year in school. However, around one-quarter of the children did not respond to this intervention and these children would appear to need more intensive or more prolonged help to improve their reading skills.