For young and emerging readers, an ounce of prevention is certainly worth a pound of cure. A recently released one-page memo in Harvard’s Lead for Literacy series looks at the importance of identifying potential problems early – and intervening to mitigate them. (Read “Early Identification and Intervention Practices.”)
One of the major pitfalls arises, the memo notes, because performance on third grade tests often provide “the first pieces of information on literacy rates collected and available at scale.” To counteract this pitfall, the memo recommends developmentally appropriate assessments, starting in early childhood, to identify children at risk of encountering difficulty with developing literacy.
In addition, the memo notes, “rather than funding early prevention efforts, many grants are tied to state test scores at grade 3 and above.” Here it recommends focusing resources on preventing problems and embedding enrichment activities in daily instruction.
“We need to uncover children’s literacy weaknesses well before they are expected to read and write for academic success,” the memo states. “To do so, sites should focus on early identification practices and prevention efforts. And remember, enrichment and remediation are the same for many young children!”
The Lead for Literacy memos are an initiative of the Language Diversity and Literacy Development Research Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The research group is headed by Professor Nonie Lesaux, author of “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” which we commissioned in 2010 and which informs the memos.