Book Excerpt: 'Overcoming Dyslexia'

As part of Good Morning America's "Breakthrough Dyslexia" segment, Dr. Sally Shaywitz, author of Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Overcoming Reading Problems at Any Level, shared excerpts from her book that might assist parents in finding out if their child should be evaluated for dyslexia.

The excerpts below come from selected sections of Shaywitz's, book Overcoming Dyslexia.

A Brief Checklist Concerning Your Child's Beginning Reading Program (page 209)

What method is used to teach reading?

The key questions to ask are these: Is there scientific evidence that the program is effective? You may want to ask for specific evidence, such as an article on the efficacy of the program or method in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. (Keep in mind that testimonials, no matter how moving, are not scientific evidence, nor are articles in newsletters and magazines or mentions in the media or online.)

Was the program or its methods reviewed by the National Reading Panel? If not, how does this program compare to those found effective? You want specifics.

In teaching beginning reading, are phonemic awareness and phonics taught systematically and explicitly?

How are children taught to approach an unfamiliar word? They should feel empowered to try to analyze and sound out an unknown word first rather than guess from the pictures or context. Illustrations and context can be used as a second step to verify if the pronunciation seems to make sense.

Does the program also include many opportunities to practice reading, to develop fluency, to build vocabulary, to develop reading comprehension strategies, to write, and to listen to and talk about stories?

How is instruction matched to a child's individual needs? The critical elements to look for are these:

Individualization: The size and flexibility of instructional groups are important. Some components of reading such as vocabulary may be taught as a class activity. However, given the variability in reading skills within a class, other components such as basic phonologic skills and oral reading are best addressed in smaller groups. A portion of each day's reading instruction, therefore, should be carried out in small groups. A class of twenty is divided into three groups of six to seven students so that each child receives individualized attention at least once a week as he tries to sound out words or read aloud. This grouping should be flexible for each component of reading, so that a child can move in and out of a group depending on his progress and level of skill in that particular area. Children who are progressing more slowly will benefit from smaller groups and more intensive attention to that skill.

Feedback and guidance: Learning should be active, with many teacher-child interactions. Ideally, the teacher models reading for the child and then provides feedback and guidance as the student rereads the selection aloud. This is best determined by direct observation while visiting your child's classroom.

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