Friday, April 20, 2012

Reading Help

Reading Difficulties

A tremendous amount of research over the past 20 years has been aimed at understanding reading difficulties, and scientific and educational communities have made an important and very useful discovery:

Studies show that up to 85% of all reading, spelling and writing difficulties are the result of a common cause called a phonological deficit.

Because our written language is based upon oral language, a person’s ability to hear, identify and manipulate the individual sounds within words (phonemic awareness) is vital to becoming a proficient reader. In fact, phonemic awareness is the best indicator for how proficient a reader a person will become; a far better indicator than a person’s intelligence, socio-economic status or where they attend school. When a person over the age of 4 or 5 has difficulties with phonemic awareness, they are said to suffer from a phonological weakness or phonological deficit.

Phonological Deficit:

- Students with a phonological deficit have particular difficulty identifying the sounds that make up individual words, matching the sounds of spoken words with written language and sounding out written words.

- A phonological deficit is neurological in origin. Using brain-imaging techniques, we can see that when a good reader is in the process of reading, a specific part of the brain is active. When someone with a phonological deficit is in the process of reading, different parts of the brain are active – parts of the brain that are far less efficient for reading.

- A phonological deficit doesn’t resolve itself. It also can’t be resolved through traditional classroom instruction or tutoring.


- As defined by the National Institutes of Health, dyslexia is simply an unexpected difficulty with reading. “Unexpected” is the key word in this definition: when a student is of average or above-average intelligence, has received appropriate reading instruction, is sufficiently motivated to read and still has difficulty with reading, the student can be diagnosed with dyslexia.

- This unexpected difficulty is almost always the result of a phonological deficit.

The good news is that there is a way to help students who struggle with reading because of a phonological deficit or dyslexia.

We’re proud to provide SpellRead to transform students into confident, successful readers. Parents tell us that SpellRead is a life-changing program for their children – as one of our parents said, “My son Mark was struggling in reading. He is now up to his grade level in reading and wants to read on his own – a huge feat in itself.”

SpellRead – a reading intervention program that is ranked #1 by the U.S. Department of Education for improving reading fluency (US DoE 2007 WWC Intervention Report) – uses a series of intensive, focused, multi-sensory activities to re-train a student’s brain and remediate phonological difficulties. You can learn more about SpellRead on our website:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Lakeside Reaches Further with The SuccessMaker Curriculum

Recently, we decided to add the SuccessMaker (SM) computerized curriculum to our already strong math and reading programs. We made the decision to add the SM program for three reasons: 1. We felt very strongly that the addition of this program would help our current students make even more progress. 2. We could better reach students of all skill levels in K-8. 3. This would allow us to provide parents with greater information on their child's learning through SM comprehensive progress reporting. Below is an explanation of how Lakeside Learning is using the SM program.

Well-Correlated to the Common Core State Standards. With a strong focus on developing critical skills for reading, speaking and mathematics, SuccessMaker provides real world problems to help activate the link between accessing prior knowledge and acquiring new abilities to strongly develop and improve comprehension.

One-on-One Instruction. With a strong focus on the most critical math and reading concepts, individualized learning for every student becomes a reality with SuccessMaker. Embedded assessment finds just the right starting point in the curriculum and the program’s dynamic presentation of content focuses instruction on areas where each learner’s skills need to be strengthened.

Real Engagement. SuccessMaker delivers content through a highly engaging interface that makes math and reading instruction, practice and assessment fun. The program is highly interactive, addressing multiple learning modalities and making students active participants in their learning and the game-like formats of many activities are challenging and motivating so learners can’t wait to use the program.

Powerful Data. SuccessMaker ends the guesswork with ongoing, embedded assessment and on-demand reporting making it easy to identify strengths and weaknesses, track progress, meet accountability requirements and inform instruction.

Serious Fun. Even the best curriculum falls flat if your learners aren’t interested in using it. SuccessMaker was built on research around what motivates learners at each age. Students from kindergarten through grade eight LOVE using the program and, most importantly, can’t wait to learn more.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Early Signs of Reading Difficulty

By: Susan Hall (2009)

Parents are often the first to suspect their child has a reading problem. An expert alerts parents to some of the earliest indicators of a reading difficulty.

A parent may be the first person in a child's life to recognize a reading problem. A parent's observation is critical because some of the earliest signs that foreshadow a reading difficulty can be seen during preschool and kindergarten years.

Difficulty manipulating sounds in words is one of the hallmark characteristics of reading difficulties and can be seen at a young age. Your child might struggle with rhyming, word games, or recognizing words that start with the same sound.

Often children who had repeated ear infections or speech delays during their early years eventually have trouble learning to read. Children who have articulation problems or are late to talk, as compared to peers, should not only receive a speech and hearing screening during the preschool years but should be monitored for possible reading difficulty.

Let's turn to some stories from parents of children who later had trouble reading. What were some warning signs they saw as early as the preschool years?

One parent first noticed her daughter couldn't learn letter and number symbols when she was a preschooler. Despite the mother's extensive efforts to teach her daughter the alphabet, her child entered kindergarten knowing only 2 of the 26 letters.
Another mother noticed just before her son's third birthday that he wasn't speaking at the level of his peers. He had experienced repeated ear infections and later had tubes inserted; his speech improved somewhat, but he eventually had reading problems.
Another parent first began to suspect a problem when her preschool son disliked nursery rhymes. She would leave off the last word to see if he could fill in the blank of the rhyme. Despite having heard the same rhyme many times, he couldn't do it. He just didn't seem to recognize the pattern of similar sounding words that is characteristic of rhyming.
Sometimes parents notice difficulties during first grade because a child who's just beginning to learn to read may have trouble making associations between sounds and letters. Problems include detecting differences in speech sounds and performing tasks that require this skill, such as:

Pronouncing new words and remembering them
Breaking words apart into sounds
Blending sounds together to make words
Remembering the names and sounds of the letters
A child with weak phonological skills often prefers to guess at unknown words while reading because he is not very good at figuring out the sounds or blending them together. Being able to sound out unknown words is an important skill your child needs in order to read text. Beyond third grade, the text contains more difficult words that often cannot be predicted from context clues or limited pictures.

If you ask your first grader to read aloud to you and he resists doing so, this may be a warning that there's a problem. Children who struggle often find reading is such a belabored process they avoid it.

By the middle of first grade your child should be able to read at least 100 common words, such as the, and, and is, and know the letter-sound associations well enough to read words in simple books. Watch for these warning signs as you listen to your child read aloud:

Doesn't know the sounds associated with all of the letters
Skips words in a sentence and doesn't stop to self-correct
Can't remember words; sounds out the same word every time it occurs on the page
Frequently guesses at unknown words rather than sounding them out
You can also look at your child's writing for clues about reading difficulty. By the end of kindergarten a child should be writing words that contain most of the consonant sounds in a word, even though the vowels will often be missing or inaccurate until later.

These warning signs can be helpful to parents who suspect learning to read isn't progressing smoothly. However, just because your child is struggling doesn't necessarily mean there is a serious problem. Learning to read is a complex process that doesn't occur overnight for most children; it takes time and plenty of direct, systematic instruction.

It's important not to panic if you see some of these warning signs in your child. Lists of early warning signs can help you be on the lookout; however, there is no precise list of surefire signs of a reading difficulty. Each child is unique and may exhibit only some of the signs. Knowing what to look for can help you decide whether you need to investigate further. Calm and reasoned reactions are the most effective for your child.

Hall, S. Early Signs of a Reading Difficulty. GreatSchools Inc., Retrieved September 1, 2009, from

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Trouble With Bright Girls

Successful women know only too well that in any male-dominated profession, we often find ourselves at a distinct disadvantage. We are routinely underestimated, underutilized and even underpaid. Studies show that women need to perform at extraordinarily high levels, just to appear moderately competent compared to our male coworkers.

But in my experience, smart and talented women rarely realize that one of the toughest hurdles they'll have to overcome to be successful lies within. Compared with our male colleagues, we judge our own abilities not only more harshly but fundamentally differently. Understanding why we do it is the first step to righting a terrible wrong. And to do that, we need to take a step back in time.

Chances are good that if you are a successful professional today, you were a pretty bright fifth grade girl. My graduate advisor, psychologist Carol Dweck (author of "Mindset") conducted a series of studies in the 1980s, looking at how Bright Girls and boys in the fifth grade handled new, difficult and confusing material.

She found that Bright Girls, when given something to learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up; the higher the girls' IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses. Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge, and found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts rather than give up.

Why does this happen? What makes smart girls more vulnerable and less confident when they should be the most confident kids in the room? At the 5th grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science. So there were no differences between these boys and girls in ability, nor in past history of success. The only difference was how bright boys and girls interpreted difficulty -- what it meant to them when material seemed hard to learn. Bright Girls were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence and to become less effective learners as a result.

Researchers have uncovered the reason for this difference in how difficulty is interpreted, and it is simply this: More often than not, Bright Girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.

How do girls and boys develop these different views? Most likely, it has to do with the kinds of feedback we get from parents and teachers as young children. Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their "goodness." When we do well in school, we are told that we are "so smart," "so clever, " or "such a good student." This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness and goodness are qualities you either have or you don't.

Boys, on the other hand, are a handful. Just trying to get boys to sit still and pay attention is a real challenge for any parent or teacher. As a result, boys are given a lot more feedback that emphasizes effort (e.g., "If you would just pay attention you could learn this," "If you would just try a little harder you could get it right.") The net result: When learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren't "good" and "smart," and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder.

We continue to carry these beliefs, often unconsciously, around with us throughout our lives. And because Bright Girls are particularly likely to see their abilities as innate and unchangeable, they grow up to be women who are far too hard on themselves -- women who will prematurely conclude that they don't have what it takes to succeed in a particular arena, and give up way too soon.

Even if every external disadvantage to a woman's rising to the top of an organization is removed -- every inequality of opportunity, every chauvinistic stereotype, all the challenges we face balancing work and family -- we would still have to deal with the fact that through our mistaken beliefs about our abilities, we may be our own worst enemy.

How often have you found yourself avoiding challenges and playing it safe, sticking to goals you knew would be easy for you to reach? Are there things you decided long ago that you could never be good at? Skills you believed you would never possess? If the list is a long one, you were probably one of the Bright Girls -- and your belief that you are "stuck" being exactly as you are has done more to determine the course of your life than you probably ever imagined. This would be fine, if your abilities were innate and unchangeable. Only they're not.

No matter the ability -- whether it's intelligence, creativity, self-control, charm or athleticism -- studies show them to be profoundly malleable. When it comes to mastering any skill, your experience, effort and persistence matter a lot. So if you were a Bright Girl, it's time to toss out your (mistaken) belief about how ability works, embrace the fact that you can always improve and reclaim the confidence to tackle any challenge that you lost so long ago.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D..Motivational psychologist and author
Posted: March 1, 2011 07:36 AM

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Can you say, "Phonological Awareness"?

To understand phonological awareness, we must first know what a phoneme is. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in our language that makes a difference in a word’s meaning. For example, the word cat has three phonemes, /k/ /a/ /t/. By changing the first phoneme, we can produce the word rat. Changing the second phoneme creates the word cut, and we can create the word cab by altering the final phoneme. Words in the English language are composed of strings of phonemes. This is fortunate because it allows us to create all the words we will ever need by using various combinations of just 44 different speech sounds.

Speech scientists have discovered that the human brain is specifically adapted for processing many different kinds of linguistic information, and one part of our biological endowment allows us to process the complex phonological information in speech without actually being aware of the individual phonemes themselves. This is one of the human abilities that makes acquiring speech a natural process, so that almost everyone in the world learns to speak a language with very little direct instruction. However, because phonemes are represented by letters in print, learning to read requires that children become consciously aware of phonemes as individual segments in words. In fact, phonological awareness is most commonly defined as one’s sensitivity to, or explicit awareness of, the phonological structure of words in one’s language. In short, it involves the ability to notice, think about, or manipulate the individual sounds in words.

One of the early signs of emerging sensitivity to the phonological structure of words is the ability to play rhyming games. In order to tell whether two words rhyme, the child must attend to the sounds in the words rather than to the meaning of the words. In addition, the child must focus attention on only one part of a word rather than on the way it sounds as a whole. As children grow in awareness of the phonemes in words, they become better able to judge whether words have the same first or last sounds; with further development, they become able to isolate and pronounce the first, last, or middle sounds in words. At its highest levels of development, awareness of individual phonemes in words is evidenced by the ability to separately pronounce the sounds in even multi-syllable words or to tell exactly how two words like task and tacks are different.

Acquiring phonological awareness involves two things: learning that words can be divided into segments of sound smaller than a syllable, and learning about individual phonemes themselves. As children acquire more and more conscious knowledge of the distinctive features of phonemes (how they sound when they occur in words, or how they feel when they are pronounced), they become more adept at noticing their identity and order when they occur in words. For example, while children in the first semester of first grade might be able to isolate and identify the first or last sound of a word like man, by the end of first grade, most children can easily, and relatively automatically, segment all the sounds in a more complex word like clap.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Dyslexia's Special Club

What do Charles Schwab, David Boies, Tom Cruise, Nelson Rockefeller -- and it's suspected even Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison -- have in common?

They are all famous, yes. And also dyslexic.

Of course, considering 15 to 20 percent of the population is affected with a language-based learning disability -- and dyslexia is the most common of these -- purely statistically a handful of dyslexics are going to make it big. But research suggests it goes deeper than that: Experts are discovering a link between dyslexia and success.

In the spirit of raising awareness, the Child Mind Institute, an organization devoted to children's mental health, hosted a lecture series on dyslexia last week in New York City. President of the institute Harold Koplewicz, M.D. interviewed one such dyslexic-turned-success, actor and all-out movie star Orlando Bloom.

"It was a struggle. It was a lot of work," Bloom told the audience at Rockefeller University. "I had to work three times as hard to get two-thirds of the way.

"I was frustrated with that learning disability. It makes you feel stupid."

A great relief came for the actor at age seven, when he was tested and diagnosed with dyslexia, and also told he had a high IQ score. It was a blessing to get that diagnoses, he said. He knew he wasn't dumb.

A blessing indeed it was. The generation before Bloom's didn't fare so well. For decades the learning disability has been misunderstood -- or not understood at all -- and dyslexics knew only that they weren't "normal." They couldn't keep up in class, couldn't spell or read properly. They were called stupid or lazy -- and too often, they believed it.

The 1990s marked a crucial turning point, when scientists discovered the disability was linked to neurological differences in the brain -- differences that had nothing to do with cognition, IQ or intelligence.

Technology became available that enabled scientists to observe the brain while a person read, spoke or processed phonological structures of language -- i.e. what the brain is doing when we "sound out" words, or make links between the way a word sounds and what it looks like on a page. Scientists discovered the sections of the brain that process language work differently in people with dyslexia.

Nowadays, research is showing not only that dyslexics aren't stupid; they're often exceptionally bright in other areas. With reading, spelling and organization a constant struggle, dyslexic children (and adults) are forced to find alternative, innovative strategies to learn.

They often rely on creativity, reasoning, problem-solving and empathy to achieve their goals -- building skills that can serve them well in life beyond the classroom, explained Sally Shaywitz, M.D., co-founder of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity and author of Overcoming Dyslexia, at the lecture series.

"Creativity is the key for any child with dyslexia, or for anyone for that matter. Then you can think outside of the box," said Bloom. "Teach them anything is attainable. Let them run with what you see is whatever they need to run with."

Growing up, he was able to capitalize on his acting talent, his natural leadership (captain of the school soccer team, of the hockey team ... ) and his "way with the ladies" (he sheepishly admitted he could often get by with "a wink and a smile").

"I'm lucky," he conceded. "I've always been lucky."

But many other children aren't as lucky, and the low self-esteem brought on by dyslexia often takes an unrecoverable toll.

"Obviously, most people don't turn out like Orlando," said Dr. Koplewicz after his interview with Bloom. Many people don't make it through school. They end up with substance abuse problems and addictions, or even in jail, he said.

Youth with untreated dyslexia are more than twice as likely to drop out of high school (36 percent of students) and become unemployed, underemployed or incarcerated, according to the society for neuroscience, 2004.

Children who are bright and talented often won't see it come to fruition because the dyslexia stands in the way. And a big part of that self-esteem. Proper diagnoses can bring peace of mind. It can also mean getting the appropriate attention, extra time and special help needed to manage the challenge.

The earlier, the better: There's a big difference between beginning special training in kindergarten or first grade versus third grade or later. By the third grade 74 percent of kids who are already poor readers will remain so into adulthood, research has shown.

"It's not something that ever goes away," said Bloom. "But you learn how to manage it."

He offered advice to children: First, don't be shy or ashamed. Ask for help. Say, "I have dyslexia. I need some extra time on this test or homework assignment."

Also, don't see it as a problem, but a gift -- a special club. "It's not a disability; it's a challenge," he said. Even an opportunity.

Dyslexic children grow up to be brilliant doctors, lawyers, actors, writers and inventors. Bloom encouraged kids to never give up on their dreams: "Take this obstacle and make it the reason to have a big life."

The Huffington Post Meghan Neal