Research does not support the idea of “late bloomers.” Several studies show that children who are behind in reading in first grade tend to still be poor readers by fourth grade. Also, children develop reading skills quickly in early elementary school, but beyond sixth grade, students tend not to improve their reading abilities. In order to improve reading skills in struggling readers, teachers need to intervene as soon as possible. Based on this information, I would reason that a vast majority of students are not “late bloomers;” therefore, this struggling first grader should be provided more intense, individualized reading instruction right away.
I would start giving this student individualized reading instruction in addition to regular class lessons as soon as I identified him or her as a struggling reader. Since most poor readers have difficulty with phonemic awareness, I would begin by teaching or reinforcing letter sounds with this student. Before the student would be able to read, he or she would need to have a basic understanding of how each letter sounds and how these sounds fit together. I could teach this through flash cards or repetition and matching games. Once the child had a good understanding of letter sounds, I would be able to begin phonics instruction, because the child would understand that sounds blend together to make words. Reading words out loud would reinforce the idea that words are made up of letters, which each make their own sound. Throughout my instruction, I would constantly assess the student’s understanding and document his or her progress. This would help guide my instruction to fit with the student’s pace of learning. Hopefully this direct, intense phonemic awareness and phonics instruction would help this struggling student improve his or her reading skills.