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The Problem with Reading

It’s estimated that between 10% to 16% of children aged from five to 16 years will have reading difficulties such as dyslexia and inadequate comprehension skills. For these students, regular literacy teaching will be insufficient. They need alternative teaching pathways.

Despite numerous initiatives, such as the Literacy and Numeracy National Partnership, and the A$706.3 million spent between 2008-2014 on reading programs to support students, literacy underachievement continues to plague Australian education, suggesting that current interventions are not working for many students. Teachers don’t necessarily know how to teach these children and it isn’t the teacher’s fault.

The problem is not a lack of research about what works. The problem is not a lack of caring teachers (they care more than many parents know)! It is more the lack of guidance for teachers and schools and inadequate training in how to use this knowledge in teaching. They need clear and explicit instruction on how to choose effective literacy interventions that will work for students and the tools to implement these interventions so that they work for teachers as well.

Why do students struggle with reading?

Reading comprehension is an incredibly complex process. There are two key elements to reading though: decoding and comprehension.

Decoding involves being able to break apart and blend together the sounds in a word, understand the sounds that make up spoken words and knowing which letter makes which sound in what context (phonological and phonemic skills), using letter patterns accurately (phonic skills) and sequence letter and sounds correctly. Difficulties with these skills lead to word reading and spelling difficulties, or dyslexia.

Reading comprehension is what at Chatterbugs we sometimes term the hidden reading difficulty. Difficulties with comprehension can be due to a number of underlying reasons.

Some children lack the vocabulary and other oral language knowledge that underpin reading comprehension.

Others have a relatively poor self-concept as a reader. They don’t see themselves as a reader and as a result they are disengaged from literacy based activities.

Some students don’t transfer what they learn about reading from one task or text to other contexts (you know the child who can read sight words off their sight word list but not in their nightly reader).

Any interventions, then, need to cater for this range of differences.

What’s needed

Research suggests that reading comprehension could be improved by explicitly teaching phonological and phonemic skills, synthetic phonics, how to improve reading fluency, oral vocabulary, paraphrasing skills, visualisation, summarising skills, idea-organisation such as concept mapping as well as speaking activities.

The challenge is that teachers aren’t routinely taught HOW to do this as part of their University training. That’s not fair on teachers and not fair on their students either. The good news is we know from the research not only what to do but also how to help teachers learn these skills.

Interventions that work

Many teachers know their current interventions do not work for all students and they are unsure how to help underachieving students. Dedicated teachers who are ready to update their knowledge and learn exactly how to help their students through better literacy instruction can now access specific Professional Development right here in Toowoomba.

Rachel Tosh, a Certified Practicing Speech Pathologist with 15 years experience working with literacy disorders and a lifelong love of children’s literature will be helping teachers (and proactive parents) in their quest for Creating Literate Learners. There are two professional development workshops in the Creating Literate Learner educational series and registration is now open. Please note that seats are strictly limited so ensure that you book now to avoid disappointment.


Workshop 1: Creating Literate Learners K-2

How to integrate synthetic phonics, oral language and sight word pedagogies to create an optimal environment to foster the development of literate learners. A hands on workshop with a focus on early years literacy acquisition and teaching integrating facets of the research evidence and then translating those findings into practical strategies teachers can implement in their classrooms. This workshop is suitable for both Early Childhood Educators and teachers in the lower primary years.

Date: Saturday August 6th
Time: 9:00am-3:30pm
Venue: Toowoomba Sports Ground (47 Arthur St)
Cost: $220 for one day or $340 for both days
Includes: on site parking, delicious food and drinks to keep your brain working, all materials including handouts, factsheets, templates and resources.


Workshop 2: Creating Literate Learners 3-6

The how and why of teaching strategies that really work for reading comprehension, spelling, and written expression. A practical and in-depth workshop with a focus on moving beyond simple phonics and into more complex text comprehension, spelling, planning, written expression and editing skills.

Date: Saturday August 20th
Time: 9:00am-3:30pm
Venue: Toowoomba Sports Ground (47 Arthur St)
Cost: $220 for one day or $340 for both days
Includes: on site parking, delicious food and drinks to keep your brain working, all materials including handouts, factsheets, templates and resources.

So, if you aren’t a teacher yourself, please help a teacher out and send them information about these workshops so they can do what they want most which is to help children learn!

Book online here to reserve your seat now (we will then email you an invoice with the amount payable depending on whether you book for one day or two) NB If you are booking for both days you will need to complete each one as a separate booking!: