News: In context of SARS-Cov-19, large CA school systems promoted early literacy program

According to Betty Márquez Rosales of EdSource, evidence about faltering early literacy skills led local education agencies to test a pilot program to boost literacy competence among young children. As a result of the success of the pilot study, large California LEAs (Alameda, Los Angeles, and San Diego) will implement the special program or other programs on a broader basis in the coming school year.

The program used in LA, called “PRIDE,” apparently is the property of a company that advocates use of materials and practices related to what is known as the Orton-Gillingham method. The Orton-Gillingham approach is predicated on intensive instruction in letter-sound relationships and is often called "multi-sensory." The multi-sensory appellation refers to learners (a) seeing (i.e., visual) a letter and saying (auditory) the sound associated with it and (b) hearing (auditory) the sound and writing (kinesthetic) the letter.

Of course, there are many other features of Orton-Gillingham methods. For example, children learn cursive writing early on, on the theory that cursive makes it harder to "reverse letters" or employ "mirror writing"—Dr. Orton's "strephosymbolia" or "twisted characters." Gillingham and Stillman, around 1940, presented the clasic treatment of the venerable approach. I learned it from the 1960 edition, and I think it's now in an 8th or 9th edition; the manual from which I learned about it had an introduction that explained problems with modern (at that time) reading instruction practices—an introduction that I imagined at that time would be a considerate way to explain to older students why I was going to make them revert to learning letters and sounds.

Readers should note that a forthcoming article in Exceptional Children examines the research evidence about the effectiveness of Orton-Gillingham methods. Stevens et al (2021) reported results that ardent advocates of those methods will probably find somewhat disappointing. (Disclosure: I currently serve as co-editor of Exceptional Children.)

Read Ms. Morales’s article, Learn more about PRIDE Publishing’s program and San Diego’s implementation of it. (The last two are commercial sites; I make nothing by linking to them.)

References

Gillingham, A., & Stillman, B. (1940). Remedial training for children with specific disability in reading, spelling, and penmanship. Sackett & Wilhelms.

Stevens, E. A., Austin, C., Moore, C., Scammacca, N., Boucher, A. N., & Vaughn, S. (2021). Current state of the evidence: Examining the effects of Orton-Gillingham reading interventions for students with or a risk for word-level reading disabilities. Exceptional Children, 87(4). https://doi.org/10.1177/0014402921993406

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