According to research from North Carolina State University (NCSU), a freely available literacy tool can result in significant gains in fundamental reading skills for elementary school students, without requiring schools to drastically overhaul existing programs. The research focused on children who were characterized as “struggling readers” at risk for a learning disability in reading.
NCSU Professor John Begeny developed the literacy program, Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies (HELPS), to give teachers a new tool to promote reading “fluency.” HELPS looks at reading fluency as a child’s ability to read with sufficient speed and accuracy, while also reading with good expression – for example, pausing at commas when reading out loud. When students read fluently, they have a greater capacity for understanding what they read, and they are also more likely to choose to read.
In the study, researchers found that teachers whose reading curriculum incorporated the HELPS program saw a significant increase in reading fluency – as well as several other reading skills – compared to students whose curriculum didn’t include HELPS. Specifically, the study showed that the HELPS program also led to improvements in reading comprehension and basic reading skills (such as sounding out words).
The results of the research on the HELPS program has been published in several peer reviewed journals. For example, the paper, “Effects of the HELPS Reading Fluency Program when Implemented by Classroom Teachers with Low-performing Second Grade Students,” was published online by the journal Learning Disabilities Research and Practice. The paper was co-authored by Begeny; Scott Stage, an associate professor of psychology at NC State; NC State Ph.D. students Courtney Mitchell and Mary Whitehouse; and community volunteer Fleming Harris. The research was supported by a grant from NC State. You can read more about the research at the HELPS website.
Because schools have limited resources, the HELPS program is available to teachers and parents for free. This is made possible by a nonprofit organization Begeny founded, called the HELPS Education Fund. You can get more information about the HELPS program here.
The HELPS program is also now available for Spanish speakers too.
Posted by Maria Sosa
PHOTO CREDIT: CLIPART.com
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