What is Reading Intervention?

Reading intervention is a method of helping a struggling reader improve their skills. It focuses on improving the main aspects of reading: phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary and comprehension.

Teaching phonological awareness helps students decode words and learn their sounds. Studies show incorporating phonological awareness instruction, decoding practice and reading aloud results in improved accuracy.


Phonics is an important component of reading intervention because it helps students learn the alphabetic principle – that written letters represent sounds. Without understanding this, students can’t decode new words and become fluent readers.

Systematic synthetic phonics instruction has had a positive impact on disabled students’ reading skills and has also been shown to improve the literacy abilities of children from low socioeconomic backgrounds. This is because phonics teaches children to read new words by sounding them out, blending them and manipulating them into spelling patterns.

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Developing students’ vocabularies is essential to comprehension. In fact, experts estimate that a child must know 90-95% of the words in a text to comprehend it.

Explicit vocabulary instruction is important, particularly for students with underlying weaknesses in reading. Studies on vocabulary interventions have yielded high effects on both comprehension and word reading.

For explicit vocabulary intervention to be effective, target words should be chosen carefully. The target words should be: (1) unknown to the student, (2) critical for understanding a text, and (3) used in other contexts (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2004).

When teaching new vocabulary words, teachers are encouraged to use an explicit instructional routine that provides multiple opportunities for students to process the meaning of the words in a variety of formats and contexts. For example, the four step routine discussed in this video is a great instructional tool for introducing and practicing new vocabulary words. This helps students remember the words and increases their chances of using them in their own writing and speaking.


Whether reading for fun or information, comprehension is key. Comprehension allows readers to visualize stories, make inferences, and learn new ideas. Without it, students struggle to absorb the content they read and may experience the “fourth grade slump” where reading comprehension skills decline.

In addition to building phonemic awareness and decoding, reading intervention also focuses on teaching students a variety of comprehension strategies. These include rereading, asking questions, summarizing and retelling. Reading interventions that teach morphological awareness — the ability to pull apart and define words that don’t follow traditional patterns, such as prefixes, suffixes and base words — have been shown to improve a student’s understanding of text.

Students who receive a reading intervention may receive instruction in a variety of ways, including within a classroom setting or in smaller groups by teachers or paraeducators. They typically work on one or more of the five core aspects of reading until they reach a level that is sufficient for their reading capabilities.


Fluency is a critical part of reading comprehension. Less-fluent readers must focus most of their attention on figuring out words, which leaves little time for understanding the text. Regular practice, immersion, and meaningful interactions with text can greatly improve fluency.

Encourage learners to read aloud to an adult who provides model and assistance. Repeated oral reading is an effective strategy for building fluency, especially if the texts are one or two grade levels below learners’ assessed reading levels. Collecting record sheets of timed readings can help identify areas for improvement and track growth.

Provide readers with books that have predictable vocabulary and rhythmic patterns. This helps them “hear” what fluent reading sounds like, making it more enjoyable for them to work on improving their fluency. It also increases their confidence as they lose themselves in the story. Using a metronome to guide their reading pace and systematic progress monitoring have also been shown to significantly improve fluency for struggling students.

What is Reading Intervention?
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