What Is Reading Intervention?

Reading intervention is supplemental instruction that addresses students’ individual learning needs while accelerating their growth toward grade level core reading proficiency. It includes phonics-based programs, guided oral reading, and activities that promote fluency (teacher-led and audio) such as echo and choral reading.

School boards need standardized measures to judge the effectiveness of an intervention. For example, many boards based program entry on students’ book-reading levels.


Phonics is the process of systematically teaching students to link the sounds they hear in words with the written spelling patterns, or graphemes, that represent those sounds. This allows children to decode new words and read with accuracy, regardless of their age or grade level.

Research shows that phonics instruction is one of the most effective strategies for teaching reading, particularly for early elementary school students who are below grade level. It is important to understand that while phonics improves children’s decoding skills, it does not necessarily lead to improved comprehension or vocabulary acquisition.

It is also critical to ensure that teachers are able to select, integrate and implement quality phonics instruction as part of comprehensive reading programs. Educators should be provided with adequate preservice and inservice training to help them make informed decisions about how to provide systematic, explicit phonics instruction.


Vocabulary is the collection of words a reader knows and can use in a reading task. Vocabulary is one of the primary components of reading comprehension and is a necessary tool for children to read and understand complex texts.

A child’s vocabulary grows from his or her experiences and interactions with the language environment, through listening to others talk, writing, reading aloud, and playing verbal games. The size of a child’s vocabulary is correlated to the amount of reading material that he or she encounters (Anderson & Nagy, 1992).

Research suggests that children who have difficulty comprehending text often have low-for-age vocabularies. Furthermore, experiments show that poor comprehension correlates with difficulties in learning new words, and children with trouble understanding text also exhibit impairments when trying to establish lexical representations for unfamiliar words. Therefore, effective instruction in vocabulary must be deliberate and systematic, focusing on both meaning and usage of words.

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is the ability to understand the meaning of written texts. It involves interpreting what is read, and is affected by readers’ prior knowledge and experiences, their level of motivation and engagement, the social context of reading, and text complexity and features (e.g., figurative language and multiple-meaning words).

Students who have good comprehension skills can visualize a story, anticipate what will happen next or laugh at a joke. Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, and is important if students want to learn from a text or enjoy it.

Many inquiry boards are looking for more direction from the Ministry on what reading intervention programs to use, how to assess them and when to move students from one program to another. They also need to be able to measure student progress against standardized assessments of word-reading accuracy and fluency, which can help ensure that students are actually making progress in the reading interventions they receive.

Independent Reading

Independent reading is an essential part of any classroom literacy program. Students who are empowered to choose their own books develop a love of reading and build confidence in their ability.

During independent reading time, teachers can also promote vocabulary, comprehension and fluency by having students meet in small groups to discuss their books. Some classrooms even use book clubs as their main method for promoting reading fluency and comprehension.

The texts used during independent reading should mirror the strategies students learn in read-aloud, shared and guided reading contexts (Burkins & Croft, 2010). Students can also self-monitor their comprehension during independent reading by reflecting on how the explicit skills taught during lessons have helped them understand and enjoy their books.

Encourage students to take their books home with them so they can continue the conversation and build their vocabulary and fluency. This can be done through a variety of ways, such as using a class Twitter hashtag or implementing Book Boosts—one-minute raves during the end of independent reading.

What Is Reading Intervention?
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