February 27, 2019

Reading Horizons Review: Deb Dunton

Tags: Direct Instruction, Implementation, K-12 Intervention, Methodology, Results, Secondary, Special Education

Robert is a fifth grade student who was essentially considered to be a non-reader. He received little to no support at home. Consequently, we had very little hope for him. Among many other attempts at reading intervention programs, we enrolled him in the Wilson reading intervention program for at least two years. His progress was minimal and he was still unmotivated. He was put into the Reading Mastery intervention program as a last-ditch effort to get him reading. His progress in that program has also been minimal. He had terribly low self-esteem and was unable to function well in any of the regular education academic classes. He was inattentive, lost all of his books, has rarely done over many years, and engaged in all of the typical work-avoidant behaviors you could imagine. I was so concerned about what this student would be facing next year when he entered middle school. He was a student who, for all intents and purposes, could not read. Remarkably, after three months of daily instruction, I am thrilled to report that he is flourishing and LOVES coming to class. He LOVES marking up/proving the words. He comes early and sets up the room for his classmates. It is unbelievable how willing and eager he is to READ. He even announced this week that when he went away for a few days during spring break, he TOOK A BOOK with him to read. Robert is not the only student about whom I could write.

As a learning support teacher for nearly thirty years, I have never found a reading intervention program as effective in turning non-readers into readers in a remarkably short time as READING HORIZONS. I am currently implementing this amazing program with two different groups of learning disabled students daily-8 students in all, and I am astounded at the success and confidence-building my students are experiencing.

I began implementing this program in January 2018, three months ago, with 5th, 6th and 7th grade students, all of whom were reading below grade level by a minimum of three grade levels. In addition to the very poor reading skills, the children had extremely low self esteem and no confidence in their reading ability. They felt ashamed of their disabilities, were the recipients of teasing which included ridicule, name calling etc. and were very resistant at first to even participate during class. 

With the support and assistance of Holly Pribilovich, from PSE, we introduced the program and within a couple of lessons, the kids were hooked. In no time at all, the students were eagerly showing up at the door of the classroom, so motivated to get learning each and every day. In each of my groups we have developed a supportive learning environment in which all of the students feel successful and are motivated to read. I make a point to frequently remind students of how far they have come and show discuss their huge gains in the reading skills.

Reading Horizons begins with very basic concepts and reading skills, builds confidence, and simultaneously teaches the children important strategies, patterns, and cues to decode unfamiliar words of our very complex English language. The program is broken down into the components of what we need to know in order to decode a word. The most motivating part of the program is that the kids are using colorful markers and white boards to show their improving reading skills every day. The system of marking words with symbols is fun and motivating, and the kids pick it up extremely quickly. Since those skills are utilized every day they retain them and then build upon them as we navigate through the myriad of phonemic structures necessary to “crack the code.’

While Robert’s results are astounding, he is not the only student showing success! Several of the students were far below grade level and struggling with basic short vowel sounds. They too are reading, improving their oral reading fluency and feeling confident, and most importantly, reading independently and enjoying it. At the end of the day, isn’t that what we want for all of our students?

Grade Level: Elementary