Early Literacy Instruction for Children at-Risk: Research-based Solutions
On March 24, 2001, CIERA hosted an invitational colloquium at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. The conference represented an important collaboration among organizations including CIERA, the International Reading Association, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the Council for Exceptional Children, the National Council for Learning Disabilities, and the National Institute for Child Health and Development. In an exceptional show of cross-disciplinary solidarity, researchers from the fields of developmental psychology, special education, early literacy and early childhood came together to examine successful strategies and interventions for preventing reading difficulties.
The participants were unified by a common concern that many children are not receiving the quality of instruction they need in order to meet rigorous standards. In an era of increased emphasis on accountability, these experts sought to move away from unproven strategies of retention, social promotion, and transition classes, in favor of efforts to meet standards through:
-Quality early literacy experiences that provide children with the skills necessary for success in the school literacy curriculum;
-Ongoing instructional support, in and out of the classroom;
-Timely and powerful interventions for children who have fallen behind.
The colloquium included a wide variety of research papers, each focusing on an important and successful intervention. In a departure from the traditional academic conference format, practitioners from school- or community-based programs were invited to serve as discussants, describing local adaptations in school districts and other settings. This innovative approach helped theorists and practitioners to collectively envision the practical implications of new research, thus promoting the value of research-based solutions for improving classroom practice.
The topics covered in the conference included:
-Skills in early literacy
-Environments that support literacy development
-Parents and Caregivers
After the conference, participants remarked that they were "exhausted but exhilarated" by the energetic and productive meetings. Plans were made to continue the work begun in the colloquium through several avenues: a planned web site will provide a forum for further discussion and conversation hosted by each paper's author (s), and an upcoming edited volumeincluding revised papers, discussions and excerpts from audience commentarywill help researchers and practitioners to identify critical issues in this area and find common ground across the disciplines.