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Engaged reading practice fuels a child’s development. Here are some tips to get started.

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Engaged reading practice fuels a child’s development. Here are some tips to get started.

May 15, 2024 | 6:00 am ET
By Michael Strickland
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Engaged reading practice fuels a child’s development. Here are some tips to get started.
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The Dyad Reading Method has been shown to be effective in helping both English-proficient and English-learning children, writes guest columnist Michael Strickland. (Getty Images)

Reading opens doors to knowledge, imagination and lifelong learning. However, not all children find reading to be an easy task. Some struggle with fluency, comprehension, accuracy or confidence.

One trend that underscores the importance of this topic is the growing number of English Learners, or ELs, in elementary classrooms and homes. On the Boise School District website you can click for translations in Cantonese, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian and Hindi. Teachers in Idaho and Utah have told me they have encountered 12–25 different first-languages and national origins in a single classroom. Boise’s Taft Elementary hosts students from over 15 different countries speaking 13 different languages.

This has created a pressing need for strategies that enable all children to achieve optimal language and literacy development. Engaged reading practice fuels development. Lower-achieving students read three times less often than higher-achievers. Nothing motivates children to read like knowing how to read.  

According to a study in The Early Childhood Education Journal called How Second-Grade English Learners Experienced Dyad Reading with Fiction and Nonfiction Texts, “ELs should not be categorized as a group with the assumption that they have similar student strengths and weaknesses. When planning for literacy instruction, educators must reflect on the individual proficiencies of ELs, realizing that they are not a homogeneous group; they can range from students who are emergent literacy learners in their first language to those who are proficient readers.”

Fortunately, there are various methods to support and enhance children’s reading abilities. My years in classrooms have shown me the power of peer collaboration to meet individual needs. Students who are non-achieving in reading are not in a position to engage in wide reading, and they need more guidance and support. The Dyad Reading Method is a modified version of the Neurological Impress Method in which a lead reader and an assisted reader sit side by side and read aloud a shared text in unison. This strategy has been shown to be effective in helping both English-proficient and English-learning children. 

In this structured reading practice, two individuals, usually a more skilled reader (such as a parent, teacher or peer) and a developing reader (such as a child), read together. The method involves collaborative reading, with the more proficient reader providing guidance and support to the learner. While reading in a dyad, the lead reader uses their index finger to underline words in the shared text while reading smoothly and fluently

The assisted reader attempts to decode and read orally along with the lead reader. When an assisted reader is unable to decode, the assisted reader’s goal is to say as many words as possible following the modeling of the lead reader, without interrupting the flow of reading. Dyad reading helps less proficient readers to maintain a focus on understanding the text as their partners shoulder the primary responsibility of decoding while students read aloud together.

Here are the stages:

Pairing: Select a suitable partner for your child, a parent, older sibling or a friend who is a strong reader. Choose one who is patient and encouraging.

Text Selection: Choose age-appropriate reading material that aligns with your child’s interests and reading level. This could include storybooks, articles or educational texts.

Reading Process: Choral Reading: Both readers read aloud simultaneously. This helps the learner follow along and improves fluency. 

Echo Reading: The more skilled reader reads a sentence or paragraph first, and then the learner repeats it. This reinforces pronunciation, intonation and expression.

Prompting: The proficient reader provides prompts, assistance and feedback as needed. This can include explaining unfamiliar words, asking comprehension questions, or providing encouragement. Show the reader how to decode the words. Break words into syllables, identify root words, prefixes, suffixes or compound words. Demonstrate how to look up words on the internet or how to use a dictionary. 

Gradual Release: As the learner becomes more confident and proficient, gradually decrease the level of support from the proficient reader. The goal is for the learner to eventually read independently.

The benefits of Dyad Reading are many. They include:

Increased Fluency: Reading aloud in tandem with a proficient reader helps improve fluency and rhythm.

Enhanced Comprehension: The interaction between the two readers encourages discussion, questions and deeper understanding of the text.

Boosted Confidence: Having a supportive partner can increase a child’s confidence in their reading abilities.

Individualized Support: The proficient reader can tailor their assistance to the specific needs of the learner, providing personalized guidance.

Promotion of Positive Relationships: Dyad reading fosters a sense of collaboration and teamwork between the two readers, strengthening their bond.

Here are more tips that make the Dyad Method more effective and easy to implement:

Patience is key. Be calm and encouraging throughout the process. Learning to read takes time and practice. 

Create a Comfortable Environment. Ensure the reading environment is quiet, comfortable and free from distractions. 

Celebrate Progress. Highlight small victories and milestones to keep motivation high. 

Rotate Partners. Consider involving different partners to keep the experience fresh and engaging. 

Remain Flexible. Adapt the method to meet the needs and preferences of the learner.

The practice of Dyad reading allows opportunities for all children, regardless of English proficiency, to receive constant modeling and feedback of correct pronunciation and intonation in reading. It provides a social context of learning by receiving the one-on-one interaction, feedback and praise often neglected in the classroom. This type of interaction is one of the most accessible and cost-effective methods of developing fluency in young learners.

With Dyad Reading, ELs and other children note an increase in confidence as readers and gain a sense of satisfaction and success. The structured support and guidance helps children develop fluency, comprehension and confidence in their reading abilities. Whether used at home or in the classroom, Dyad reading can make the journey to literacy an enjoyable and rewarding experience for both learners and their partners.