Attention Deficit Disorder & Poor Reading Instruction: Is There a Connection?

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Attention Deficit Disorder & Poor Reading Instruction: Is There a Connection?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Mon Dec 17, 2018 11:16 pm

I have been alerted to this article published via the National Right to Read Foundation. It is such an important piece. So many of us recognise children with these behaviours - do you? ... onnection/

Attention Deficit Disorder & Poor Reading Instruction: Is There a Connection?


Medical Professionals Can’t Cure What Ails Many School Children

by James J. Campbell, M.D.

March 26, 1996

Though written in 1996 as a presentation, the information contained in this article is just as applicable today. Dr. James Campbell is a practicing pediatrician in Fulton, New York.

The number of children referred from the schools for medical evaluation and treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Learning Disability (LD) has been increasing substantially each year. In assessing these children, I have become aware over the past one and one-half years, that, for a large proportion of these children, the cause of their problem is the failure of the school’s instructional program to teach reading rationally and effectively.

This astonishing conclusion is all the more tragic because authorities and teachers in the schools do not acknowledge this fact and refuse to make the appropriate changes for the individual child. Instead, there is vehement denial that the instructional program could be at fault. Corrective measures are not taken, and the child is made to suffer continuing blame and humiliation.

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Re: Attention Deficit Disorder & Poor Reading Instruction: Is There a Connection?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Mon Dec 17, 2018 11:36 pm

The Children of the Code site provides a record of incredible interviews focused on reading instruction.

See what Dr Reid Lyon has to say about 'Shame Avoidance':

Dr. G. Reid Lyon – Converging Evidence – Reading Research What It Takes To Read
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Re: Attention Deficit Disorder & Poor Reading Instruction: Is There a Connection?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Mon Dec 17, 2018 11:46 pm

As I write this post, well-known figure, Dylan Wiliams is defending the continuation of, and up-scaling of, Reading Recovery via Twitter to the consternation of others across the world with various roles and responsibilities.

Why is this so problematic?

Reading Recovery is known to be a whole-language programme that instructs weak readers to read books that they cannot read without the need to apply what's called 'multi-cueing' for word-guessing - that is, to lift the words off the page using strategies such as guessing from the picture and context cues. Many people raise grave worries about research on Reading Recovery because of issues such as lack of independence of the researchers and/or funders of the research, or missing statistics for large numbers of children. IFERI provides a number of articles and reviews by researchers meticulously looking at the figures and circumstances of various RR research projects:



Dr Kerry Hempenstall writes about 'multi-cueing' for lifting the words off the page via his blog: ... er-go-away

The three-cueing system in reading: Will it ever go away?

Published: Wednesday, 06 November 2013

Dr Kerry Hempenstall, Senior Industry Fellow, School of Education, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

First published Nov 28 2012, updated 29/10/2017

The three-cueing system is well-known to most teachers. What is less well known is that it arose not as a result of advances in knowledge concerning reading development, but rather in response to an unfounded but passionately held belief. Despite its largely uncritical acceptance by many within the education field, it has never been shown to have utility, and in fact, it is predicated upon notions of reading development that have been demonstrated to be false. Thus, as a basis for decisions about reading instruction, it is likely to mislead teachers and hinder students’ progress.

“The 3-cueing approach is a microcosm of the culture of education. It didn’t develop because teachers lack integrity, commitment, motivation or intelligence. It developed because they were poorly trained and advised. They didn’t know the relevant science or had been convinced it was irrelevant. Lacking this foundation, no such group could have discovered how reading works and how children learn.” (Seidenberg, 2017, p.304)

In the Primary National Strategy (2006a), the three cueing model (known in England as the Searchlight model) was finally and explicitly discredited. Instead, the Strategy acknowledged the value of addressing decoding and comprehension separately in the initial stage of reading instruction.

“ … attention should be focused on decoding words rather than the use of unreliable strategies such as looking at the illustrations, rereading the sentence, saying the first sound or guessing what might ‘fit’. Although these strategies might result in intelligent guesses, none of them is sufficiently reliable and they can hinder the acquisition and application of phonic knowledge and skills, prolonging the word recognition process and lessening children’s overall understanding. Children who routinely adopt alternative cues for reading unknown words, instead of learning to decode them, later find themselves stranded when texts become more demanding and meanings less predictable. The best route for children to become fluent and independent readers lies in securing phonics as the prime approach to decoding unfamiliar words" (Primary National Strategy, 2006b, p.9).

Primary National Strategy (2006b). Phonics and early reading: An overview for headteachers, literacy leaders and teachers in schools, and managers and practitioners in Early Years settings. UK: Department of Education and Skills. Retrieved from ... n-overview

“Phonic work is best understood as a body of knowledge and skills about how the alphabet works, rather than one of a range of optional 'methods' or 'strategies' for teaching children how to read. For example, phonic programmes should not encourage children to guess words from non-phonic clues such as pictures before applying phonic knowledge and skills.” (p.2)

Department for Education (2010). Phonics teaching materials: Core criteria and the self-assessment process. Retrieved from ... rocess.pdf

I am personally contacted by people in England reporting to me that Reading Recovery is the dominant training teachers are encouraged to undertake in various local authorities in England. The ethos underpinning Reading Recovery is in direct contrast to the official guidance in England encapsulated in the National Curriculum For English for Key Stages 1 and 2 (DfE, 2014).

This is a very serious state of affairs. What are teachers to provide for their practice? Whole language Reading Recovery or Government guidance embedded in statute of 'systematic synthetic phonics' which does not include multi-cueing word-guessing?

At the heart of this issue is that children's reading instruction clearly remains based on 'chance' - even in England. And, to be honest, teachers and parents should be pretty outraged to think this is not being addressed transparently by Ofsted and by the DfE because it is 'in plain sight' and 'on their watch'.

It suggests that the weakest readers in Year One will experience some level of systematic synthetic phonics in their mainstream provision which is undermined by Reading Recovery's multi-cueing word-guessing if that is their reading intervention. Intervention, however, should be in line with the mainstream teaching. It is well-noted in the body of research findings that it is the WEAKEST readers who manifest word-guessing - a very damaging reading habit and this contradictory state of affairs should not be tolerated in any professional development for teachers and teaching assistants.

In England in 2009, the parliamentary Science and Technology select committee investigated the, then, Government's roll out of Reading Recovery under the Every Child a Reader umbrella around the same time (2005-6) that Sir Jim Rose was conducting his independent national review commissioned by the same Government. The Government accepted the Rose recommendations and the Rose Report is now internationally renowned. I wrote about the criticism clearly outlined by the select committee - and I provide a link now to evidence that Reading Recovery is acknowledged to be based on 'whole language': ... .php?t=586

I think this simultaneous promotion of Reading Recovery by large institutions (such as the Institute of Education) and rich business organisations (such as KPMG) and Dylan Wiliam and others is very, very worrying with teachers' professional understanding at stake but also children's educational and mental health at stake. How can this not be considered enormously serious and unsatisfactory - it is unaccountable.

We should not, and cannot, continue like this without someone with great authority grasping the nettle firmly and publicly. This brings to mind the concept of Orwell's 'doublespeak'. See the definition in the Wikipedia link below:

What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it; and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.

In his essay "Politics and the English Language", George Orwell observes that political language serves to distort and obfuscate reality. Orwell’s description of political speech is extremely similar to the contemporary definition of doublespeak:[9]

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible … Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness … the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Where there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, ...

Coincidentally, I have to admit that I just suggested to Dylan Wiliam via Twitter that he is 'defending the indefensible' - and then I note this notion is included in the description of 'doublespeak'.

But then, are Ofsted and the DfE, along with others, burying their heads in the sand and betraying our teachers and children?
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Re: Attention Deficit Disorder & Poor Reading Instruction: Is There a Connection?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Tue Dec 18, 2018 12:46 am

One of the issues in the Twitter debate with Dylan Wiliams is one of 'do no harm'. A number of people are pointing out that Reading Recovery methods of reading instruction are potentially harmful to children's reading habits and their self-esteem.

A number of parents of children identified with dyslexia have responded with personal stories, and others have provided links to research findings.

In response to requests for research references, Professor James Chapman responded saying:

Yes, what we found was that children’s reading self-concept declined during the time they were in RR. I don’t know of any other study where self-concept/self-esteem has declined during an intervention…any intervention.

Chapman, Tunmer & Prochnow. (2001). Does success in the Reading Recovery program depend on developing proficiency in phonological-processing skills? A longitudinal study in a whole language instructional context. Scientific Studies of Reading, 5(2), 141-176.


The most recently published article by Sirinides, Gray & May (The impacts of Reading Recovery at Scale: Results from the 4-year i3 external evaluation: DOI:10.3102/016237318764828) is very selective in the references cited in the section “Prior research on Reading Recovery’s Impacts”( p.318). There were few disconfirming studies in that section of the paper.

It’s interesting to note that reference was made to the Slavin, Lake, Davis, & Madden (2011) review of interventions. These authors point out that the overall effect size for 18 studies involving paraprofessional or volunteer tutors using structured and intensive programs was about the same effect size for RR studies: +.24 vs. +.23. Slavin et al., stated that “an emphasis on phonics greatly improves tutoring outcomes” (p. 22): effect size of such programs = +.62. Perhaps not surprisingly, Sirinides et al. overlooked Slavin et al’s findings.
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Re: Attention Deficit Disorder & Poor Reading Instruction: Is There a Connection?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Tue Dec 18, 2018 12:54 am

I started this thread below in direct response to the same Reading Recovery research that Dylan Wiliams is tweeting. You can read various responses to this latest RR research including blog posts by Greg Ashman and Belinda Dekker:

Greg writes:

Another flawed Reading Recovery study to add to the pack

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Re: Attention Deficit Disorder & Poor Reading Instruction: Is There a Connection?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Tue Dec 18, 2018 2:23 pm

This message of support was sent in response to this thread and this current debate about Reading Recovery's efficacy and contradictory content of teacher-training:

I hope to send you some encouragement and support to not give up.

Personally I always debate which way to go. Just move educators to best practice or call out ineffective instruction. We need lots more voices to do the latter. And frankly only the brave ones speak out.

This is coming from a practitioner who has seen both sides.

I was trained as an educator in whole language. I was mentored under a master Reading Recovery teacher. I was approached by an SLP and resource teacher to deliver a differentiated grouping phonemic awareness project with them, in part using Letterland. And then as the tidal waves turned RR took over.

Not until I found myself titled as a ‘reading clinician’ did I truly understand that I didn’t know what I was talking about. Further to the point, my husband is dyslexic and we didn’t know that until our children started school as they have dyslexia as well. That is a completely other novel. And I won’t digress.

And now I’ve been down a war path of self frustration and practitioner self critique in so far as pursuing an EdD to focus upon dyslexia and teacher perception as well as become a fellow with AOGPE. I’m now also contracted with our local department of education to dig deep and improve our provincial literacy achievement (in a nutshell!).

Truly I’m angry that no one was direct enough to tell me bluntly that Reading Recovery is not effective. And that synthetic phonics completely makes sense.

I believe that my path was more painful and slow to develop because no one said that directly or clearly enough. Perhaps nobody knew it. Or perhaps there wasn’t enough bravery. I know that we don’t want animosity, but we also need to have professional integrity and a simple code to provide professional evidence based practice.

People like me need to hear your voices. This is not about egos or professional careers. This is truly about kids' lives. My entire career has been an example of the turmoil of whole language and how I came to the conclusion that I needed to do better, much better.

None of these details matter except for the fact that I want to tell you our field of education needs you. We need your bravery and your strength. We also need your voices, knowledge and expertise.

I think there are tons more of us out there. And when we start recognizing one another’s journeys and how they relate to ours we get a little more brave to speak out too. We also need to understand it’s ok to admit we’ve done wrong and we are learning.

And the best one is that there are better options for instruction then I was told. Although I had to aggressively figure that out on my own, voices such as yours lead me to a better way.

Please share my story if you think it helps.

Thank you so much for this heartfelt message. As I write this, people are responding to Emily Hanford's question regarding their experience of initial teacher-training and to Pamela Snow's post to student-teachers.

We are witnessing many people welcoming the information about evidence-based reading instruction, whilst others, like Dylan Wiliams and those people who have 'liked' his tweets, continue to support and promote Reading Recovery.

This still leaves the questions:

How should teachers teach reading to best effect?

Is it acceptable that teachers are being trained with completely different messages and methods and this more about 'chance' - largely based on those who influence them in their immediate environments?

Is it acceptable that the first-time teaching and interventions that children receive is based on 'chance'?
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Re: Attention Deficit Disorder & Poor Reading Instruction: Is There a Connection?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Sun Jan 06, 2019 12:33 am

I think that Professor Pamela Snow's New Year post makes a significant contribution to this thread:

Twenty years of working both ends off against the middle. ... s-off.html

What have I gleaned about vulnerable students and the role of language and literacy success along the way?

What is the role of early reading instruction in the lives vulnerable children and adolescents?

My research on young people in contact with youth justice and child protection has inevitably led me to wander back “upstream” to the education system and to want to better understand how education can off-set some of the enormous risks and vulnerabilities some children face. This is particularly important when we consider the appallingly low rates of literacy among youth offenders and also of their adult counterparts.

In public health parlance, I've wondered many times, how we might build better fences at the top of the cliff, rather than parking more ambulances at the bottom of the cliff. For me, the answer to this always comes back to better reading instruction for all. And no, that does not necessarily mean more money.

Some of my key learnings from researching in and delivering many hours of professional development in the education sector are as follows:

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