The aim of this study was to determine whether explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and phonemically based decoding skills would be an effective intervention strategy for children with early reading difficulties in a whole language instructional environment. Twenty-four 6- and 7-year-old struggling readers were randomly assigned to an intervention or control group, with the intervention group being divided into four groups of three children each. The intervention program was carried out over a period of 24 weeks and comprised 56 highly sequenced, semi-scripted lessons in phonemic awareness and alphabetic coding skills delivered by a teacher aide who received training and ongoing support from a remedial reading specialist. Posttests results showed that the intervention group significantly outperformed the control group on measures of phonemic awareness, pseudoword decoding, context free word recognition, and reading comprehension. Two-year follow-up data indicated that the positive effects of the intervention program were not only maintained but had generalized to word recognition accuracy in connected text.
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