Young children with learning disabilities typically encounter difficulty with academic tasks requiring intentional effort and effective use of metacognitive skills--qualities that competent readers and writers possess. In response to these difficulties, special educators often modify literacy instruction, isolating the "basic skills" of literacy (such as decoding and penmanship) from meaningful reading and writing activities. Such instruction contributes to impoverished notions of literacy and exacerbates problems of metacognition. The two research programs reported here challenge the conventional literacy instruction provided to many young students with LD. The programs are rooted in developmental and cognitive theory and research, as well as emergent literacy theory. The social nature of learning is emphasized, with a focus on the role of the teacher, the form of discourse, and the role of text in literacy instruction. Results show that children with learning disabilities benefit from strategy instruction occurring within classroom cultures that support collaborative discourse, the flexible application of comprehension strategies, and appropriate, meaningful opportunities for reading and writing.
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