Parents concerned about how well their children are learning to read in school can turn to a free online assessment tool to determine a student’s reading level and detect any specific reading deficiencies: The Reading Evaluation, Assessment and Diagnostic System, or READS program, from MindPlay. The program also is available to schools on an annual subscription basis at rates ranging from $1.83 to $4.00 per student.
The READS test, available at www.mindplay.com, is applicable to grades 2-10 reading levels and assesses reading ability in terms of phonics skills and reading comprehension level. The phonics test requires the student to identify words and syllables that are read aloud by the Digital Teacher in the test program. The reading comprehension tests requires the student to read stories and insert missing words from a list of possible choices.
The test typically requires 15 to 60 minutes, depending on the test-taker’s skills, which are assessed on the following cognitive elements: reading comprehension, phonology, decoding, cipher knowledge, phonemic awareness, and the alphabetic principle. (See “How Do Children Read?” by Sebastian Wren, School Reform News, February 2001.) Each section of the test will automatically stop when it begins to exceed the test-taker’s ability level. After the test is completed, MindPlay emails instructions to the test-taker for viewing the results online.
Armed with information from the test, parents feel better prepared to talk to teachers about their child’s specific reading deficits, says MindPlay CEO Judith Bliss.
One way of addressing those reading deficits is with another software program from MindPlay called My Reading Coach, available for both home and school use. Using techniques developed by speech pathologist and veteran reading teacher Jim Larrabee, MindPlay’s Digital Teacher, My Reading Coach provides phonics-based reading lessons that have been tested for the past five years on children, older students, prison inmates, people with learning disabilities, and non-native speakers.
“People can learn to read and understand anything they can hear and understand,” says Larrabee. “The lessons on My Reading Coach bring their reading level up to their vocabulary level, whether that’s the vocabulary of a seven-year-old or an adult.”
Earlier this year, the program was used for 30 minutes a day by second-graders at Myers-Ganoung Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona. Before embarking on the program, 40 percent of the students were reading at the lowest reading levels. After 9 weeks, that percentage had dropped from 40 to 18, with a sharp increase in the number of students reading in the above average range.
MindPlay reports that 95 percent of program users improve their reading the equivalent of one to five grade levels after 40 to 50 hours of lessons.
For more information. . .
Information on MindPlay programs is available at the company’s Web site at www.mindplay.com.
Information on the mechanism of reading is available at the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory’s Web site for the Reading Coherence Initiative at www.sedl.org/rci.
The SEDL Web site also offers a Reading Assessment Database, which provides information on more than 150 reading assessment programs. It is located at www.sedl.org/reading/rad/list.html.