December 27. 2016

Cut Across the Path of Literacy Failure: A Teacher Tip from Fountas and Pinnell on Intervening Early

The early years of school are important for every child, but for those who find literacy learning difficult, every one of these years is critical. Intervention must be effective and focused on outcomes rather than simply on numbers of children served. The most effective intervention is implemented early in a child’s school career—before the cycle of failure is established. 

If you intervene to help readers who struggle, you want to do so in a way that will prevent further difficulties. The ability to observe and interpret reading behavior is foundational to effective teaching of struggling readers. Fountas and Pinnell talk extensively in their book, When Readers Struggle, about the essential experiences needed to support young children who find literacy difficult.

Ensure these essential literacy experiences daily: 

1. Talk—evaluate whether your students have enough time to talk with others and share their stories.

2. Texts—engage students in a large amount of continuous text from various genres that are of interest, are age/grade appropriate, and can be read with fluency and comprehension.

3. Teach—provide explicit, clear, effective instruction based on the observed behavior of your students.


A literate life is the right of every child—even (or especially) those who initially find it difficult. Excerpted and adapted from When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works.