Frequently Asked Questions

UURC Student Reading

Why was the UURC established?
Reading is the cornerstone of academic, economic, and professional success in our society. Over time, many students who experience reading difficulties slip into a downward spiral of low achievement and poor self-esteem. The problem becomes even more distressing when one realizes that it is possible to address most reading difficulties - if they are detected early and effective instructional intervention is provided. Thus, it was vitally important that Utah parents and educators have effective resources for assessing and assisting at-risk and struggling readers.

Who may receive UURC services?
The UURC provides assessment and/or intervention services directly to Utah children in late Kindergarten through 12th grade, at the request of a parent/guardian. In addition, the UURC also provides Utah educators with professional development services in reading assessment and intervention.

Who has received UURC services?
Parents, educators and students from the following Utah school districts have received UURC services:

AlpineBox ElderCacheCanyonsCarbonDavis
NeboN. SanpeteOgdenPark CityPiuteProvo
Salt LakeSan JuanSevierS. SanpeteS. SummitTooele
12 Charter/Private Schools

What services are available for my child at the UURC's Murray, Utah location?
Assessment, Basic Intervention, and Intensive Intervention based on the Wilson Reading System.
Please note that demand for intervention services typically exceeds the UURC's capacity. When the child's name moves to the top of the recommended intervention list, a UURC staff member will contact the parent. Parents of children whose names are on the waiting list may call, email, or stop by ask about upcoming opportunities.

What is reading?
Reading is a cognitive (mental) process that occurs when an individual recognizes the words in text and meshes those words with his/her background knowledge to construct meaning. Thus, the ability to recognize words automatically and knowledge of the topic are each vitally important to successful reading. These two factors determine whether a reader finds a particular piece easy, challenging, or somewhere in between. Educators typically define this range as independent (very easy), instructional (slightly challenging), or frustration.

Why is learning to read such a struggle for some children?
Research is clear that struggling readers stray off the expected developmental path and maintain reading behaviors and abilities that are characteristic of younger normally-achieving readers (Rayner, Foorman, Perfetti, Petesky, & Seidenberg, 2002; Torgeson, 2000; Torgesen, Rashotte, Alexander, Alexander, & MacPhee, 2003; Velluntino, Tunmer, Jaccard, & Chen, 2007). These struggles may be neurobiological and/or environmental in origin. More simply, the causes of reading difficulty may be found in a child's genetic background, the home/school background, or a combination of these two sources. The depth of the difficulty may range from mild, to moderate, to severe.

Is my child a struggling reader?
Regardless of whether the source of reading difficulty is in the child's genetic or environmental background, the most common symptom is poor fluency. Your child has poor fluency if he/she lags behind grade level expectations in oral reading accuracy and/or speed.

Poor fluency is most commonly rooted in difficulties with word recognition - the ability to look at words in text and identify them correctly and quickly. Children who have a hard time recognizing words often resort to guessing. This strategy is unreliable and inefficient. In fact, guessing at words has only a 25% success rate even among adult, skilled readers! Furthermore, used over time, guessing actually prolongs and contributes to poor word recognition.

Think about it this way: when readers guess, they only use the first part of the word and skip, or gloss over the rest. Thus, they fail to process the word fully and miss many chances to put the word precisely and accurately into memory. The result is ongoing confusion among words that look somewhat alike. You may notice that your older struggling reader confuses 'every,' 'very,' 'ever,' and 'even,' or 'quiet' and 'quite.' These errors have a negative impact on reading speed, and as text becomes more difficult, a negative impact on comprehension. Over time, the confusions among certain words become more and more embedded in memory, to the point that they are very difficult to eradicate.

Poor fluency also may be caused by mild to severe gaps in oral language (Bianco et al., 2010; McKeown & Beck, 2006; Stephenson, Parrila, Georgiou, & Kirby, 2008). Parents themselves usually have insights into whether or not overall language ability is the source of a reading problem. If so, the child's difficulties will be noticeable in conversation as well as during reading. The child may have trouble following oral directions, or explaining a sequence of events. For these children, reading difficulties are a symptom of a much broader problem. On the other hand, for a child with average or above-average oral language ability, lack of fluency is likely caused by word recognition difficulties.

Parents should keep in mind that oral language and word recognition difficulties may be genetic and/or environmental in origin.

What kind of reading intervention does my child need?
Effective reading intervention places the child at his/her instructional level and moves forward as quickly as possible. This means that developmental - typically known as instructional - level is more relevant than chronological age when addressing the needs of struggling readers (Foorman, Francis, Shaywitz, Shaywitz, & Fletcher, 1997; Hiebert & Taylor, 2000). And, since readers' behaviors change quite dramatically over the course of development, intervention needs to change in anticipation - moving forward as soon as mastery is achieved (Morris, Bloodgood, Lomax, & Perney, 2003).

For some students, reading intervention may need to begin with foundational skills related to learning about print and breaking the alphabetic code (Chall, 1996; Mathes et al., 2005; Morris, Tyner, & Perney, 2000; Murray, 2006). For other students, foundational skills may be in place, but developing automatic word recognition and working in increasingly difficult text present difficulties (Ehri, Satlow, & Gaskins, 2008; McCandliss, Sandak, Beck, & Perfetti, 2003; Brown, Morris, & Fields, 2005; Vadasy, Sanders, & Abbott, 2008, Vadasy & Sanders, 2009). And, although older students may have developed the ability to read text accurately, they lag behind more successful peers in fluency and their ability to identify multi-syllabic words (Birsh, 2005; Stahl & Heubach, 2005; Valencia et al., 2010).

Taken collectively, current research syntheses suggest that research-based well-designed intervention can have a positive impact on struggling readers' performance. In fact, studies show that, often, reading difficulties can be prevented and that all but a small percentage (2-5%) of reading difficulties can be remediated (Fletcher, Lyon, Fuchs, & Barnes, 2007; Mathes, P.G., Denton, C.A., Fletcher, J.M, Anthony, J.L., Francis, D.J., & Schatschneider, C., 2005).

Which UURC intervention model is appropriate for my child?
It is important to note that despite developmentally-derived differences for lower-level reading processes, all UURC intervention models stress reading comprehension, that is, the ability to construct a mental model of meaning from text (Rayner, Foorman, Perfetti, Petesky, & Seidenberg, 2002).

Ongoing curriculum-based assessment is embedded in all models to ensure that students make maximum progress as quickly as possible and to ensure that when difficulties occur, tutors can make adjustments.Models include Getting Ready for 1st Grade, Early StepsSM, Next StepsSM, Higher StepsSM, and Wilson Reading System.

Where do UURC intervention models come from?
UURC staff members are proud to credit Dr. Darrell Morris - one of the nation's most respected reading researchers - for the origins of UURC assessment and intervention models. However, Morris himself will quickly note that his work is part of a larger academic, distinctly clinical tradition, and well-read educators will note similarities among UURC methods, Book Buddies (2000), Howard Street (2005), and Words Their Way (2009).

These similarities have their theoretical roots in the pioneering work of Dr. Edmund Henderson at the University of Virginia McGuffy Reading Clinic. For decades, Henderson steeped himself in the rigors of careful practice and observation at the clinic, and he demanded the same of his graduate students. The result was the development of a model of reading development, instruction, and intervention that prioritized educators knowing "what is in the kid's head" with regard to spellings as a way to guide instruction as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Through publications and practica, those models have had a profound impact on the educators, and by extension, students across the country for the last two decades.

From 1998-2000, Dr. Kathleen Brown had the opportunity to study directly under Morris as he conducted Early and Next StepsSM practica in Salt Lake City. In 2004, Morris worked with the UURC to develop a prototype for the Advanced Word Study portion of Higher StepsSM, an intervention model that takes the final step in reading development.

In 2005, UURC staff joined Morris and his colleagues at Appalachian State University in conducting a psychometric evaluation of the models' assessments. Morris worked closely with the UURC research team in designing an empirical investigation into the efficacy of small group vs. one-to-one intervention. Thus, the UURC is proud to call itself, "McGuffy West" as it has impacted thousands of parents, readers, and educators in the Intermountain West region.