Reading Software

by Veronica Calles

1. Definition and Description

Reading software is designed to help struggling readers. The software may target beginning readers, English learners, or below grade level readers. There are many different types of software available for use at home, although most are designed for use as intervention or supplemental programs by schools. The main advantage of a program with a software component is that it allows students to work at their own pace and it tailors the curriculum to the student's ability level. The disadvantage is that most of these programs are expensive and require extensive technological support.

2. Examples

Some examples are: Read 180 by Scholastic Inc., Accelerated Reader by Renaissance Learning, and SuccessMaker by Pearson Education.

2.1 Read 180 by Scholastic

This K-12 program is a system of curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development. It is an intervention program for students who are reading two or more years below grade level and is approved for use with English Language Learners. The adaptive software (one of three components to the program) provides students with individualized practice in reading, spelling, vocabulary, and writing.
The design of the Dashboard is easy to read and clearly shows student progress.
The five zones are color coded and Tye, the guide, gives audio instructions to the students.

2.2 Accelerated Reader by Renaissance Learning

Accelerated Reader is a K-12 reading program that allows students to read books at the appropriate reading level and at their own pace.The computer activities include read to, read with, and read independently. As students complete their chosen book, they take quizzes in reading practice, vocabulary, and literacy. The software also helps students learn content-area vocabulary in math and science.

The pictures that accompany vocabulary are an effective way to teach English Learners. Navigation is always on the right side of the screen.
Graphics are simple and accompany the content-area vocabulary as well.

2.3 SuccessMaker by Pearson Education

SuccessMaker Reading is an interactive, standards-based course designed to provide supplemental instruction and practice in essential reading for grades K-8. Reading lessons begin with focused instruction and guided practice before going on to independent activities.
Animated characters appeal to younger learners.
Helpers like this robot guide students through the activities.

3. Summary of Literature

3.1 At Risk Readers

Students who are poor readers need carefully designed instruction that is more intensive than traditional instruction. According to the National Reading Panel's (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2000) recent report, computerized reading instruction software may be the key to providing these learners opportunities "to interact instructionally with text for greater amounts of time than they can if only conventional instruction is provided." In addition, the National Research Council's Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties says that "[r]ecent advances in computer technology offer new support for reading instruction." (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998, p. 264). Sands and Buchholz (1997) observed that well-designed instructional software includes many of the features found to be effective for helping at-risk students.

3.2 Design Criteria

Bishop & Santoro (2006) say that three critical components of a reading software program must be considered: aesthetics, operational support, and interactions. The program's interface should use media (text, graphics, animations, video, and sound) that enhances the experience. The pre-reading learner should be able to use the program with little help from adults. And finally, the learner should be the driving force behind what happens in the program.

3.3 Content Criteria

In order for children to make the transition from verbal to text-based language processing, they must be able to analyze the structure of words and become aware that spoken words are made up of small speech segments called phonemes (Liberman, Shankweiler, & Liberman, 1989). They also need practice "manipulating" phonemes and matching them to the alphabetic code (Wagner, 1986). Thus, there are two critical areas that must be covered by instructional software content: phonological awareness and alphabetic understanding.

3.4 Instructional Design Criteria

The goal of instructional design is to identify learning deficits and create instructional interventions that will be effective in addressing them (Dick, Carey, & Carey, 2001). Bishop & Santoro (2006) say that in evaluating the instructional design of software means evaluating whether it is systematic, instructionally supportive, motivating, and assesses learner progress. Instruction should be comprised of cycles that progress through increasingly difficult blocks of content and skills. The program should supply appropriate levels of content support to enhance learning and should be fun to use. The program should evaluate learner progress and help direct learning goals.

4. Resources

5. References

Bishop, M. J., & Santoro, L. (2006). Evaluating Beginning Reading Software for At-Risk Learners. Psychology in the Schools, 43(1), 57-70. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Dick, W., Carey, L., & Carey, J.O. (2001). The Systematic Design of Instruction (5th ed.). New York: Longman.
Liberman, I.Y., Shankweiler, D., & Liberman, A.M. (1989). The Alphabetic Principle and Learning to Read. In D. Shankweiler & I.Y. Liberman (Eds.), Phonology and Reading Disability: Solving the Reading Puzzle (pp. 1-33), Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Sands, S., & Buchholtz, E.S. (1997). The Underutilization of Computers to Assist in the Remediation of Dyslexia. International Journal of instructional Media, 24, 153-175.
Snow, C.E., Burns, M.S., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Wagner, R.K. (1986). The Nature of Phonological Processing and its Implications for Disabled Readers. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 19, 623-629.