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The Matthew Effect and Teaching Reading

Guest Author - Marie Rippel

The Matthew effect as it relates to reading refers to the idea that good readers read more, and therefore become even better readers. Conversely, poor readers shy away from reading, and therefore the gap between good readers and poor readers widens.

The term Matthew effect comes from a parable told by Jesus and recorded in Matthew 25:29. The term was first used in the scientific world to explain how if two scientists independently do the same work, the more prominent scientist often receives credit for work done by the lesser known scientist. The idea behind the parable has worked its way into the maxim, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." Later, Keith Stanovich applied the term Matthew effect to reading when he observed the effect that poor reading skills has on all areas of a studentís academic life.

There is no denying that the Matthew effect is true for students. Students who are good readers experience more success, and they are encouraged by that success to read more. As they read more, they become even more successful at reading. Their vocabulary and comprehension grows. On the other hand, readers who struggle at decoding are less likely to want to pick up a book. They get much less practice and fall behind Ė often way behind Ė their peers. They fall behind not only in language arts classes but in content areas such as history and science.

What can you do to fight against the Matthew effect? Here are some ideas:

1. Read aloud to your student each day. Hearing good literature will help him develop vocabulary and comprehension, even while he is learning to read on his own.

2. Ensure that the student is being taught explicit phonics. Struggling readers need to be taught the sounds of the letters so they can decode quickly as opposed to trying to figure out the word from context or by sight.

3. Teach your student how to spell using an Orton-Gillingham approach such as the All About Spelling method. Spelling transfers over to reading. Many students who were not good readers have been helped by learning to spell.

4. Encourage reading. Help your student select books that are at the right reading level for him and reading material that holds interest for him. Here are other ways to encourage reading: Six ways to encourage reading.

5. Work on reading fluency. Fluency is an important reading skill. Here are some articles with more information regarding fluency:

-- Reading fluency Ė what it is and why itís important

-- How to develop reading fluency

Above all, donít get discouraged and donít give up. Reading is an area that affects all other academic areas, and it is important to get your child the help he needs.

Marie Rippel is the author of All About Spelling, the spelling program that is guaranteed to work. For more information, see these articles on literacy.
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Content copyright © 2015 by Marie Rippel. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Marie Rippel. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Michelle Anne Cope for details.


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