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UVA Professor Helps Identify Issues For Young Readers

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The earlier students with reading issues can be identified, the better.
Alex Ragone: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alexragone/3756298136/
The earlier students with reading issues can be identified, the better.

A University of Virginia Professor of Education has new grants to help American children learn how to read. The program she's developed is already in use nationwide  — it's called PALS, and some say it represents a breakthrough for kids.

Some students will enter kindergarten this fall already knowing about language and the printed word. According to education Professor Marcia Invernizzi, many more start school with far less information — some pre-schoolers don't even know how to hold a book.

"Not everybody knows that you hold it upright. If you haven't had opportunities to be read to, if you haven't attended pre-school, if you haven't been in a family that has books, you may not know that print is separate from pictures and that it's read left to right, top to bottom, what a letter is, as opposed to a word," Invernizzi says.

So Invernizzi developed a comprehensive screening test called the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening or PALS with a grant from the Virginia Department of Education. That enabled her to share the test with any teacher in the state at no charge, and 16,000 are now using it to screen more than quarter of a million kids a year. The idea is to assure that all children get off to a good start reading.

"You will get extra help early, before problems occur," she says.

Virginia was the first state to have a preventive program of this kind, but schools in other states have purchased testing kits and access to a website where teachers score students online, get an immediate report, and monitor progress.

Invernizzi was recently named Innovator of the Year by the University of Virginia and has won two new grants from the state and federal governments to expand PALS, making it useful to pre-kindergarten students who speak Spanish and to all children in grades 4-8.

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