Introduction & Purpose of the Study
“Improving literacy skills, throughout life, leads to individual growth, the well-being of our communities and a stronger economy.” (Literacy Quick Facts, 2018)
Too frequently, teachers are bombarded with problematic news about progress in reading made by students in the United States. Recently, the U.S. News and World Report reported that “fourth- and eighth-graders in the United States have made little to no gains in math and reading since 2015” (Camera, 2018, p. 1).
Finding students already preparing for state-mandated tests near the beginning of the school year is not uncommon. One widely used first-grade reading series has over 1,000 worksheets for students to complete throughout the school year. In order to achieve this task, all students must complete around six must worksheets daily (Carbo, 2007). Carbo warns, “The yearlong, endless testing and test practice, the continual fear of failure, and high levels of stress – these all have a devastatingly negative effect on learning” (2007, p. 6). Because of these questionable methods, differentiated instruction has been on the decline in many areas.
The purpose of this study was to discover how reading teachers might impact students’ reading proficiency by incorporating reading/learning styles in tandem with traditional (or required) methods. Cooper, Iriarry, Leighton, Sadker, Sadker, Shopstak, Tenbrink, Tomlinson, Weber, Weinstein, and Zittleman (2014) remind educators one of the greatest mistakes made in teaching children is assuming that all children are the same and subsequently using one method and the same amount of time to teach all children. In contrast to teaching all children alike, skilled teachers differentiate instruction to meet students’ needs. This practice, fortunately, is receiving new attention in schools throughout the nation. Differentiation, or teaching with student variance in mind, is especially critical in teaching children to read . According to the International Literacy Association’s 2018 What’s Hot and What’s Not List, “Strategies for differentiating instruction ranks among the top five hottest and most important topics” (International Literacy Association, 2018, p. 1).
According to the International Literacy Association (2018), excellent reading teachers understand that the “pace of instruction will vary for individuals, and that not all students are ready to learn the same skills at the same time” (p. 2). Such teachers are able to combine methods into an effective instructional program. Use of instruction aligned with reading styles provides one viable way for teachers to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the student instead of forcing the students to fit the instruction. Reading styles are simply learning styles for reading (Carbo, 2007). Dunn (1996) reminds educators that learning styles are the environmental conditions in which a person is most likely to succeed educationally, often comprising the learning environment, physical needs, and interactions with others.
What elements combine to form learning styles in reading? Carbo (2007) elucidates that reading styles are comprised of five distinct elements. Environmental stimuli include light, sound, temperature and classroom design; all of which are easily manipulated by the teacher. Student motivation, persistence, and need for structure are