Every child has the right to develop into a thoughtful, competent reader. As a nation, we actually perform quite well in reading achievement when compared to other industrialized nations or to past performances here in the United States (Elley, 1992; Kibby, 1993). Nonetheless, reading problems remain common in many of our schools. The results from the successful early intervention programs strongly suggest that many of these problems are preventable. It is also encouraging to note that many features are shared by these successful programs. A serious consideration of these common features may be very helpful in the design of new programs.

Finally, it seems important to note the sizeable number of teachers and reading specialists who, after reading or hearing about characteristics of early intervention programs, comment: "But you know, those are the characteristics of good reading instruction in general." This is the case. Of course, the general principles are adjusted a bit--instruction is a bit faster paced, group size is smaller--but indeed the principles of sound reading instruction are the same. This same observation was made almost a half century ago by Arthur Gates, who wrote: "Some of the worst devices and most inadequate teaching methods are to be found in remedial reading instruction for pupils who, precisely because they have had difficulties with a subject, are most in need of the best possible teaching. The fact is that remedial teaching should follow the same general principles of learning that are, or should be, observed in any other type of instruction--with certain occasional departures to meet particular types of need. These variations represent not contradictions of the main principles but special applications of them which require unusual skill and understanding" (p. 165).

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