Now More Than Ever--Why Theory Matters

Blog Post created by on Aug 23, 2020

The discovery of Reading Recovery began at the intersection of research, practice and policy concerns--too may aboriginal children in New Zealand were falling through the cracks and nothing was being done about it. 


A professor at Auckland University, determined to increase literacy achievement for all students, began using collegial discussions of observed lessons to provide a common frame of reference.  From these collegial discussions, teachers began to record that some teachers were noticing subtle changes in children's responses, prompting their students to problem solve at the point of challenge and to reread when the meaning broke down.  These teachers were getting better longitudinal results, even on high stakes testing in grade three.  What were these teachers doing that was different from the mediocre teachers?  They no longer saw reading and writing disability as something innate in the children's history (e.g., low birth weight, Maori spoken at home, etc.) and began to view reading and writing disability as a mismatch among learner characteristics, task difficulty and conditions of instruction.


The professor discovered that over the course of the academic year, children making successful progress became literate at varied points in time and in idiosyncratic ways. This led her to conclude that there is more than one route to learning how to read and write. In line with this thinking, she deliberately created spaces for productive interaction between teachers and researchers focusing on observed behaviour.


Her Literacy Processing Theory is based on the following questions:

1. What changes occur, in what sequences, as children learn in their classroom programs and can we see the progress of learning going off-course in order to intervene?

2. Instead of slipping into the deficit view, we can ask what are the strategies the child is already using and how can we build on those?

3. How can writing be used as a resource for children's phonological development?

4. How can self-correction inform our teaching decisions?

5. How can we arrange for the child to initiate and carry out independent actions?


These are all very familiar questions for Reading Recovery teachers but their adoption by classroom teachers can result in unlocking the potential of marginalized children.

Hear an Ontario principal's perspective on Reading Recovery by clicking the video icon.
If they can't learn the way we teach, teach the way they learn.