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Reading disorder or disability (RD) occurs in isolation or in combination with another LD in 70%–80% of children with LD (Lyon et al. 2003). Reading difficulties can be encountered at several levels, including problems with recognizing and decoding single words, comprehending continuous text, or reading speed and fluency. There is now widespread consensus among reading researchers that the core deficit for RD is difficulty with phonological awareness—the ability to recognize and manipulate individual sounds in words (Mody 2003). Awareness of individual sounds in words is important for learning to associate sounds to the letters that represent them in print. Thus, phonological awareness is a necessary, though not sufficient, first step to reading acquisition. Given its importance, many interventions for RD focus on enhancing phonological awareness. This is often coupled with phonics training in which children are taught the correspondence between letters and sounds when "sounding out" unfamiliar words and spelling patterns typically used to represent these sounds. In a review and meta-analysis of research studies on reading interventions and instructional approaches, the National Reading Panel concluded that phonemic awareness instruction produced improvements in reading development in both young normally achieving children and older RD children (Ehri et al. 2001; National Reading Panel 2000). Furthermore, they reported that the most effective instruction was direct, explicit, and systematic (rather than unstructured), focused on a limited set of phonemes at one time, and took place in small groups or with one-to-one instruction. They went on to warn, however, that phonemic awareness training should constitute a part and not the whole focus for reading intervention. Other aspects of reading, including instruction in letter-sound correspondences, reading fluency, and comprehension, are also required.

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