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Rudy, 2005

Computer-Based Reading Programs

Heidi L. Rudy

August 9, 2005

EDSP 765

Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Rudy, 2005

  • Core elements to effective reading instruction:

    • Phonological/ phonemic awareness

    • Letter identification

    • Phonics

    • Fluency

    • Vocabulary development

    • Ability to recall and retell sentences and stories (comprehension)

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National Reading Panel

  • Computer-based instruction is relatively new.

  • Speech recognition capabilities as well as many multimedia presentation functions now possible.

  • Developments in the Internet, with possibilities of linking schools and instruction, have further increased interest in technology as a teaching device.

  • Computer technology is different from other areas the NRP analyzed. It cannot be studied independently of instructional content and is not an instructional method in itself.

  • The use of hypertext, while technically not reading instruction, may have an instructional advantage. Second, the use of computers as word processors may be very beneficial, given that reading instruction is most effective when combined with writing instruction.

  • Striking in its absence is research on the incorporation of Internet applications to reading instruction.

  • Research also is needed on the value of speech recognition as a technology and the use of multimedia presentations in reading instruction.

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Overview of Reading Technology

  • Majority of research conducted on K-3 reading technologies has been poorly conceived, implemented and conducted. From available research, few have consistently shown to be effective.

  • Most are expensive, and the returns in terms of achievement are moderate at best.

  • Most substantial effects have been achieved by comprehensive school-wide programs, small group programs, and professional tutoring programs that are generally less expensive.

  • Companies have developed software focusing on reading readiness skills as well as systematic instructional reading programs.

  • Currently more than 1,000 software titles available to schools and in the home. Most designers claim their software is based on the latest reading research, but only a fraction of companies have tested their products against other methods.

Computerized reading programs and students with disabilities

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Computerized Reading Programs and Students with Disabilities

  • Step 1 : Ask questions about the research base supporting the use of interventions specifically for students with disabilities, and for students with varying types of disabilities.

  • Step 2 : Ask questions about the contextual conditions needed to support effective implementation of the intervention. What conditions appear to be facilitating or restricting implementation? How can educators address those conditions that need to be more fully developed to facilitate implementation?

  • Step 3 : Make sure the following conditions are present to support access:

    • the intervention will support the learning goals defined for each student, in accordance with the general education curriculum and content standards;

    • Necessary technology and materials are available to provide instruction through a variety of formats – thus meeting the demands of diverse learning needs;

    • appropriate accommodations are available to address the unique needs of individual students; and

    • appropriate assessments are available for measuring student progress.

Features of effective reading programs

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Features of Effective Reading Programs

  • Driven by reading research and not ideology.

  • Emphasize direct, systematic, intensive, and sustained reading instruction.

  • Require school-wide buy-in before they are adopted.

  • Supported by initial professional development and then extended follow-up training throughout the school year.

  • When implementing an effective program, the school needs to be committed to the integrity of the program’s instructional approach and materials.

  • Make effective use of instructional time, provide multiple reading opportunities, and employ a variety of reading assessments.

Computer based reading programs

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Computer-Based Reading Programs

  • FastForWord (K - 8)

  • Waterford Early Reading Program (Pre-K – 2)

  • Accelerated Reader (3 – 11)

  • Fast Track Reading (4 - 8)

  • Read 180 (4 – 8)

  • Daisy Quest (Pre-K – K)

  • StudyDog (K-2)

  • Rappiń Reader & Say, Say Oh Playmate (Pre-K – 4)

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CD-ROM & Internet-based training program to help at-risk students build oral language comprehension and other critical skills necessary for learning to read.

In March of 1997, after an extensive field trial with almost 500 children at 35 sites, the Company launched its first product. Later that year, a second field trial, with almost 500 students in 19 schools across the U.S., replicated earlier results, showing gains of 1-2 years in 4 to 8 weeks.

6 district-level studies completed indicating its effectiveness with ELL populations; effectiveness also demonstrated in 14 studies with students receiving special education services.

Solid experimental studies with random assignment to condition at both the clinical and school implementation levels. Found to be highly successful in improving prerequisite reading skills (phonemic awareness, auditory processing speed, phonological awareness, working memory, syntax, grammar, etc.) for “at-risk” students”. These skills only moderately correlate with success in reading at later stages.

Milken Family Foundation rating: “E - evidence, some research with majority of findings showing reading improvement” (

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FastForWord Language develops students’ listening accuracy, phonological awareness and language structures.

FastForWord Middle & High School targets students’ memory, attention, processing and sequencing in the context of key reading skills such as phonological fluency and language structures.

FastForWord Language to Reading focuses on sound-letter comprehension, phonological awareness, beginning word recognition and English language conventions.

FastForWord Language Basics is designed for children ages four to six years, building the basic skills necessary for language and reading development and prepares them for FastForWord Language.

FastForWord Language, FastForWord Middle & High School, & FastForWord Language to Reading products are $900 each. FastForWord to Reading Series is $500, and FastForWord Language Basics is $100.

For more information,


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  • Supplemental Components

    • FastForWord Bookshelf – original, age-appropriate stories for students ages 4-7 years.

    • Reading Edge – evaluates language & listening skills (phonological awareness, decoding, phonological memory, & letter identification).

    • FastForWord Progress Tracker – administrative, classroom, and individual progress & intervention reports.

Waterford early reading program

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Waterford Early Reading Program

  • Teaches children how to read, write, and keyboard. It is one of the nation's first research-based, technology-driven reform models in early reading instruction.

  • 3 levels: emergent (automatic letter recognition, phonological awareness, concepts of print & understanding oral & written language), beginning (phonics, word recognition, writing, spelling & comprehension) & fluent (practice reading sight word recognition, vocabulary, comprehension, extended phonics instruction & writing activities).

  • Requires 15 minutes per day. Take-home materials to support home-school connection are supplied by Waterford Institute.

  • Standards in alignment with recommendations from Society for the Scientific Study of Reading (SSSR), National Research Council (NRC), International Reading Association (IRA), National Reading Panel, National Center on Education and Economy (NCEE), National Institute for Health and Human Development (NICHD) and Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement (CIERA).

Waterford early reading program1

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Waterford Early Reading Program

  • Reading Level One (emergent) prepares students for beginning reading instruction by teaching print concepts, phonological awareness, and letter recognition, (typically used in kindergarten).

  • Reading Level Two (beginning) teaches letter sounds, word recognition, and beginning reading comprehension, (typically used in 1st grade).

  • Reading Level Three (fluent) takes students from beginning to fluent reading and comprehension, (typically used in 2nd grade).

  • Phonological Awareness helps young students recognize that words are made up of phonemes. Phonological Awareness is typically run concurrent with Level One or Level Two.

  • Keyboarding to Read and Write teaches students how to keyboard by touch. Keyboarding is usually run after Phonological Awareness.

  • Writing is a menu of writing activities, paint programs, and word processors that allows teachers to devote more classroom time to developing students' writing skills.

Waterford early reading program2

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Waterford Early Reading Program

  • Effectiveness research

    • Hecht & Close (2002) found improvements in phonemic awareness and word recognition but not for letter writing, name or sound knowledge or print concepts. 29% did not improve by more than 1 point on the sound segmenting task and 10% did not improve by more than 2 points on the blending task.

    • Walberg (2001) examined results of 8 school districts in Idaho. Best results obtained for students initially achieving in the lowest third & for those who completed the program (effects comparable or superior to tutoring and increasing instructional time). Sufficient staff training is critical to program’s success.

    • Young & Tracey (1998) examined effectiveness in 8 kindergarten classes in New Jersey and found significant results for the treatment group on Waterford Reading Inventory (WRI) & Test of Early Reading Ability-2 (TERA-2).

Waterford early reading program3

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Waterford Early Reading Program

  • Effectiveness Research:

    • In 2 studies disseminated by the Waterford Institute, mixed results were reported but the studies were weakened by treatment and control groups who were not initially comparable.

    • Milken Family Foundation rating: “LE – little evidence, research with mixed results” (

  • Costs: Most common implementation model is center of 3 computers in a single kindergarten classroom. Cost of software, training, & 3-year supply of material is $19,000.

  • For more information, or

Accelerated reader

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Accelerated Reader

  • Computerized reading management system designed for students ages 8-18. Purpose is not to provide reading instruction, but to help motivate students to read more books at an appropriate level of difficulty. AR seeks to motivate students to read advanced level books and to increase their personal reading time.

  • Used in more than 13,000 schools and is part of a larger program, Reading Renaissance.

  • Students read books selected for their optimal reading level by the software and complete a multiple-choice comprehension test on the computer after they have completed each book. The computer scores the test, summarizes the results and stores the information for each student. Each book is assigned a point value, based upon the book’s reading level and number of words. Point values are indicators to teachers of how much students are reading and how well they are comprehending what they read.

  • Several studies have been conducted to determine the program’s effectiveness, but few have produced any significant results. (Publisher lists 64 “scientific research” reports in support of AR but all 64 are questionable in terms of methodologies or integrity.)

Accelerated reader1

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Accelerated Reader

  • Outcome studies:

    • Pavonetti, Brimmer, & Cipielewski (2002) failed to find support for the claim that AR creates lifelong learners.

    • Peak & Dewalt (1994) tracked the progress of 50 9th grade students who used AR since 3rd grade & compared their achievement scores (on the CAT) to a matched control group. AR students gained an average of 15 points per year from grades 3-6 as compared to 10 points for the control group. AR students gained an average of 13 points (compared to 5) during grades 6-8.

    • Vollands et al. (1999) compared 27 students who used AR daily for 1 year with control students and found no significant differences between the groups on comprehension or vocabulary.

    • Samuels & Wu (2004) compared students provided same amount of independent reading time per day (15 minutes). AR students completed comprehension quizzes while control students completed book reports. AR students gained significantly more points on passage comprehension & total comprehension portions of GRADE.

Accelerated reader2

Rudy, 2005

Accelerated Reader

  • Research:

    • Walberg (2001) examined 21,534 students in 76 Idaho schools and found average student read 38 books per year and spent 22 minutes per day reading (127% increase in the average time students at any grade level spend reading). “Grade effect” evident. Sufficient staff training necessary for success of program. Program appears to be most successful when students begin in the early grades, especially 1st grade.

    • Milken Family Foundation rating: “LE – little evidence, research with mixed results”(

  • Costs: $3,457.35 for Super Kit (includes 20 reading practice disks, STAR Reading, school network-wide site license for up to 200 students, software manual and telephone support). Expansion kits are $29 for 50 students. Does not include the costs of the books (must be purchased separately).

  • For more information,

Fast track reading

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Fast Track Reading

  • Supplemental intervention program for struggling readers (at least 2 years below grade level) in grades 4-8.

  • 3 strands: Word Work (phonics & word study), Comprehension, & Fluency.

  • Includes lessons in the 5 significant components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, & comprehension.

Fast track reading1

Rudy, 2005

Fast Track Reading

  • Outcome Studies

    • Field test in California (2001): no randomization procedures used & no control group. At pre-intervention stage, 25% of CA participants scored within 1 SD of the mean on the WJ-III Broad Reading (44% nationwide), and after 10 weeks of intervention 89% of CA participants (83% nationwide) scored within 1 SD of mean.

      • Basic Reading: CA 67% pre-intervention – 100% post-intervention; nationwide 55% pre-intervention – 86% post-intervention.

      • Central Unified Step School: 17 8th grade students (8 Hispanic, 8 low SES). Broad Reading 88 pre-intervention – 98 after 5 weeks – 103 after 10 weeks. Basic Reading 91 pre-intervention – 102 after 5 weeks – 107 after 10 weeks.

      • Garcia ELL Program: 14 elementary students (11 Hispanic, 2 African American, 1 Caucasian). Basic Reading 80 pre-intervention – 82 after 5 weeks – 84 after 10 weeks – 92 after 1 year.

      • Garcia Special Education Program: 11 students (6 Hispanics, 4 African Americans, 1 Caucasian). Broad Reading 75 pre-intervention – 76 after 5 weeks – 79 after 10 weeks – 88 after 1 year. Basic Reading 79 pre-intervention – 80 after 5 weeks – 83 after 10 weeks – 87 after 1 year.

Fast track reading2

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Fast Track Reading

  • Cost $4,630 per classroom (includes all materials)

  • For more information,

Read 180

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Read 180

  • Combines teacher-led instruction with adaptive instructional software and is designed for struggling readers (& ELL students) in elementary – high school.

  • Aligns with accountability requirements of NCLB.

  • Components: software, audiobooks, paperback books, and teacher materials. Elementary, middle school, and high school levels.

  • Currently used in more than 5,000 classrooms nationwide. Ten years of research with Vanderbilt University.

Read 1801

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Read 180

  • Software specifics: Each passage is available at several different reading levels, assigned to students using diagnostic assessments. Opportunity to read and reread with high degree of success builds word recognition, fluency, and comprehension. Passages are written to include words that provide multiple exemplars of targeted sound-spelling patterns, high-frequency words and grade-appropriate content-area vocabulary words. As students progress through software, they are presented with activities that repeat words from the controlled passages. Software equipped to identify each student’s level of proficiency with specific phonic elements, and provides adjusted & individualized activities. Same principles for spelling training. Before reading each controlled passage, students are presented with a video that develops background knowledge and vocabulary (building a mental model to comprehend passage). By presenting images and background information, the software presents students with the context necessary to understand new vocabulary and academic language.

Read 1802

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Read 180

  • Orange County Literacy Project (1994-1999): used with more than 10,000 students.

  • Publisher provides no details of outcome studies conducted in LA Unified School District, Department of Defense Schools, and large, urban schools through Council of Great City Schools.

Read 1803

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Read 180

Daisy quest

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Daisy Quest

  • Pre-reading program teaches critical phonological awareness skills (rhyming, beginning, middle and ending sounds; blending phonemes; and segmenting).

  • 15-20 minutes per session playing increasingly difficult games.

  • Developed by Dr. Joseph Torgesen

Daisy quest1

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Daisy Quest

  • 2 Outcome Studies:

    • Foster, Erickson, Foster, Brinkman, & Torgesen (1994): 70 students in K. Experimental & control groups. 4 pretests (PA) – 16 sessions (5 hours per student)– post-tests. Average effect size = 1.05.

    • Torgesen & Barker (1995): 54 1st grade students at-risk for reading. Experimental & control groups. Same 4 pretests (PA) – 8 hours program – post-tests. Average effect size = 0.91 except for phoneme-blending task.

Daisy quest2

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Daisy Quest

  • Best used with Pre-K, and at-risk K and 1st grade students.

  • Software self-contained so no formal teacher training necessary.

  • Cost: $29.95 per machine, MAC only.

  • For more information,


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  • Designed for students K-2 who are struggling with reading. Internet-delivered series of 15-minute reading lessons.

  • Based on K-3 standards for FL, NY, CA & TX. Covers NRP’s 5 critical areas of early reading & program requirements of Reading First Program.

  • 2 Review members: Dr. Roland Good & Dr. Arlene Hett.

  • Follows a simple learning model. Explicit instruction, concrete modeling, practice opportunities, corrective feedback, 80% mastery to proceed to next lesson.

  • Lessons have animated characters & overall story-adventure. Frequent encouragement & help provided.

  • Earn Lost Island coins to exchange for prizes sent through the mail.

  • Parents receive weekly progress reports, including specific reading skill performances and suggested reading activities & supplemental reading books.


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  • Outcome Studies:

    • Several studies with low SES, struggling-to-read students in K-2nd grade in 17 public schools in Oregon & Washington, and in an after-school program in Missouri.

      • Oregon:213 scholarships awarded to students in 14 schools. 65% to 77.5% on StudyDog reading test, or 90% of students improving performance from non-proficient to proficient level of performance.

      • Missouri: pre & post-test, experimental & control groups. 45 students included. Gain scores for treatment group (t=3.4, p<.001) reveal group average shifted from failing to average & above average reading skills. 80% average performance across lessons. Treatment group performed significantly better (F=4.6, p=0.38), and achieved an effect size of 0.69.

      • Overall, 90% students who complete the program gain 1-year of reading skill development in 10-14 weeks of participating in the program.

      • 32 reading studies complied by NRP (2000), and by comparing effect sizes, StudyDog performed better than 81% (26) of the studies.


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  • ELL (fits within both immersion & bilingual programs).

    • 5 features make it unique supplemental program for teaching beginning English to ELLs

      • Focused on critical reading skills, explicitly teaches each reading skill, provision of guided practice, encourages gains in English fluency & strong comprehension skills, & lessons are highly engaging.

    • 2 years of implementation in ELL reading program in Oregon with K-2nd grade students. Kindergarten pre-to-post test gains (t=4.966, p<.001) and 1st grade pre-to post-test gains (t=4.539, p<.001) consistent with results of other validation studies.

Rappin reader say say oh playmate www ciera org library reports inquiry 1 1 004 1 004 html

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Rappiń Reader & Say, Say Oh Playmate (

  • Designed to improve beginning reading skills of African American students by using knowledge of music lyrics as a scaffold in the building of their sight vocabulary in culturally authentic learning environments.

  • Rappin' Reader uses rap lyrics and Say, Say Oh Playmate uses the context of well-known clapping games to scaffold children's acquisition of beginning reading skills. The programs are created using Lyric Reader, which allows the programs to be tailored for individual students.

  • Rappin' Reader provides children with simultaneous word-sound exposure by coordinating a song's soundtrack and visual text on the screen.



Rappin reader say say oh playmate

Rudy, 2005

Rappiń Reader & Say, Say Oh Playmate

  • Preliminary findings have shown a 21% increase on average in students' sight reading of the words in the study songs from pre to post sight vocabulary test for Rappin' Reader and a 24% increase for Say, Say Oh Playmate. Analysis of video transcripts revealed that students consistently used their prior knowledge of song lyrics to reconstruct the lyrics to existing songs. In addition, both systems appear to have positive motivational effects. When students were asked to compare Rappin' Reader and Say, Say Oh Playmate to leading educational software applications, the majority of students ranked both systems as their favorite applications.

Websites of interest

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Websites of Interest

  • Free website containing explicit phonics activities, online book series, etc.

  • Free reading motivation program for children in grades K-8. Children create their own book lists from over 6,000 recommended titles, take multiple choice quizzes on the books they've read offline, and earn points and prizes for their literary successes. Book Adventure was created by the Sylvan Learning Foundation and is sponsored by Sylvan Learning, Inc.

  • Spanish language resources & literacy games for children (Alphabet Soup, Story Maker, Poetry Splatter, Super Sorter, etc.).

  • Collection of multicultural links, many containing books, articles, links & information.

  • Site helps students select books to read and provides a pen pal to write to about it.


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  • Http://













  • Foster, K.C., Erickson, G.C., Foster, D.F., Brinkman, D., & Torgesen, J.K. (1994). Computer assisted instruction in phonological awareness: Evaluation of the DaisyQuest program. The Journal of Research and Development in Education, 27(2), 126-137.

  • Hecht, S.A. & Close, L. (2002). Emergent literacy skills and training time uniquely predict vulnerability in responses to phonemic awareness training in disadvantaged kindergarteners. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 82, 93-115.


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  • Pavonetti, L.M., Brimmer, K.M., & Cipielewski, J.F. (2002). Accelerated Reader: What are the lasting effects on the reading habits of middle school students exposed to Accelerated Reader in elementary grades? Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 46(4), 300-312.

  • Peak, J.P. & Dewalt, M.W. (1994). Reading achievement: Effects of computerized reading management and enrichment. ERS Spectrum 12(1), 31-35.

  • Samuels, S.J. & Wu, Y.C. (2004). The effects of immediate feedback on reading achievement. Unpublished manuscript.

  • Torgesen, J.K. & Barker, K.A. (1995). Computers as aids in the prevention and remediation of reading disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 18, 76-87.

  • Vollands, S.R., Topping, K.J., & Evans, H.M. (1999). Computerized self-assessment of reading comprehension with Accelerated Reader: Impact on reading achievement and attitude. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 15(3), 197-211.

  • Walberg, H.J. (2001). Final evaluation of the reading initiative: Report to the J.A. & Kathryn Albertson Foundation. Idaho: Albertson Foundation.

  • Young, J.W. & Tracey, J.H. (1998). An evaluation of the Waterford Early Reading Program: Newark, New Jersey, 1997-1998 school year. Sandy, UT: Reprinted with permission by the Waterford Institute.