The Role of the Reading Specialist

The Role of the Reading Specialist: In My Own Words

By: Nicole Zaph

The position of Reading Specialist can play a number of different roles in a variety of school settings. This position is found at all levels, from elementary through high school, private and public schools. Sometimes the Reading Specialist serves as a coach for classroom teachers and at other times as a one-on-one intervention teacher with the students. In my position at SESI, I wish to fill both of these roles as intervention teacher and coach.

The students who meet with a Reading Specialist are most often recommended by their classroom teachers or administrators. These referrals are based on discrepancies between potential ability and performance, or reading skills that are far below what would be expected. When a student is referred, further testing is completed to determine the most effective course of action. I use a variety of assessments, such as the QRI-IV (Qualitative Reading Inventory, 4th edition) and vocabulary and phonics surveys. These assessments allow me to identify whether a student’s weaknesses are in decoding alone, comprehension, or a combination of both.

Following the individualized nature of our school programs, I am able to decide upon a plan with the classroom teacher that best meets each student’s needs. This may come in the form of individualized intervention in phonics utilizing one of a number of research-based programs, or as supplementary activities to assist the classroom teacher. If a student has strengths in phonemic awareness but weaknesses in comprehension, the plan for that student’s individualized sessions will reflect that.

Some of the programs utilized in our schools are: Edmark Reading, Orton-Gillingham, and Wilson Reading. Each of these is a research-proven program that addresses the “Big 5” areas of literacy: (1) phonics; (2) phonemic awareness; (3) fluency; (4) vocabulary; and (5) comprehension. Through such programs, students receive intense, individualized instruction in identified areas of weakness.

It is our responsibility as educators to ensure that students have the opportunity to reach their potential. It is my wish that all of our students find independence in their reading and that this independence helps them reach their goals.