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TRI update: decodable texts, YouTube channel, and more

small child reading book

TRI update: decodable texts, YouTube channel, and more

November 11, 2021

With the motto, “teachers learning, students growing,” literacy experts at Targeted Reading Instruction (TRI)—a project at the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG)—have been providing professional development for kindergarten through second grade teachers for the past 15 years to help struggling young readers. During the Covid pandemic, the team added TRI@Home to provide parents whose kids were learning at home the same highly effective materials, resources, and training successfully used by hundreds of teachers.

“The emphasis in TRI for teachers is on professional development by having teachers implement this reading intervention in their one-on-one work with students while we support them in that process,” says TRI intervention director Heather Aiken, PhD, NBCT. Her colleague, literacy coach Teresa Taylor, M. Ed, NBCT, says that parents of children she worked with during the pandemic gave the feedback that TRI staff hears from educators: The program works and makes a significant impact on a child’s education. “Parents and teachers want quality programs, interventions and opportunities that will really make a difference for students, quickly and effectively,” says Taylor. “When people search for evidence-based practices that have been researched and studied, they find us.”

To continue that research, TRI staff have partnered with Research Triangle Institute for a five-year study examining the longitudinal effects of the program. “We are in the pilot year of a study funded by (the U.S. Department of Education’s) Institute of Education Sciences,” says Aiken. “We’re going to work with first graders and their teachers, and follow them for the following two years, to see if there are any impacts that continue over time.”  During this pilot year, researchers are working with eight teachers and 24 students. Over the next four years, 120 teachers and 360 students, in two cohorts in North Carolina and South Carolina, will participate in the study.

TRI extended its offerings during the pandemic with a YouTube channel featuring videos of Taylor and Aiken demonstrating techniques that help children improve their reading. “We have about 30 videos, taking children through activities they can do at home,” Taylor says. “One of our videos has had more than 1,000 views which we’re really excited about.”

The most recent TRI offering is a collection of decodable texts created by Taylor. “We decided to make our own books that students could read and see themselves reflected in,” says Taylor. To that end, the picture books feature diverse children doing activities that mirror activities of young readers, such as having a pet or baking a cake.

The books, designed for early readers, are written using decodable words that allow beginning readers to practice making letter-sound connections. The texts are closely aligned with the way that TRI teaches readers how to put sounds together. “We think teachers will be really excited about these books because not only are they stories that kids will enjoy, but the books offer practice that reinforces TRI activities,” says Aiken.

Aiken and Taylor hope to find a publisher for the books, which will enable them to offer books in bulk. TRI currently offers the books to caregivers and teachers, free of charge, on its website.