The Start the Adventure in Reading (STAIR) program is a community-based nonprofit organization originally established in New Orleans in 1985 to improve the reading skills and self-esteem of elementary school students by providing one-on-one tutoring after school. The program utilizes a structured reading curriculum and volunteers as tutors. The original curriculum used by STAIR was based on Project Read (www.projectread.com), a research-based language arts program that fosters the development of five essential components that were later named by the National Reading Panel (2000) as the essence of reading and reading instruction. These elements are:
- Phonemic Awareness;
- Vocabulary and;
The curriculum focuses on the essential components of reading instruction and STAIR’s philosophy of providing a systematic, goal-driven approach to literacy development that fits each child’s individual needs, while updating both material and strategies used during tutoring sessions and is based on the following research-based principles related to literacy development and instruction:
- Learning to read involves the interactive and simultaneous development of reading, writing, listening, speaking, and in this age of technology, viewing.
- Reading is defined as deriving meaning from print; therefore comprehension is the ultimate goal or outcome.
- Students learn to read best in low-risk environments supported by understanding adults who model multiple word recognition and comprehension strategies as well as fluent reading.
- Readers who are engaged in reading/learning activities have high self-efficacy and are therefore intrinsically motivated to further engage in reading, i.e. reading is the best practice for learning to read.
- Hearing books read aloud is key to language development and learning to read.
- Good readers use multiple strategies for word recognition, including the use of extensive sight word vocabularies, ability to use context to identify word or meaning, and ability to apply principles of phonics to decode unknown words.
- Phonics instruction should be explicit and embedded in the process of reading phrases and texts.
- Comprehension strategies should be explicitly named, taught, modeled, and practiced through the guided reading of texts.
- Choice in reading material is an integral part of learning to read and becoming a life-long reader.
- Students should be encouraged to talk about their reading– going beyond just answering fact-based questions.
- Students should spend less time completing worksheets that isolate skills and more time in shared and guided reading practice.
- Writing experiences should be related to reading experiences.
Source: Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Reading Panel (2008). National Institute of Literacy
The STAIR curriculum consists of 8 Units supporting grade level expectations from Kindergarten (Unit 1) to mid-year Third Grade (Unit 8). Students are assessed on the first day they attend STAIR and begin working through the unit that bests fits their instructional level. Each unit consists of 12 lessons and each lesson consists of the following 5 components:
This lesson component comes at the beginning of each tutoring session and not only sets the tone for the day, but represents a fundamental principle of STAIR, that students best learn to read by consistently reading with adults who share their own love for reading and model skills related to fluency and comprehension. In Shared/interactive Reading, the tutor and the student read or reread authentic literature including stories, songs, poems, and rhymes, sharing the role of reader. Shared/interactive Reading is a way to create opportunities for students to learn and practice reading and comprehension strategies in a low-stress environment with the support of their tutor.
Sight Word and Vocabulary Development
This section of the lesson provides time for students to build a strong sight word vocabulary through activities such as Word Bank Games, spelling activities and practice drills with Word Bank Cards.
During the Word Study component of each lesson, the tutor will teach a focused lesson related to phonemic awareness, phonics, grammar, or spelling. Their purpose is to support the student’s growing understanding of how to use sound-symbol correspondence and language rules to decode unknown words
During the Guided Reading component of each lesson, the student practices reading by applying skills learned in the sight word and word study components of the STAIR lessons. He is taught to apply comprehension and decoding skills while reading material at his instructional level. These materials include Power Builder Booklets from the SRA Kit. Tutors will guide the student’s reading and coach him to apply both word recognition and comprehension strategies.
Just for Fun and Fluency
Fluency is not just reading fast but reading accurately with a pace and expression that shows that the reader comprehends what he is reading. The very best strategy to use to develop fluency is rereading familiar texts in relaxed situations where the emphasis is on enjoyment not perfection. This component of each STAIR lesson provides time for students to do just that. They will be able to choose reading material and other activities that will provide practice in low-stress situations.
When the student finishes a unit he is given a Unit Review assessment. If he does well, he moves to the next unit. If he struggled with any aspect of the assessment he receives the additional instruction and reinforcement necessary to master those skills before moving on to the next unit.
Throughout the year, STAIR Site Coordinators work to maintain consistent communication with each student’s teacher and family to problem-solve issues that come up and to share evidence of progress the student is making. It is this partnership between schools, families, and STAIR that has proven to be effective for many STAIR students.