Reading Accommodations and Interventions for Students with Emergent Literacy

Drs. Diane Browder and Claudia Flowers are Principal Investigators of The Reading Accommodations and Interventions for Students with Emergent Literacy, (RAISE) project at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (U.S. Department of Education Contract #H324K04004). The RAISE project involves the participation of approximately 125 students with moderate to severe cognitive disabilities in grades K through five, their special education teachers and their general education teachers.
The goal of Project RAISE is to implement group experimental research of high quality design to evaluate the effects of the development and implementation of the Early Literacy Skills Builder (ELSB), a program designed to accelerate reading development in students with moderate and severe cognitive disabilities, that addresses the five essential components of reading identified by the National Reading Panel (2000). The ELSB promotes the use of grade appropriate literature through giving teachers a method to share stories.
Description: The ELSB is a self-contained reading program  for students in grades K-5. The ELSB is comparable to the SRA series Practice Court and Reading Mastery with a sequence of lessons and mastery tests based on principles of direct and systematic instruction. The ELSB is grounded in principles and practices derived from research on early literacy and is used  for elementary-age students who are verbal or nonverbal and who have not yet acquired print or phonemic awareness.
Components: The ELSB has two components. The first component called “Building with Sounds and Symbols” is a curriculum for developing phonological awareness and written language awareness skills needed as a foundation for literacy. Students who complete this curriculum will be ready to begin Reading Mastery or a similar program that focuses on direct, explicit instruction in decoding. Building with Sounds and Symbols provides a series of lesson plans that begin with introducing the concept of words by using symbols and names of symbols to identify objects and end with phonological awareness skills such as blending and segmenting. The ELSB consists of seven levels with 5 lessons per level. This section provides an assessment to determine students’ ongoing development of skills.
The second component of the ELSB called Building with Stories focuses on promoting comprehension, vocabulary, and other literacy skills through providing direct instruction in participation of reading grade level literature. Guidelines are also given for targeting responses for comprehension based on the student’s grade level and current communication skills.
Building with Symbols and Sounds and Building with Stories, are implemented concurrently. Students receive literacy skills at their current reading level while also receiving access to the general curriculum. Through this approach students can make progress in literacy at their own pace, while also learning the literature and concepts at their grade level. Products from these projects can be found by topic under the Publications link to the left.
The ELSB is now published and available for purchase by the Attainment Company at

In addition, Discover Literacy was a new project that was piloted in the Charlotte region in the 2008-09 school year.  Discover Literacy is a curriculum for students who at the pre symbolic or awareness level of communication and/or students who may have a visual or hearing impairment. The curriculum consists of five levels, with each level becoming more challenging, and provides a very systematic approach to teaching students to move from object use to picture use. Planning templates as well as sample task analysis and sample scripts were provided for each level. This allowed teachers to use the curriculum with a variety of grade appropriate books. Results showed consistent gains across all students with emergent literacy skills.

Finally, the RAISE team has developed Comprehension-Based Companion Book Lessons. These lessons are adaptations of authentic age-appropriate literature which are rich in narratives and vocabulary. The curriculum is aligned with the Reading Mastery program to complement and reinforce phonics skills, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. The instruction incorporates direct instruction with written scripts, time delay and least-to-most prompting procedures, and errorless learning. Adjunct questions are sequenced and embedded throughout the text to address the six objectives in Bloom’s Taxonomy of the cognitive domain.    

RAISE Final Report

General Curriculum Projects Office

Special Education & Child Development Department
College of Education Building
9201 University City Blvd
Charlotte, NC 28223-0001

Phone: (704) 687-8492
Fax: (704) 687-2916

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