The gap between high and low achievers in reading is wide in New Zealand compared to other countries as shown in PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) 2001 and 2006 studies. Students of minority backgrounds and low socio-economic status are over-represented in the low achieving category. As the primary response to reduce the achievement gap, the Government developed and distributed the literacy teaching reference Effective Literacy Practice in Years 1 to 4. This article examines Effective Literacy Practice against current scientific- based international research in the teaching of reading, with particular emphasis on the teaching of reading to students at risk. Research evidence shows that an explicit and systematic approach to teaching reading is critical to the success of reading achievement with at-risk students. With a heavy leaning towards incidental learning, Effective Literacy Practice fails to provide teachers with the necessary knowledge to effectively teach the critical components of reading.Â
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