RAN does not help decode ‘ran’ – Rapid Automatized Naming is an assessment tool only

day.   It was a discussion near and dear to me – introducing letter sounds and lower case letters before names and upper case.

One of the contributors shared the following quotes in defense of teaching letter names:

“Kindergarten letter identification is almost as successful at predicting later reading skills as an entire reading readiness test.”  Snow, Burns and Griffin 1998

“A child’s ability to identify the letters of the alphabet by name is one of the best predictors of how readily he or she will learn to read.”  Treiman, Kessler and Pollo 2006

These quotes refer to a process commonly known as Random (or Rapid) Automatized Naming (RAN).   The research  indicates that there is a strong correlation between a child’s ability to rapid letter name and their future success with reading.    What has unfortunately happened is that educators have taken this research and have erroneously translated the information into a justification for teaching letter names.  What has been missed here is the fact that RAN is an assessment tool only.     While the ability to letter name predicts reading success, it does not correlate that  teaching a child to name letters will  mean they are no longer at-risk.

We use RAN as a quick and effective way  to determine which children will be at-risk for reading difficulties – those that cannot name letters rapidly.  Teaching these children to rapid letter name will not miraculously cure their reading problems.  These children will most likely struggle with reading throughout their school career.  What RAN does is allows us to identify them early and put strategies in place to support them with their early literacy skills.

One of the first strategies I recommend is to remove the requirement for these students to learn letter names (and upper case letters).   These children typically have memory problems (which is one reason why they are not successful with RAN).  Teaching them letter names wastes a great deal of their valuable learning time on a skill that does not help with early literacy and, in fact, serves only to confuse them more by requiring them to remember and differentiate between 52 sounds (name and sound) when just the 26 letter sounds will suffice for early reading success.

I realize that many primary screeners require children to demonstrate letter name knowledge (as well as recognition of upper case letters).  In order to get around this requirement, I used to develop a group IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for these children, omitting them from completing that section of the assessment.    I developed the IEP based on the rationale that these children had been identified as at-risk (using RAN) and had memory problems.  Allowing them to focus solely on the key skills they most need for reading (sounds and lower case) would reduce confusion, frustration and failure.  This strategy satisfied my Administrator’s need for documentation and definitely gave parents a greater sense of hope that practical steps had been put in place to support their child.

You will find more information on RAN on the internet if you are interested in using this valuable assessment tool.