« Apartheid Schooling? | Main | Teachers and E-mail »

The Teen Reading Problem


Just 31 percent of 8th graders scored at or above the proficient level in reading on the latest edition of the National Assessment of Education Progress, continuing a long term trend. The results have heightened concerns that many students are not moving beyond basic reading abilities to more complex skills like comprehension and fluency.

What's your view? What prevents many adolescents from becoming strong readers? What can schools and teachers do to help struggling older readers? Have you found an approach that works?


It took me 28 years after I started looking, and then I found the only program that works for virtually all students of all ages. It's called READ RIGHT! McGraw Hill just published the book READ RIGHT!, coaching your child to excellence in reading. The author is Dee Tadlock, Ph.D.

As a beginning teacher in 1992 I was faced with a problem. The only job available in the field of history included a half day of teaching 6th grade reading. It wann't me dream job, but if I could suffer through it maybe it would be my avenue to teaching history full time. Of course I wanted to do my best, but I had never been an avid reader. Neither were my students. The school was small and rural, and quite frankly it was as if the students had formulated a plan, they just weren't going to read. I tried everything anyone suggested. I gave them tests, I talked to them about succes, I threatened, I tried reading programs...the result was nothing. They simply would not read. I emersed myself in research. I scoured the internet for reading programs, I improved my library of inherited materials...still nothing. The readers we were given were somewhat lacking.
One day while out with my wife shopping some garage sales I came across a very large box of Readers Digest magazines in large print, no ads. I negotiatied a price of $5.00 for the entire box. I took my new found treasure to school the next day and shared it with my kids. For some strange reason, they did not share my enthusiasm. A few days later when I had some free time during standardized tests, I picked up one of those magazines which had an interesting cover story and began reading. I was mesmerized. I thought, why don't these kids read this stuff, it is fascinating. So, I decided to read it to them. When class began that day I had them clear their desks of all distractions. No pencils, no paper, nothing. I pulled out the magazine and began to read. The story was about the capping of an oil well in Texas and was filled with drama. When I reached the most climatic part of the story, I was interupted by the intercom. "Mr. Mooney, can you come to the office please," said the secretary. I was on my way. As I laid the book face down on my desk one of my students said, "No, Mr. Mooney, finish the story first." I was shocked. As quick as a wink I retorted, "If you want to know what happens, finish it yourself," and out the door I went. When I came back the room was a mess. The students had gotten into a fight over who was going to get the magazine! I had to settle a multi-level arguement, but what a great arguement to settle. The next day I tried it again. I read a story to the climax and put it down. Same results. I thought they were going to kill each other. The following day, I copied classroom sets of each of the previous stories. Then I did it again. I read to the climax and put it down. I then informed the class that there were multiple copies of the stories and no need to fight. They eagerly passed out the stories and began to read...silently. After a few days of this behavior the kids began to come to class early. (They had a 10 minute break before my class.) They were skipping break to get to my class to read the days story. They even got to the point where they raced each other. Later when my supervisor came for an observation, she walked in at the end of the previsous class and stood in the doorway waiting. I calmly walked over and told her, "you need to step out of the doorway." She smiled as if to say, "Yeah, right." I had to tell her a second time. When the bell rang, the students started flooding into my classroom and grabbing magazines to read. The observer walked over and said, "I must have misread my schedule, I thought this was their break." I answered proudly, "No, you didn't misread anything, it IS their break!" Needless to say, my review was pristine!

After 42 years of teaching I left the classroom, wrote a book (From the Teacher's Desk), and took my "show on the road." I now speak at International Reading Association conferences throughout the country on the topic of "Transforming the Reluctant Reader" - with a special emphasis on MALES.

A newly released book (Guys Write for Guys Read by Jon Scieszka) is a superb way to get those reluctant reader boys in your classroom hooked onto books. It contains 81 very short stories written by contemporary guys - for guys. Read one story to them (I usually choose "Boys, Beer, Barf, and Bonding" by Bruce Hale - pp.185-187), and tell them there are 80 more stories in the book equally as funny. Trust me,you'll want to have multiple copies available because guys - even the "reading sucks" ones - devour them.

Another highly effective way to turn reluctant and struggling readers onto books is by using comics and graphic novels. This topic is far too complex to cover in this space, but if you are interested in which ones to use and how to incorporate them into your literacy program, use the Contact Me button at my website (www.theteachersdesk.com) and request my handout on Comics and Graphic Novels. I will happily email it to you - no charge of course - within 24 hours.

Newspapers can be very effective in reaching reluctant readers. They are very addictive to a large segment of the population that does not read books. Not everyone will read books for the rest of their lives. I think more teachers should try to hook kids into reading newspapers as well as books; because, when the books fall by the wayside, the kids will still read newspapers if they have been hooked into them by a teacher using fun educational activities. Most newspapers in education programs offer these lessons, which are mostly written by innovative teachers and are matched to national standards, for free. Visit www.naafoundation.org for a study that was done called Measuring Success, that shows that kids who use newspapers in their studies do up to 29% better on their testing than their counterparts who do not use newspapers.

As a grad student I don't have as much experience in the classroom as all of you. However as the mom of two ADD sons I can tell you that choice of reading materials (in this case a series by Robert Asprin called The Mything Link, Little Myth Marker, you get the idea) is so important. I used the same tactic as Mr. Mooney and it worked. They would run over one another to be the first one to the book.
The best part however was when they started to take turns reading to one another! After reading your comments I intend to continue this course of action in my future classroom.

People so often forget once the student is reading a "chapter book" that there is one more developmental step - going from children's chapter books of about 150 pages to adult chapter books of about 300 pages. The structure of the story changes with the addition of pages. The stage setting, the lead up to the problem, the climax and the resolution all take more pages and are more complex. As teachers of middle school students we must finish the job by guiding them the rest of the way into adult literacy.

I use a 3 prong method to lead kids into reading fluently, for pleasure and with comprehension:

1. I share a "real life" enthusiasm for reading with my students. I talk about books I have found interesting at all levels of fluency between beginnng chapter books through adult literature. I talk with students informally about what books they like to read or what kinds of books they'd like to read if they could find them or why they hate reading. Then I look for books to share with them as a class that reflect those conversations.

2. I have always required students to read silently in class where I can be sure they have a chance to slow down and read. At the same time, I READ. (The modeling is significant and huge!) The length of time - and it's a major committment - I have found works best is 30 minutes EVERY day. That's the ideal. Not all schedules allow that but keeping it as a priority helps to fit it in as often as possible. 30 minutes is essential because one can fake it for 10-15 minutes and not do any reading, but 30 is long enough that pretty soon it's easier to read instead of figure out what else you can do without reading or getting in trouble. If you do it everyday, the reluctant readers will resign themselves and do it. If it's irregular or shorter they will be able to get through it without reading. If, by chance, I giggle or laugh as I read my book during silent reading, I know that book will be "hot" for my reluctant readers... especially if it is kind of short. (A well placed giggle is a powerful thing!)

3. Shared Reading - We read texts of various lengths and genres together as a class to work on reading skills. However, we only study texts that I love or someone else in the class loves or recommends as good material to study. Topics of study are announced ahead so students can recommend texts to use. I often will ask the class for examples of texts they have read that would be good examples of coming topics. It's important to not use texts that are "always used" because they become stale and the teacher's enthusiasm wanes.

Be the bridge for your students into the adult world of reading by walking with them as they cross.

As a ninth grade teacher at an at-risk, Title I high school, I am constantly seeking new and interesting reading materials and assignments for my students. One project that has worked time after time is what I call "Group Reading/Group Writing Project." I select a current news topic of high interest and find several articles from newspaper websites about the topic. I then make individual copies of two or three of these news articles and give them to the students. I allow them to form groups of three or four students. In each group, there is a designated reader. All of the students in the group follow along, highlighting with a yellow marker the important points. The group then has to compose a paper arguing some issue from the articles using them as support. Group members get credit only if they participate. The last project involved writing a "brief" to the "court" stating why a convicted felon should receive a new trial. Even my most reluctant readers participate in these projects.

As a former campus principal, I was concern with students who did not read well enough to pass the state standard test. I began improving their reading by first diagnosing the reading problem of each student. The diagnosis would indicate problems with the level of reading. The levels indicated whether the student was at first,second, third, etc, grade level. I found that some students did not know the sounds of the letters or a combination of all the sounds and blending. With that problem, I taught sound and blending skills. On another case, the student was at a higher reading level. The student had difficulty reading multisyllable words. I provided students instruction and practice on multisyllable combinations. In other instances, the student rate of reading was slow so practice was provided to increase the reading rate and accucracy. With other students, the diagnosis indicated that the student had poor comprehension. Reading pactice was given with questions and the vocabulary was explained to assist the student with the comprehension of passage(s). It is crucial that each student is diagnose to determine the type of assistance that the student may need.

Thank you, Marshall, for your wonderful (inspirational) anecdote. I think Ramon is right, though, that we must begin with diagnosis. In a classroom of twenty students, you may have five or six types of reading difficulties, including the lack of that mist essential skill: decoding or associating letter shapes with sounds. As for the more complex issue of comprehension skills, my biggest challenge was a classroom of high school juniors whose first language was Navajo (Shiprock H.S., NM). When I discovered that they seemed overwhelmed by the length and complexity of English/American English sentence structure, I gave them very detailed summaries of books, everything from settings to characters to plots, which seemed to eliminate a lot of stress. Then I provided them with copies of the assigned book in Classic Comic format! [Remember them? This was 20 years ago, when you could still buy those wonderful comic books, printed in full color on newsprint.] Well, like Marshall's students, mine were mesmerized--they rushed into class to read GONE WITH THE WILD, first in Classic Comic format and then the book itself. My theory? Once the "story" was fully understood, they were able to visualize as they read from the book itself and comprehension skills improved. Today, videotapes of books are very helpful; the advantage of the "comic book" format, of course, was the introduction of vocabulary as written language, rather than spoken language as in videotapes. [PS - Just a cautionary word about the little commercial for McGraw's READ RIGHT program (above): Remember that Jim McGraw of the McGraw publishing empire is a good buddy of George Bush and is profiting mightily from the controversial NCLB legislation. So-o-o, study the materials carefully before committing thousands of dollars of your school district's resources. In other words, consider the source. :-)

The statistics are alarming. In my school district, they gloss over decoding skills, a prerequisite for fluency & comprehension. We have a great program for improving comprehension, IF you can decode the words. One of our reading specialist's put in a report, "It is not necessary for the student to read the word if they can understand the text from the context or prior knowledge." The ability to infer etc. is stressed in the district standards over the basic decoding skills.
The NIH statistics are 17-20% of the random population has dyslexia and therefore, will have difficulty with decoding. That can account for perhaps a 1/3 of the 8th graders, but what about the rest?
I am also seeing the same problem at the local Junior College. Adults, well spoken, can't decode, spell or write. It is epidemic. How are we going to compete globally when the children in the above enter the workforce?
For the children & adults with dyslexia, we have seen dramatic results with Orton-Gillingham based instructional methodologies, specifically the Barton Reading & Spelling System and Slingerland. In my district, however, the adoption and implementation is slow. Qualification is laborious & time intensive and the children have frequently given up before they get to me.

I would like to see a more thoughtful analysis of the national reading data, and a less shallow response from my fellow educators. Were these same 8th students always poor readers, or does that represent a significant change from their earlier performance? (Notice, this means tracking the performance of the same students over time). Why is the first reaction of many educators to search out a program or technique that will "fix" their reading problem and help them pass the standardized tests? Why are students refusing to read? What are we asking them to read?
One of the best experiences I had in 15 years of teaching was spending five weeks this past summer coordinating a program called Freedom School sponsored by the Children's Defense Fund. During that time, students in K-12, but particularly middle school students, began to rekindle their own natural curiosity and love for reading. We found that many students we thought could not read, based on test scores, could in fact read quite well.

Here in Los Angeles everyone is so obsessed with reading scores that drill and kill is the order of the day for our high school students. Whatever interest they had in reading is quashed by the programs that teachers must use. Students do not see their teachers as people who love literature and reading. Instead teachers are drill sargeants. Certainly, there is a place for drills but not at the expense of a love for reading. Some students have become closet readers--they'll read on their own but perform poorly on tests and in class as noted by Renee Moore. Many students will read if they see that reading matters to adults and they can engage in some intelligent conversation about their reading whether it is Dickens, Tupac, racing engines, Jane Austen, or skateboarding. After all, reading and the language arts are about communications and interacting with other people in a socially appropriate and rewarding way.

All we hear about is achievemnent, AYP, achievement, NCLB, must show improvement!!!!!!!!!
Well, the variable everyone is forgetting is the student themself. Looking at a child/student from a developmental angle: they grow and change and develop at their own rate, within their own time frame. No matter how much you push, prod, scream, hollar, and engage........they all reach a point where they figure they will live forever, that money comes out of a machine aud nausium, they are resposible for nothing and 'why is everybody on my back'. We call this period of life many things, however pubescence is a right of passage, a developmental have to; and no one can escape it......not even Pres. Bush. You will not always have measurable improvement in academic areas. The student is the variable you cannot control. Neither his/her personal development, not the environment in which they grow; can you control. And the flip-side is; you cannot punish educators and districts either. Wise up people......you may want a given amount of points improvement in test scores; that does not mean your going to get it. You cannot control all the variables. The age brackette we are discussing is in flux, as they notice themselves growing, changing, and venturing into areas of life they do nt understand. Social more's, appropriate behavior in that semi-adult place they find themselves. The only things they can controll is what they know, can do, and will participate in. A reading assessent usually isn't tops on the list. If it will cause someone else angst, it usually holds some satifaction for that student to screw it up. Thank goodness this is not a permanent condition for most. But it exsists, and it will not go away, and even Pres. Bush isn't going to get what he wants out of someone in that frame of mind. Let's start looking at the entire picture, folks.

As a graduate student specializing in reading instruction, I am concerned with the seeming addiction our youth manifect with electronic media. I question the value of media entertainment. Time spent watching movies, playing video games, etc.. can not be replaced. I feel, as a parent, it is mandatory that we compell parents/teachers/children to be firm in the regulation and discretion which they exhibit regarding the exposure of content, i.e. educational vs. garbage.
Respectfully, Jeri Hallberg

If children and young adults are in fact reading "garbage" then we need to use this to help them learn language. For instance, you can have them transcribe English from their favorite video games and then discuss the use of language in this context. Same with newspapers. They can discover the clever ways language is used to transmit ideologies and influence opinion. Heck, they can decontruct a cereal box if that's all they read! There's no need to pay for elitist textbooks when language is everywhere.

In other words, think of discourse analysis activities for kids. Once they discover the underlying meaning in the words they read, they will feel a sense of power when they read. This will make them better listeners, speakers, and writers too.

I respectfully submit some questions I have regarding this issue for dialogue: 1) Why should all people read at the same prescribed reading level? What is the individual need? If the issue is to develop a competent work force... does a plumber need to read at the same level (or the same material) as a ballerina or a tomato grower as a lawyer? OR is there an expectation that all people should read as a pleasurable activity, therefore, all should read at the prescribed level? (Should all people enjoy playing golf also? Therefore, all people should be forced to take golf lessons?) 2)What if the current tendency in youth to disregard reading long strings of words (sentences, paragraphs, pages, books, etc) is a cultural movement to communicating in a different way than we (some, not all!, adults) communicate? If we are truly moving in a technological direction, how much "old-fashioned" reading is required? Is not meaning conveyed more succinctly in graphics and audio? ("a picture is worth a thousands words"?) Has it not been the tendency of parents to place young children in front of boxes (tv & computer) that display graphics and sounds (current trend: baby einsteins?)and have them learn from that? Why should they learn to discipher words (other than the simpler texts used in such programs)? 3) Are children not learning? Or, are they not learning to read? (I have seen and heard from others that kids demonstrate remarkable abilities when stimulated by activities that are interesting to them!)

As a teacher who has taught reading 21 years, who has also worked 7 of those years in Special Ed, and who was and at times still is a struggling, slow plod along reader. I have learned love to read, by teaching reading. I want to cheer for Sharon's comment. I have used a variety of ways to help my students read and comprehend what they read. Most programs reach 85% of the students, but it is the 15% we will always struggle with in teaching. I share with my students that reading has always been hard, but I love to read. I love being in those places with my mind, where my body can not go. Those wonderful mind pictures, that we create, as we read are magical. I share how important, my uncle telling me, if you can read and understand what you read, there is not limit to what you can achieve. You may struggle through life with things, but the struggle can be worth it in the end.

Wouldn't it be nice to be able twist that cap on the top of our students heads, pour in information, shake gently...presto!... students who ALL make STANDARD yearly progress. I cringe when I hear teachers are being offered monetary incentives to make kids test better and/or achieve whole class improvement. Each child develops at their own rate and no matter how much you would like to use the above tongue in cheek, it is not going to happen, yet those who are not educators and who do not work in the trenches, do not understand this.

Each year you get a whole new group of joys and problems. Some groups are much more joyful with which to work. They are sponges and suck up everything they can get their hands on throughout the year. The next year a struggling group could follow, who believes the more teachers they can run out of town the better. It must be in the water. Their home life, parents or social communities beliefs about education are another HUGE factor. How are these suppose to factor into those incentives and AYP? I often wonder are we teaching the children skills that will last a lifetime or the test which lasts mere hours in the classroom and then is forgotten, because the need is gone. I see the latter as the trend, as is shown in the statistics. I have worked with many of the same students over the years and see those who pass the test with flying colors, but two weeks down the line when asked the same questions and they can not remember what was taught or what they answered on the test.

Believe me I do not have the answers. Over the years I have tried many different approaches to teach children to learn, comprehend, understand and remember what they are taught. I know the students are being taught the information. Why are they not retaining what they are being taught? Education needs to be intrinsic. How do we get students and their influential social groups to want to learn, grow, and know that being smart is good. Reading and being able to communicate your wants and needs are the key to this type of success. The extrinsic world seems to be having a negative effect on our children’s drive to learn. Being able to pass a test, but not remember what is learned. Passing the test is the goal.

It appears more important for many to learn to play games, be tough, be famous at any cost and get over, then it is to be educated and successful through what you learn, rather then through might or glory.

This is my 7th year of teaching Resource English to HS students with learning disabilities and each year I feel I fit one more piece of the "reading puzzle" into place in my program. The issue of struggling readers is so "multilayered". MOtivation is a huge hurdle for my students ..........they simply hate reading because they have always been such poor readers. 85% of my students are males who also attend a our local technical program for mostly automechanics or "building" programs. Thus motivation to read an adapted form of Emerson, Shakespeare, or Steinbeck is very, very limited.

To combat this problem I have puts the adapted classics away and traded them in for
several articles on car care from "Popular Mechanics". This has helped to motivate them and see the importance and relevance to reading. We read, discuss and answer literal and inferential questions regarding the article together, in pairs or in groups. No, it is not the typical literature their same aged peers are reading but believe it or not similes and metaphors even show up in article about windshield wipers. Because they are more motivated to read the content they are becoming more "active" readers, rather than the passive readers they have always been.
For the few teen girls I have we use articles out of Seventeen magazine or People. NOt classic literature...................but THEY ARE READING..........sssh...DON"T TELL THEM

Many students come from impoverished backgrounds and considering the current economical quagmire this country is in many more experientially deprived kids will enter the school system in years to come. Where I live 70% of kids enter kindergarten without basic number and color sense and that includes kids from affluent families also. I think parents today spend less quality time with their children. The result is that many children lack the early life experiences which give rise to the building of vocabulary and ensuing comprehension of the things they have learned to name. Children who have never seen, tasted or smelled an orange will not fully understand and internalize a story in which oranges are featured. I think reading comprehension needs to be developed at an early age preferably at home, but also in preschool and the early grades of school by exposing kids to experiences that speak to all their senses. The brain craves novelty and some measure of excitement in order to retain information.

In all grades the use of interesting non-fiction books that relate to classroom subjects will help stimulate a love for learning and build deeper understanding.

It's certainly more difficult these days for print media to compete with pop culture, TV and video and computer games. I think though that if a teacher can turn students on to the pursuit of knowledge for intrinsic value rather than just for grades, kids will learn to enjoy school and reading!

Before reading comes listening and of course interest. And before writing comes comprehending, qualitative and quantitative analyzing, reasoning, and speaking/conversing. The whole game is called "effective communications". And it is vitally needed for quality jobs, advanced education, and effective participation in society and family.

Too many of today's students (and adults) don't or didn't get enough practice in some or all of these parts of effective communications, starting in the preschool years and in the earliest elementary grades. That makes a "repair and catch-up job" in the teen or adult years very difficult and challenging -- though not totally impossible.

So ideally, the emphasis on effective communications can not be placed just on "adolescent students", but should start in the preschool years. It should eventually include some quantitative numbers-sense (basic math) and dealing with life's future trade-offs, challenges and opportunities, options, uncertainties (probabilities), and unavoidable choices. And most of all, all of these can be introduced in various interesting and somewhat teasing and enjoyable ways. That's why imaginative teaching can be so important to quality learning. In this chat, others have already offered quite a number of specific examples of this type of imaginative teaching.

Anthony Rebora's "Reading Problems" (November 4, 2005) points to several findings worth examining.

The data from the National Center for Education Statistics indicates that "fifty-three percent of all college students must take remedial courses." I wonder if the statistic takes into consideration the fact that more students are attending college than ever before. Some students who previously were not accepted because of academic difficulties are now being accepted. This trend might begin to explain the high rate of students in remedial courses.

The study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that in the past 20 years, young adults (ages 18-34) have gone from being the group most likely to read literature to the least likely. But we also must recognize that they collect information from non-traditional sources such as the Internet. The influence and trend of young adults to use technology to receive news, as a resource for information, and for leisure are competing factors and not necessarily ones we should lament.

The recommendations made by the Carnegie Corporation and the Alliance for Excellent Education to boost literacy are practical and appropriate. However, due to the passage of No Child Left Behind and the current national obsession with standardized tests, we have created a one-size-must-fit all system which has replaced many good teaching practices with test prep activities and drills. That is certainly not going to encourage young people to read.

Maryellen Rafferty, M.S.
Director, Literacy Center
Adelphi University
Garden City, NY

Reading is a skill that many students do not practice. I explain to my students that if they want to get better then they need to practice the skill. To illustrate, pantomime shooting a basketball and/or kicking a soccer ball to reinforce my point.

I further mention that if we are not good at something we usually avoid it. Then, I give my students the opportunity to practice. They are required to read 1000 book pages/six weeks. They may read any book of their choice. I monitor their reading logs to see what they are reading and who is or is not finishing a book. I also try to get into a discussion about books on an individual basis.

As I begin to discuss books with individual students and learn their likes and dislikes, I am better able to guide them to books that they just can't put down.

To reinforce reading, I encourage students to use books on tape. By the end of the school year, students who hate reading usually admit that it's kind of fun.

Another way that I have found successful to get students into books, is to find a book that has a movie. If a student has seen a particular movie based on a book and enjoyed it, I encourage him/her to read the book to see how true the movie is to the author's writing.

I have also noticed that as students begin to read more, their test grades go up and their course grades go up! As Krashen points out in THE POWER OF READING, reading for pleasure is very beneficial!

I am currently trying to compose a theme-based list of titles for high school students. Although I have spent the last 17 years in Elementary classrooms, I am now working with Early College High School. I have included on my list books that were really successful in elementary classrooms- for example Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (it's ok to be who you are) as well as other titles by Spinelli. If anyone has a specific title that they have used in high school situations and would like to share, any thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks Amy

Well, after reading all of the contributions here, I have a few other points for consideration. First, please understand that I was an elementary (intermediate level) teacher long before I became a middle school teacher, so my comments stem from my observed concerns about both levels.

Not only are societal issues a huge concern in early preparation for students to attend elementary school, but kids living under those situations end up deprived of exposure to and experiences of what a lot of what most of us would consider "regular" life events: playing kick-the-can or other neighborhood games, playing dominoes or card games with grandparents, riding bikes to the neighborhood convenience store with our best friends to buy candy, playing in sandboxes, investigating the creek full of crawdads up the street a ways, etc. Kids are left at home or live in unsafe areas where events like these just can't happen. Therefore the life experiences and conversations of kids aren't the same, and the media/electronic/video games have an eager audience. We (teachers) have to adjust our thinking and our understandings, to include these experiences into building interest and passion for learning for our students. Educators are notorious (stereotypically) for being slow (okay, glacially slow) to change teaching experiences and understandings to do what's best for our kids. You know what I'm talking about, and that it's true . . .

Next, assessing a child's reading abilities with a reliable and reputable reading inventory, and I strongly believe every middle school child should be assessed by their teacher (since not every problem can be/has been caught by elementary teachers), seems to be an area that is severely lacking nationwide. What assessments --- good, thorough, data/information-providing, assessments --- are out there that allow a teacher to assess each of their 140 students effectively? Please feel free to email me to let me know if you have a tool, because all of my research has led me to find very time-consuming or very lame assessments. How can we quickly reach a child's specific needs if we don't have the necessary tools for diagnosis? Sure, we can read with them and "guess-and-check" our best hunches, but factual data would provide evidence and allow us to address the needs without wasting another minute of that child's reading life.

We also need to remember that we have to decide, personally, whether our philosophy is to teach the child, or to teach the curriculum. Most of the comments have leaned toward teaching the child, and I know that I have been successful with first taking care of the child, and then getting to the curriculum. The content of the curriculum will always be available to those who can read. Address the reading ability, then the content interest can be built. To add to our thinking, developmental issues are often at the center of reluctant reader's problems, but that is always at the bottom of our list of considerations. I remember being a very concrete learner in 8th-12th grade, and only being able to understand abstract ideas later, in my twenties, and yet I was considered a highly-abled student. Go figure . . .

My last point is that we have to teach students to learn to be passionate about something ---- anything ---- in their lives, because once a passion is lit, the thirst for knowledge is endless. Don't you find that in your own lives? I always approach my students with the idea that I might be the last teacher who has the opportunity and the motivation to see this student be successfully literate, so I'd better give it my all (which IS my passion), and I'd hate to learn later in life that I'd had that opportunity, but didn't take it and make the best of it. We HAVE to rely on ourselves to make that happen --- using common sense, data, fabulous resources that fit our kids, and enthusiasm (genuine, mind you) rather than blaming NCLB, AYP, the students, the parents, society, lack of resources, and ultimately relying on a program developed to make a company a lot of money with false hopes and promises.

When are educators (on the whole) just going to do what's RIGHT???
[email protected]

One way to improve reading is by writing. Practice in one improves the other.

One way to improve reading is by writing. Practice in one improves the other.

One way to improve reading is by writing. Practice in one improves the other.

One way to improve reading is by writing. Practice in one improves the other. Topical and controversial journal questions provoke interesting and enthusiastic responses. They can't speak, however. Everything must be written and then shared with their peer reader. Then I ask for volunteers. Everyone wants to read his partner's paper aloud. Often this is the lead in to class discussion about whatever we're reading for class.

69% of teens can't read proficiently...Dee Tadlock's book explains why. Federally-funded researchers aren't eager to hear what this little-known reading expert has to say for one simple reason: she is telling them that their FLAWED IDEAS are the reason that so many American kids continue to struggle with reading. The reading intervention mentioned early in this thread (Read Right) was developed by Dr. Tadlock. It is doing amazing things for regular ed kids, special ed kids, Native American kids, kids diagnosed with dyslexia, ADD, and even kids with Down syndrome. Dee Tadlock isn't just talking about fixing reading problems, she's FIXING them. It's time to explore what she has to say. And, congratulations to Dee for being nominated for the 2006 Brock International Prize in Education.

hey teachers,if u want your students to read, all u have to do is make it as intersting as posibly. Most of u have good ideas how to make it fun and intresting for the students. But, i also understand once in awhile u have to get out the old text books and read them, but u can play a game like popcorn meaning that they can pick who ever they want when ever they want(even if it only one word like "the" lol) it's a easy game. I played it when i was in special ed.try it! I hope it works for you.

I am trying to find a program that will work for high school independent study students. Over 50% of these students are reading below 4th grade. I have looked at Read Right...cannot afford it and it is designed for daily engagement. I know this is a tough one. Any suggestions?
[email protected]

Jean Douglas' comment about Read Right systems above is based on a misunderstanding. It is not McGraw's program and it certainly is NOT applauded by President Bush . . . yet. Perhaps when he has a grandchild who can't read well and who, miraculously, experiences the gains made by the Read Right methodology (which, finally, I saw in action today!) he will put aside his misplaced trust in phonics instruction uber alles.

Dear Sr / Mme:

My name is Arturo Celis. I am a linguist. I`ve been teaching for more than 25 years now, and I am really concerned with policies applied to improving reading and maths in the US.
It is true that phonics instruction - the relation between sounds and letters- is the appropriate strategy to teach reading. However this is not so simple for this is not just a mechanical tool learned by kids. The development of linguistic skills is a highly delicate task since our brain`s left hemisphere development – abstraction, logic, symbolism, segmentation – depends on how our first language was developed. In other words, it is language development the developer of abstraction skills, logic skills, segmentation skills, etc in the kid`s brain. All of them are necessary skills for understanding maths. As a result a wrong linguistic development will necessarily produce a poor math development. Linguists and bilingual experts know that maths is considered “another language” and in this sense for learning a second language –maths – we need our first language well in place.


Arturo Celis
Ph.D in Educational Leadership and Policy

I am not a teacher or a prof. but i know something about the problem because I am 15.
I think that teen hate readind because they have other hobbies and they find it stupid(read=lose time) so I think that every teen have to read a book and after He can says that he has lose time.

I'd like to thank Bickle for the more positive response.
While you ARE correct in utilizing content as a learning tool, I am more concerned with values.
While, as a professional educator we are compelled not to promote our own values on students, as a world citizen I do believe standards should be set and met for the welfare and benefit of our children. Am I speaking morals??? Yes.
Am I concerned with reading time being spent on mindless misguided nonproductive material, yes. While it is true students are reading, guidance to discernment and quality of distinction is a learned ability. Yes it is all dependent upon the values of the society, and in fact the awareness of discernment of values is in and of itself a learned skill, I do not doubt the power of deep level knowledge and deep level reading as it effects the individual.Again another argument of freedom. I feel that students can limit passive learning (garbage) and can better benefit from active learning (valued learning).

Several years ago I was involved in an at risk youth work training program... federally funded.
The Organization, Hi Tek Learning Systems out of Sebring, Florida stated student/cadets would increase their math and reading grade levels, one to three grades in eight weeks of work force training.
In fact that program was quite sucessfull and I encourage its' further acquisition and implementation!!! This is the real thing for at risk youth!!!!!!!!!!!

Comments are now closed for this post.


Recent Comments

  • Jeri Hallberg, B. Science: Several years ago I was involved in an at read more
  • Jeri Hallberg: I'd like to thank Bickle for the more positive response. read more
  • vincenzo: I am not a teacher or a prof. but i read more
  • Arturo Celis Prof. of Linguistics: Dear Sr / Mme: My name is Arturo Celis. I read more
  • Ed Kenney: Jean Douglas' comment about Read Right systems above is based read more




Technorati search

» Blogs that link here