[Technology 836] Re: Changing reading levels of text questions

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Denis Anson danson at misericordia.edu
Wed Feb 7 08:32:18 EST 2007

Currently, there is no good technological solution to managing reading
levels. In order to reduce the reading level without losing the content,
the "system" must know/understand the desired content of the written
material. The only software that can do that resides inside your head.

It's possible to simplify written material by breaking up compound
sentences or doing synonym swaps for shorter words. Breaking up compound
sentences might be relatively straight forward for well-constructed
sentences, but English is so flexible that not all good writing is
"well-constructed." The weakness of synonym replacement is that the
meanings of the words are not quite the same (nuances matter to a good
writer), and the shorter synonyms will cause meaning drift. (There is a
language game where you construct lists of synonyms such that the first
word and the last word have opposite meanings. The winner is the person
who constructs the shortest list of synonyms.)

There is also, by the way, evidence that, for marginal readers, pictures
are not always helpful. A low-literacy reader may "plow" the written
language, rather than skim it, and changing focus to the pictures can
interfere with understanding. There is also research that says that if
the pictures do not match the content (as might happen with augmenting,
because you can't find just the right picture), the content of the
pictures is absorbed preferentially over the content of the writing.

Denis Anson, MS, OTR
Director of Research and Development
Assistive Technology Research Institute
College Misericordia
301 Lake St.
Dallas, PA 18612
Phone: 570-674-6413
Fax: 570-674-8054

Patti White wrote:

> I received the following request and I'm stumped. Here's the request:

> ------------------------------------------------------------------------

> Do you know of a computer program that takes text and offers

> suggestions for dropping the reading level…… As in maybe 10th grade to

> 5th grade…..Is there software that does that other than just using the

> Flesch-Kincaid Readability stats and doing it by hand???


> Next question….When you are adapting text for folks with literacy

> issues…..…you know how you drop the reading level down and augment

> with pictures…..Is there a term that is used for that ….something like

> …modified text with pictures or something like that…..????

> ------------------------------------------------------------------------

> The only thing I can find that might help is the Auto Summarize

> feature in Microsoft Word, but it's not really appropriate. Does

> anyone know of some software that will drop the reading level of text?

> And is there a term for that process?

> Thanks for whatever help anyone can give,

> Patti White

> *Patti White, M.Ed.*

> *Disabilities Project Manager*

> *Arkansas Adult Learning Resource Center*

> *prwhite at madisoncounty.net*

> *http://aalrc.org/resources/ld/index.aspx*

> *800.569.3539 ph/fax/tty*

> ------------------------------------------------------------------------


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