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Enhancing Outcomes for Struggling Adolescent Readers

Deshler, D.D.
Hock, M.F.
Catts, H.W.
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation: 
University of Kansas
Resource Type: 
Number of Pages: 
Product Type: 

This article’s key features include information on: the reading skills of adolescent readers, a theory of the adolescent reading process, and features of effective programs for struggling adolescent readers.

What the Experts Say: 

This article provides a clear and brief synopsis of the issues struggling readers face with the components of reading: fluency, vocabulary, understanding text structure, lack of background knowledge for content learning and comprehension strategies. The authors have developed a model of reading instruction that can be relevant to adult education programs. This model is called the Content Literacy Continuum and identifies the type of reading instruction that can be offered based on the amount of focus that is possible to provide on basic reading skills. Level 1 of the continuum focuses on content instruction with little explicit reading instruction. Level 2 includes reading strategy instruction using large group methods. Level 3 is intensive strategy instruction using explicit instructional methods. Level 4 is intensive basic skill instruction to develop mastery of entry level literacy skills; and Level 5 is considered a therapeutic intervention such as speech/language instruction. Strategic tutoring can provide 1-on-1 support to any of these levels of literacy instruction. This article is an overview of the model with more in-depth resources available for those who are interested. The model has been implemented in secondary schools and components of the model have been implemented in adult education programs.

This article is directed at improving outcomes for adolescent readers. The research base is primarily from the secondary education field; however, it reports the same (or very similar) research and evidence-based reading instructional practices recommended by the Adult Reading Components Study and the National STAR Project. After all, most struggling ABE readers were once struggling adolescent readers.

The following summary statements from the article “match” with adult literacy findings or reading instruction recommendations.

  1. Struggling middle schoolers need word-level interventions (alphabetics and vocabulary).
  2. Many also need fluency instruction using text-length materials.
  3. Many lack relevant background knowledge.
  4. Many need comprehension strategy instruction to relate content to knowledge; however, word reading and meaning skills need to be mastered first.
  5. Screen students upon entry to middle school to identify literacy needs.
  6. Provide high quality practices:
    1. Direct and targeted instruction
    2. Progress monitoring
    3. Access to engaging materials
    4. Create a culture of achievement
  7. Support change with high quality professional development and coaching.
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