By Paul Kropp
Notes from Paul Kropp's 2010 IRA presentation to teachers on how to help reluctant and struggling readers:
Reaching Reluctant and Struggling Readers requires...
- matching texts and readers (abilities and interests)
- providing motivation for reading
- overcoming frustration so kids develop the will and skill to read better
Know your students! Reluctant readers fall into many different categories, but none of these young people...
- have flexible reading strategies
- like to read and will try to avoid it
- ever want to read aloud
- but are desperate not to be seen as "dumb"
Nonetheless they do want to read and will try hard to improve their skills - given the right materials and tasks at the appropriate level of difficulty!
Matching students to books
- How well does each student read? Teachers need some kind of measure.
- How difficult is the book? Effective readability measures are essential.
- Books for independent reading must be at the independent level - often two grades below the "instructional level"- the grade level given by typical classroom tests
- Interest and motivation matter - by two grade levels or more
- Support from teachers, parents and tutors can change any equation
The right books for reluctant readers:
- Appealing covers are important
- Topics must grab and be relevant
- Clearly defined and appealing characters are vital
- Plots must keep moving forward
- Maturity matters (no baby books; characters must be older than the readers
- Vocabulary control and sentence length for readability/leveling
- Avoiding reading frustration: Clear, simple sentences make for easier reading; straightforward plot lines are simpler than flashbacks
- Line spacing and page design make a difference in miscues
What makes a book frustrating?
- Length (over 120 pages)
- Uneven reading levels (the "Hatchet problem" - gr.3.5 readability in Chapter 1, grade 7 readability in Chapter 7)
- Confusing characters - too many undifferentiated individuals
- Flashbacks and literary devices often need teacher/parent explanation
- Multiple narrators
- "It's just plain dull!" (nothing happens)
Books that work:
- Books that are "cool"
- Action-adventure, especially if readability controlled
- Problem novels, fantasy, and romance (some titles)
- Non-fiction that ties into a student's interests
- Magazines, driver's license manual, etc.
Books that don't work (and some people have argued with me on these items):
- "Baby" books
- Stories that don't move forward
- Non-fiction that doesn't connect to the student
- Mysteries (too complex) and humor (fluency issues)
- Anything that looks "special" and will stigmatize the reader in the eyes of his classmates
Remember: There are many "band-aids" that can be applied to cover over reading difficulties - from reading books aloud to using audio tapes, but the only real solution for reluctant readers is to give these kids materials they can read and the skills to tackle that reading with success.Developing reading strategies...
Seven Habits of Highly Effective Readers (with thanks to Lori Jamison)
- Setting a purpose for reading
- Self-monitoring and repairing comprehension
- Making connect8ions
- Making inferences
- Distinguishing key ideas from supporting ideas
- Summarizing and synthesizing
- Using a variety of word-solving strategies
Timing is important: Traditionally, we put too much emphasis on "after-reading" activities and not enough on "before" and "during" reading. Reluctant readers don't need help after reading; they need help approaching and dealing with the text as they read.
? - I don't get this
! - This is interesting!
X - I disagree with this
* - I already knew this
Graphic organizers are a great way to boost comprehension without requiring much writing:
Venn diagrams, character charts, option flowcharts, SOS organizers, picture retelling, etc. Here's one example of a graphic organizer called a story pyramid:
A Story Pyramid
Summarize this story using some key words and phrases. Write the words on the page so that they form a pyramid shape.
Row 1: One word naming the main character
Row 2: Two words describing the main character
Row 3: Three words describing the problem or conflict
Row 4: Four words describing the first event in the story
Row 5: Five words describing a second event in the story
Row 6: Six words describing how the problem is resolved
Fluency. While fluency is not an end in itself, it is a good indicator of all the other reading skills a young person may need. The techniques which build fluent reading are the same as those which build comprehension:
- Prepared reading - always (no round robin reading - ever)
- Performance reading - sometimes (practiced sections of books or plays)
- Paired poetry or drama or songs(always practiced ahead of time)
- Reading and rereading with a partner (learning to read in phrases and chunks)
- Plays - prepared and performed
- Readers' theater plays - prepared and performed or recorded with sound effects
Current research by Allington, Pressley and Rasinski shows the importance of reading and re-reading text. Readers theater plays are ideal for this purpose. The payback is not in drama skills, but in reading skills.
Never forget the goal:
We want our reluctant readers to become competent readers - young people with the skills to read widely and the interest to keep reading on their own.
- HIP 90-second video
- Free Graphic Organizers
- Free Readers' Theater Plays
- Article: Hooking Struggling Readers
- Book Excerpt: Guiding Readers
- 2013 Flip Catalog
- RTI and HIP Books
- Notes: Reaching Reluctant Readers
- The Boy Problem in Reading
- Three-Minute Reading Assessment
- Readability Q&A
- Research Links
- Teacher Resources and Lesson Plans