I am sad to not attend the VSRA conference this year so I thought I’d do my presentation via blog instead. This is something I’ve wanted to blog about for a long time and one of my favorite topics- how to help adolescents fall in love with reading. It’s possible, even for the most struggling of readers.
In a four part blog series, I will present how I help struggling readers fall in love with reading.
Part one: Introduction
Check out the materials for all parts of the presentation in this dropbox. You need to sign up for a dropbox account and it’s free to access these materials.
I utilize a version of Nancy Atwell’s Reader’s Workshop methods to help students fall in love with reading. Nancy Atwell encourages letting students choose what to read and teaching standards through a series of minilessons. This is the heart of the “Workshop.” I use similar methods but I find that I have to introduce reading to struggling readers in a very specific way. The workshop method works very well for struggling readers but only if it’s presented to students in a way that scaffolds and supports their ability to choose books and see themselves as readers. Choice is fantastic but if students hate to read then they do not want to choose to read anything. Struggling readers don’t know where to begin looking for books or what kinds of books they like so much of my time is spent creating a space in my classroom where all students see themselves as readers and teaching students to fall in love with reading.
Why do students need choice and why does the reader’s workshop method of reading work so well with struggling readers?
The Matthew Effect (Stanovich, 1986) paints a very telling picture. The following statistics show us that struggling readers need to read more. Many struggling readers are simply nonreaders, meaning they have all the knowledge of components of reading but they don’t practice and therefore, don’t develop strong comprehension skills. Look at the following statistics:
- The average middle school student reads approximately 1,000,000 words a year.
- A struggling middle school reader reads approximately 100,000 words a year.
- The voracious reader in middle school reads 10,000,000- 50,000,000 words a year.
A struggling reader who reads more won’t be a struggling reader anymore. The best way to turn a nonreader or a struggling reader into a reader who loves reading is to provide choice and scaffold the learning process to help students feel like readers and learn about the types of books they may be interested in reading.