High Quality Fiction and the Reluctant Reader
Leading researchers agree there are universal strategies that all proficient readers use. Keene and Zimmerman (2007) have summarized proficient reader strategies below.
Metacognitive Strategies Proficient Readers of All Ages Use
Strategy: Monitor for meaning
Action: Knowing when you know, knowing when you don't
Strategy: Using and creating schema
Action: Making connections between the new and the know, building and activating background knowledge
Strategy: Asking Questions
Action: Generating questions before, during and after reading that lead you deeper into the text
Strategy: Determining Importance
Action: Deciding what matters most, what is worth remembering
Action: Combining background knowledge with information from the text to predict, conclude, make judgements, interpret
Strategy: Using sensory and emotional images
Action: Creating mental images to deepen and stretch meaning
Action: Creating an evolution of meaning by combining understanding with knowledge from other texts/sources
Reluctant readers must be taught the strategies used by proficient readers. Research is clear that instruction that actively engages students in asking questions, summarizing and synthesizing text, and identifying important ideas improves comprehension. There is also compelling research that indicates, "When teachers model, not just mention the seven comprehension strategies, student achievement increases." Pearson (2002).
Teachers need to explicitly teach the act of reading to struggling readers, but perhaps more importantly, they also have to model where and how the proficient reader uses those cognitive moves or strategies required to make meaning of the text in authentic ways. Work on skills and strategies should facilitate real reading and writing. It should take place in the context of activities where students actually need to know how to use the skills and strategies and have actual purpose for them.
When teaching and modeling proficient reading strategies in the classrooms, teachers must avoid creating a basic "skill and drill" environment. Learning by rote has never been an effective method of reading instruction. Reluctant and struggling readers have the greatest need for lessons rich with opportunities to extend their thinking and make connections to their wider world. Many students have spent time in earlier grades participating in reading programs which focused on skill and drill activities to the exclusion of any authentic reading and writing. These experiences have framed attitudes and beliefs around reading and their abilities, and students in higher grades will not develop literacy skills and a love of reading if the trend continues. The most important part of any reading program is the act of reading itself.
All students must be given multiple opportunities to engage in actual and authentic reading. The amount of time a student spends engaged in reading should far outweigh the time spent working on skills and strategies, and these skills and strategies should never be taught in isolation. Providing the practice and time to read will directly impact the development of reading skills.
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Quality teen fiction, relevant to students’ lives, should be the point of entry with reluctant, struggling readers. It is important for students to experience the sense of accomplishment that finishing a book can bring, and how much fun it can be to escape reality by getting involved in a great book. Research has shown that when students interact with fiction and learn to love great books, they can become lifelong learners.
- Involve and engage your students
- At-level material
- Choice and quality fiction
- Text-to-reader connections
WIth 24 years experience as an educator Carolyn has taught in both the elementary and secondary panels as well as in Care, Custody and Treatment Facilities for at-risk youth. Over half of Carolyn’s career has been dedicated to working with at-risk adolescent learners. Currently Carolyn is working as a Program, Curriculum and Instruction Consultant Grades 7-12 for the Waterloo Region District School Board. In this role she provides system-wide professional development to both teachers and administrators.