Literacy comes more easily to some than others, which means struggling readers need more support to reach their grade-appropriate reading level. According to National Assessment of Educational Progress data, “68 percent of 8th grade students in America are reading below reading level.” Furthermore, NAEP reports that only 38 percent of 12th graders are prepared for entry-level college courses in reading. Whether we like it or not, America has a low rate of literacy.
How do we change these statistics? The key to encouraging literacy is to make sure that struggling readers have the resources and support they need to develop their reading abilities.
Step #1: Determine their reading level.
What do your readers feel comfortable reading? Which reading levels do they struggle with? Understanding the level they are currently reading at will help you understand and appreciate the reading skills they possess. Praising readers for what they can do well will prevent you from being overwhelmed with what they can not yet do.
Step #2: Meet them at their level.
Give readers books that they feel comfortable reading with consideration of their age, reading level and interests. For example, Saddleback Educational Publishing’s Hi-Lo Reading Fiction and Nonfiction selections are categorized according to reading level, interests, genres and ages. They divide their collection into these genres because a young adult wouldn’t be interested in reading selections for middle school kids, and those interested in Urban Fiction would not feel inclined to read a book about celebrity biographies. Saddleback best put it when they explained, “If you want a child to read, give them a book they want to read.”
Step #3: Challenge struggling readers, slowly.
After struggling readers begin to genuinely enjoy reading, start introducing them to more sophisticated books with slightly higher lexile levels. Generally, these books should have a larger vocabulary and more complex sentences than the books your readers are accustomed to reading. Keep in mind, however, that these books should still appeal to your readers in regards to age and interests, so as to not make them feel alienated from their peers.
Step #4: Review and discuss their books with them.
The best way to encourage struggling readers is to genuinely take interest in what they are doing and engaging with them. If you can’t read an entire book with them, have them tell you about the book themselves! Ask about what happened in the story, what they liked and disliked about the book and express sincere interest in what they say. This kind of engagement with struggling readers will stimulate their analytical skills and emotionally support their studies.
Step #5: Continue encouraging them to read.
Promoting literacy is not a one-time deal. To continue building upon their reading skills, give your readers progressively more advanced lexile level books. Because Saddleback Educational’s strength is publishing appealing books and content for older students that are at lower reading levels, they have a wide selection of books for those at lower reading levels that are both age appropriate and genre-specific.
To raise the U.S. literacy level, we have to make sure our low level readers are receiving the attention and support they need. If you work with struggling readers in middle school, high school or college, you can purchase Saddleback Education books in bulk with BookPal, the leading eBook and book wholesale distributor, at a discounted price. Browse our Saddleback Educational books to find the books most suited for your students!