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Reading Success For Struggling Adolescent Learners
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I remember one high school gym class devoted to tumbling exercises. I spent the entire period finagling a permanent position in the back of the line for the mats. Classmates who enjoyed performing flips and cartwheels were willing to oblige my nonparticipation, and the gym teacher never noticed. In my middle school reading classes over the years, I've observed similar no participatory coping strategies by reluctant readers. Reading Success for Struggling Adolescent Learners is targeted to the teachers of such readers.
This text continues an earlier conversation described in Reading Next: A Vision for Action and Research in Middle and High School Literacy (Biancarosa & Snow, 2004), which describes 15 practices that promise to thwart the current adolescent literacy crisis. In this book, Lenski and Lewis compile theories, research, and instructional practices from adolescent literacy experts who approach Juicy Couture adolescent literacy from many angles. The most important contribution of this text is its emphasis on adolescent development as an important variable in effective adolescent reading instruction, the role of affect and motivation in such instruction, the importance of building on nonacademic literacy skills that students bring with them into classrooms, and how contextual climates outside of the classroom affect the success of literacy instruction.
Early chapters examine adolescence and traditionally marginalized adolescent readers. In Chapter 1, Jill Lewis and Avivah Dahbany describe several theories of adolescent development. One finding that relates to adolescent girls particularly surprised me: Early puberty has been attributed to the result of familial stress, particularly when an unrelated man resides with the mother of the adolescent female (Ellis & Garber, 2000). Chapter 2, by Susan Lenski, addresses struggling adolescent readers and describes ways literacy instruction can encourage critical thinking, classroom relationships, and literacy identities.
Other chapters observe that for literacy instruction to work for adolescents who struggle with reading, it must address affective dimensions that cause adolescents to avoid reading. In Chapter 3, Alfred W. Tatum and Teresa A. Fisher argue that resiliency must be included in interventions for struggling readers. Defining resiliency as "the capacity for successful adaptations in spite of adverse circumstances or stressful life events" (Henderson & Milstein, 2003, cited on p. 59), Tatum and Fisher discuss how student temperament, self-esteem, self-efficacy, social competence, and autonomy can work toward reading success. Chapter 6, by Kathleen Crawford-McKinney and Kattie Hogan, encourages teachers to offer students chances to self-select literature as a means to increase deeper engagement with text. Chapter 11, by Leif Fearn and Nancy Farnan, examines the role that self-concept plays in writing achievement. Taken together, these chapters illustrate that reading instruction Juicy Couture Watch for struggling readers must be personally relevant and have lower stakes to merit the risk-taking behaviors required of participation.
Still other chapters describe promising practices that enhance adolescent literacy learning by building on out-of-school literacies. Chapter 4, by Fabiola P. Ehlers-Zavala, addresses English-language learners and the types of instruction that most benefit these learners by building on existing literacy skills. In Chapter 5, Dana L. Grisham and Thomas DeVere Wolsey observe that many schools and students do not have access to technology (Hoctor, 2005), creating a digital divide (Hoffman, Novak, & Schlosser, 2001). The authors observe that social worlds afforded by new technologies allow students to construct literate identities that should be honored and expanded on in classrooms because they increase reading motivation and engagement. In Chapter 12, Susan Lenski observes, "Critical literacy can help students think beyond schooling and apply critical thinking strategies to media that they experience on a daily basis" (p. 242). These chapters encourage teachers to honor the literacy practices that struggling readers value in their nonschool lives by bringing those practices into the classroom.
Final chapters of this text address contexts outside of classrooms that affect classroom literacy instruction. Chapter 13, written by Peter Afflerbach, describes how formative and summative assessments can inform teachers that literacy learning is occurring or can detract from literacy learning.
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