High – low books: Custom reading texts may help challenged readers

4 May

Shannon Maughan wrote in the 2012 ALA article, ALA 2012: What’s Up with Hi-Lo?

Many librarians, teachers, parents—and even students—are aware of the grim, oft-cited statistic: only one-third of eighth-grade students in the U.S. read at or above the proficient level (source: the Nation’s Report Card/National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2009). While solutions to the problem are always being debated, those who work with struggling and reluctant readers every day want tools they can use right now. Hi-lo books frequently fit the bill.
A hi-lo book, broadly defined, is a title that offers highly interesting subject matter at a low reading level. A number of publishers have focused on producing these books, though they often take slightly different approaches to creating the products that best fit a particular market. The abiding goal, says Arianne McHugh, president and co-owner of Saddleback Educational Publishing, “is to offer age-appropriate content—something that will grab [readers’] interest—at a readability level that is accessible.” As examples, McHugh notes that for a struggling reader in middle school or high school, although The Hunger Games would generate enormous interest, it would be a discouraging undertaking. On the other hand, “You can’t give them Clifford; we don’t want to embarrass them,” she says. Somewhere in the middle is the book that’s just right, she says…. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/52124-what-s-up-with-hi-lo-ala-2012.html

This is an absolutely jaw-dropping statistic. According the article, Opinion Brief: Detroit’s ‘shocking’ 47 percent illiteracy rate which was posted at The Week:

More than 200,000 Detroit residents — 47 percent of Motor City adults — are “functionally illiterate,” according to a new report released by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund. That means they can’t fill out basic forms, read a prescription, or handle other tasks most Americans take for granted, according to the fund’s director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, as quoted by CBS Detroit. Her organization’s study also found that the education and training aimed at overcoming these problems “is inadequate at best,” says Jackie Headapohl at Michigan Live. http://theweek.com/article/index/215055/detroits-shocking-47-percent-illiteracy-rate

Illiteracy is a global problem, with some geographic areas and populations suffering more from illiteracy than others.

Education Portal defines illiteracy in the article, Illiteracy: The Downfall of American Society.

Most people think of literacy as a simple question of being able to read. But while a young child who can work her way through a basic picture book is considered to have age-appropriate literacy levels, an adult who can only read at the most fundamental level is still functionally illiterate.
The world requires that adults not only be able to read and understand basic texts, but also be able to function in the workplace, pay bills, understand legal and financial documents and navigate technology – not to mention the advanced reading comprehension skills required to pursue postsecondary education and the opportunities that come with it.
As a result, when we talk about the effects of illiteracy on society, we’re talking primarily about what happens when you have a large number of adults whose literacy skills are too low to perform normal, day-to-day tasks. However, it is worth keeping in mind that childhood illiteracy is, of course, directly correlated to adult illiteracy. http://education-portal.com/articles/Illiteracy_The_Downfall_of_American_Society.html

The key concept is the individual cannot adequately function in the society in which they live. That means that tasks necessary to provide a satisfactory life are difficult because they cannot read and/or comprehend what they read.

Christina A. Samuels reported in the Education Week article, For Challenged Readers, Custom-Tailored Texts:

The challenge is to work out a balance of engaging older readers while leading them to books that will stretch their skills, said Troy Fresch, the assistant principal of 2,200-student Tustin High School in the Los Angeles area, another school that uses these “high-low” books.
“When [students] can discuss a book and they have comprehended it, it really just boosts their self-esteem,” Mr. Fresch said. “And it allows them to get full credit for their assignments.”
Barbara Stripling, the president of the American Library Association, based in Chicago, said that “picking books that appeal to an older audience and use lower-level vocabulary is a really sound concept for teen readers. They don’t want to be reading about dogs and cats, they want to be reading about Beyoncé…”
“A lot of kids, they learn to read by reading, not so much by the instruction in the classroom,” Ms. Stripling said. “The more we can provide in the library that can appeal to their interests, the more we are contributing to reading instruction.”
Questions of Complexity
But do the books offer enough to move students to more complex works? They’re only useful if they are coupled with appropriate instruction in grade-level literacy, said Michael L. Kamil, a professor of education at Stanford University and the chairman of a federally created panel that examined interventions for struggling adolescent readers.
The problem, Mr. Kamil said, is that students are not just expected to read fiction. They have to grapple with reading in mathematics, science, history, and other subjects, and books for emergent readers don’t have the vocabulary students need to understand information written in those subjects. The common core expects that 70 percent of the texts a student reads will be informational.
“It’s almost a thought that everything on a topic is good, and that’s just not true,” Mr. Kamil said. “It’s got to be something that moves students beyond their own knowledge to a more sophisticated level of knowledge.”
And with struggling teen readers, it’s important to move quickly, simply because instructors don’t have very much time, Mr. Kamil said. “This isn’t Band-Aid care, it’s trauma care,” he said. Students reading at a very low grade level in high school “are not going to make that up in any kind of normal or easy way. The older the student is, the more critical it is that we get in there and do something that’s actually targeted to the difficulty they’re having.”
Specific Strategies
The panel that Mr. Kamil led produced a practice guide for teachers in 2008, “Improving Adolescent Literacy: Effective Classroom and Intervention Practices.” Its suggestions included offering explicit vocabulary instruction, directing instruction in reading-comprehension strategies, and extending opportunities for discussing a text. Catherine E. Snow, a literacy expert and professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who served on the validation committee for the common standards, said that such books provide useful practice for students.
“Kids do get better at reading from reading, and they don’t read much if the texts are way too hard,” Ms. Snow said. “Of course, such texts do not by themselves solve the problem of bringing kids up to grade level. That takes well-planned instruction,” including figuring why the students aren’t reading well, and offering scaffolds that allow them to work with harder books, she said.
But teachers need to be careful about how hard students must be made to struggle. One concern Ms. Snow mentioned is the common core’s focus on “close reading,” a teaching approach that requires students to derive meaning from text by careful examination of language. Close reading is being turned into a thought that students need to work hard to comprehend a text, she said.
“The new lesson plans and the new curriculum guidelines often run the risk of overemphasizing the need for kids to struggle and underemphasize the need for adaptation,” Ms. Snow said…. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/04/23/29books_ep.h33.html?tkn=RXYFZwJw5L09q3rjssoTzhtGtDr2X4WBvPx8&intc=es

Education is a partnership between the student, parent(s) or guardian(s), the teacher(s), and the school. All parts of the partnership must be active and involved. Parents are an important part because they enforce lessons learned at school by reading to their children and taking their children for regular library time.


National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) http://nces.ed.gov/naal/lit_history.asp

Illiteracy: An Incurable Disease or Education Malpractice? http://www.nrrf.org/essay_Illiteracy.html

Living in the Shadows: Illiteracy in America

US Department Of Education Helping Series which are a number of pamphlets to help parents and caregivers http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/hyc.html

How Parents Can Help Their Child Prepare for School Assignments http://mathandreadinghelp.org/how_can_parents_help_their_child_prepare_for_school_assignments.html

Getting Young Children Ready to Learn

General Tips for Preparing for Kindergarten http://www.education.com/topic/preparing-for-kindergarten/

Classroom Strategies to Get Boys Reading

Me Read? A Practical Guide to Improving Boys Literacy Skills http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/document/brochure/meread/meread.pdf

Understanding Gender Differences: Strategies To Support Girls and Boys http://www.umext.maine.edu/onlinepubs/PDFpubs/4423.pdf

Helping Underachieving Boys Read Well and Often http://www.ericdigests.org/2003-2/boys.html

Boys and Reading Strategies for Success http://www.k12reader.com/boys-and-reading/


More research about the importance of reading https://drwilda.wordpress.com/tag/reading-literacy-and-your-child/

The slow reading movement

The importance of the skill of handwriting in the school curriculum

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr. Wilda.com

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Blogs by Dr. Wilda:

COMMENTS FROM AN OLD FART© http://drwildaoldfart.wordpress.com/

Dr. Wilda Reviews © http://drwildareviews.wordpress.com/

Dr. Wilda © https://drwilda.com/

One Response to “High – low books: Custom reading texts may help challenged readers”


  1. Common Sense Media report: Raising more ‘useful idiots,’ children don’t read enough and well | drwilda - May 12, 2014

    […] The key concept is the individual cannot adequately function in the society in which they live. That means that tasks necessary to provide a satisfactory life are difficult because they cannot read and/or comprehend what they read…. https://drwilda.com/2014/05/04/high-low-books-custom-reading-texts-may-help-challenged-readers/ […]

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