Struggling adolescent readers

Struggling readers present a particular challenge for secondary schools, as without adequate literacy skills students cannot succeed in their individual subjects. Donald Deshler and Michael Kennedy ask how their outcomes can be improved

INCREASINGLY, school leaders and teachers are exhorted to prepare pupils to perform at higher levels. Meeting government targets is especially challenging at secondary level, as many students lack the literacy skills needed to readily access and understand their subject-matter classes. Consequently, ways must be found to help struggling adolescents become learners who can fluently navigate and successfully respond to rigorous academic demands. This challenge is compounded by the fact that secondary teachers do not have enough time to teach all that needs to be taught – especially the literacy skills that should have been mastered at primary school. Yet a growing number of secondary heads and teachers have dramatically changed the literacy performance of struggling learners, and, in doing so, altered the overall achievement trajectory of their schools.

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May 2009