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Arkansas State University

Teaching Reading to Adolescents

Literacy is fundamental to education. Learning in other subjects begins by first understanding written, spoken, visual, and other forms of language. This ability is perhaps even more essential for adolescents who might be facing increasingly challenging academic studies while coping with difficult emotional, physical and social changes.

Teens who have difficulty reading may experience even greater stress. Reading problems can become an embarrassment, a painful focal point that negatively affects all aspects of a teen’s educational success. Research even correlates reading difficulties with teens developing emotional disorders and dropping out of school.

Teaching reading to adolescent students, therefore, is critical. Students vary widely in learning styles, developmental levels, and motivations. Using new methods of teaching reading to students with unique learning styles is central to today’s differentiated learning environment. Candidates for an online Master of Science in Education in Reading will study research- and practice-based methods of instruction, intervention and assessment that can improve reading skills and student learning.

The Importance of Content

Often overlooked in the traditional “one size fits all” approach to reading education is the importance of engaging content. Dry textbooks covering topics students are not interested in will hardly encourage those with poor reading skills to challenge themselves. How many times have you watched in surprise as students attempted to read well beyond their current skill level because they were excited about a book filled with wizards, vampires or something else that piqued their interest?

When students are interested in what they are reading, it motivates them to improve. Without this engagement, innovative teaching strategies are less effective. Some students may love fantasy and science fiction, which rarely appear in traditional textbooks. Some may gravitate toward interviews with pop-culture figures. Poetry might inspire one student and song lyrics another.

When teaching reading to adolescent students, incorporating different media and topics of student interest can help teachers engage students in learning, regardless of individual learning styles and reading levels.

Strategies and Methods for Improving Student Reading

As with tailoring content to individual tastes, most strategies for teaching reading to adolescent students depend on differentiated learning. Instructional methods and interventions must vary with the students. Using spoken and written language that is challenging to the student is a fundamental part of this approach. Playing slow-paced, expressive recordings while students read along can help auditory learners. Creating an informal, comfortable reading environment and incorporating visual and tactile reading games can help kinesthetic learners. With any such method, teachers give feedback, show students how they are improving, and help them assess their own progress. Students can then learn to monitor themselves and correct problems.

The key to teaching reading to adolescent students lies in creating an environment conducive to self-directed learning, and giving students the tools and motivation to engage in their own improvement. Students in a master’s degree in reading program have the opportunity to study these methods, strategies, and educational theories at length — and develop their abilities to be effective reading educators.

Learn more about the A-State online MSE in Reading program.


ASCD: Research Link/Improving the Reading Skills of Adolescents

ASCD: What Helps At-Risk Adolescent Readers?

ASCD: Creating Literacy-Rich Schools for Adolescents

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