Righting Reading in Middle School

December 16, 2023

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Interventions

This study examines the effectiveness of Readable English, a reading fluency and comprehension program, on underperforming rural middle school students over one school year. The goal is to address the increasing number of middle school students entering without proficient reading skills.

Multifaceted Strategies Are Needed for Reading Interventions

Edmonds et al. (2009) discovered that comprehension strategy instruction significantly improved reading comprehension but had no significant impact on word recognition, fluency, or word reading. Word study interventions had small to moderate effects on comprehension, and fluency instruction alone did not affect comprehension. Lovett et al. (2000) found that instruction in syllabic segmentation and decoding strategies not only improved decoding skills but also enhanced passage reading comprehension without direct comprehension instruction. The best interventions for low readers were those with instruction in linguistics skills and spelling, followed by fluency and reading comprehension strategy instruction. 

The complexity of reading necessitates multifaceted strategies and the research underscores the importance of a combined approach that addresses both linguistic skills and comprehension strategies.

The Readable English Intervention Helped Students in All Reading Areas

This action research study involved 17 teachers from four schools in rural Indiana and was conducted over two years with American English-speaking students. Three districts participated, with one implementing Readable English for all middle school students. The study included 167 student participants in grades six through eight in the intervention condition and 177 in the typical practice condition.

Results showed that students in the intervention group outperformed those in the typical practice group in reading accuracy, rate, comprehension, and oral reading fluency. The study found that 10% of the improvement in reading comprehension in the intervention group can be attributed to Readable English instruction.

An Intervention That Combines Both Linguistic and Comprehension Skills

The Readable English program is an effective and sustainable reading intervention program for adolescent students. It incorporates linguistic skills components and comprehension strategies, along with a conversion tool that makes English phonetic, to provide targeted support to students with various reading deficits. The program also supports cross-curricular integration and allows students to control their own learning. Implementation with fidelity is crucial, but the program has the potential to help students develop the necessary reading skills to become proficient readers and lifelong learners.

During a classroom visit, the author spoke with teachers and students who reported that Readable English had helped students who hated reading to read and learn new things, with enough support for below-average readers to explore topics and content in school. The students also made connections between their books and the content they were learning. The program’s conversion tool, now available as a Chrome browser extension, could be used across content areas for multiple years and benefit homeschool and online students.

Notable Quotes: 

“Reading  programs  should  be  educationally  sustainable  across  multiple  platforms  used  in  schools  and  be  able  to  support  students  with  differing  needs  across  grade  levels.”

“Teachers must have access to intensive, targeted reading interventions that support students at their current reading ability level and help them develop the requisite skills to become proficient, skillful readers.”

“Explicit instruction of linguistics skills components with comprehension strategy instruction that has shown promise with other interventions probably accounts for most of the improvement in students’ reading skills.”

Personal Takeaway: 

The topic of addressing adolescent readers interested me because a large part of my job is working with students who have not yet mastered reading to learn. As the article mentions and as I have observed, students with reading struggles fall further behind their peers in knowledge. I am glad to know that reading programs continue to be developed that leverage technology and effective instruction for improved outcomes. My takeaway is to remember that reading is complex, requiring explicit instruction in the linguistic aspect and comprehension strategies.—Dana Wells

Coggins, J. (2023). Righting Reading in Middle School: Readable English Helps Underperforming Adolescent Readers. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 1-30.

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