Getting ready for middle and high school reading
Middle- and high schoolers interpret, analyze, and discuss more-advanced texts. Here are the tools they'll need to succeed.
By GreatSchools Staff
In elementary school teachers focus on basic reading skills as students progress from learning to read to reading to learn. Starting in middle school, however, students must develop more-sophisticated skills such as reading for speed and comprehension as well as interpreting texts. But just when many kids reach the point where they need instruction in those areas, teachers may emphasize course content over reading skills.
How do you know if your children are on track? Our guidelines give you all the details you need to assess their aptitude.
Beyond the basics
Just as middle-schoolers must adjust to juggling multiple classes and more difficult assignments, they must also adapt their reading skills. Science, social studies, and English each have their own vocabulary and structure, and students need to move from answering simple questions about content and plot to reading longer, more complex texts that require gathering and analyzing information. According to "Why the Crisis in Adolescent Literacy Demands a National Response," a 2006 report from the Alliance for Excellent Education: "To succeed in high school and beyond, students must become chameleons, able to adapt to a range of academic contexts, each of which requires its own set of literacy skills."
A crisis in literacy
While most of the emphasis in classrooms nationwide has been on making sure all students learn to read by third grade, national tests reveal a literacy crisis at the middle and high school levels. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, more than two-thirds of eighth-graders read below grade level, and half of those students score below the most basic level. Some 6 million middle- and high schoolers are classified as struggling readers. Lacking rudimentary reading skills, many of them are at a high risk of becoming high school dropouts.
These frightening statistics have led educators to realize that teaching reading doesn't end at third grade. They have a twofold task: making sure all students achieve the fundamentals of literacy and helping them go beyond the basics to learn complex reading skills.
In upper grades, teachers may feel pressured to focus on curriculum content rather than reading skills. But students who aren't developing more-sophisticated reading skills may find it difficult to understand the subjects they are studying. In response to this problem, some middle and high school administrators have adopted such programs as after-school tutoring, literacy coaching, and reading-skills instruction for teachers.
If you suspect your middle-schoolers are having trouble with reading, ask them to summarize a chapter from a novel or textbook. If they have difficulty explaining what they just read, seek help from a teacher or counselor — and find out what support your school or community offers for struggling readers.