Engaging Struggling Readers in the Intermediate and Middle Grades

By Irene Fountas

Director, Center for Reading Recovery and Literacy Collaborative

When you think about the students who are not reading successfully at the grade level, what becomes immediately noticeable?

I think first of a lack of engagement and motivation, attributing that not to the student, but to the context that has not supported her success.  Of course we need to think about the importance of excellent teaching, but our first goal needs to address the engagement of the learner.  Many of these students would not choose to read.   Or at the very least, they might not choose to read what we offer them.  Let’s think together about the issue of student engagement and motivation in this blog.

What do you notice about what does engage the student?  Our conversation can focus first on the context we provide for their learning.

  • Learning activities that include talking and thinking with peers.
  • Time for real reading.
  • Multimodal texts – texts with a variety of graphica – images, sidebars, boxes, photographs, etc.
  • Texts with informational topics relevant to their lives.
  • Short texts related to social issues they grapple with.

Do you have some of the same observations?  What would you add to the list?  Please respond with your comments and we can share our thinking!

One thought on “Engaging Struggling Readers in the Intermediate and Middle Grades

  1. Exposing struggling readers to nonfiction text is key so that these readers a) can see if it is there genre of preference b) experience reading that has a purpose other than to entertain. I honestly think that many struggling readers just haven’t experienced what Jim Trelease calls their “home run” book, or the positive reading experience that engages the reader on a reading journey.


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