Friday, March 7, 2008


How do we decide that a young child is a nonreader and what are the consequences of such a label?

The following paragraph in the Feb. 08 issue of The Reading Teacher should give my readers an interesting insight into how teachers determine the level of reading at which students begin instruction in reading. The paragraph goes on to suggest the negative consequences of the label “nonreader.” The paragraph is from an article entitled “The Cultural Divide of Discourse: Understanding How English-Language learners’ Primary Discourse Influences Acquisition of Literacy.” L. Hayes. The Reading Teacher (Feb. 08), 415.

“On his first day of kindergarten, Juan (a pseudonym), a five-year-old English-language learning child, was administered a standardized test that assessed his ability to read. He was asked to identify letters and parts of a book, to independently “read” a passage in the story, and to discuss the main idea of a teacher-read passage. At the end of the day, according to his test scores, the teacher labeled Juan as a nonreader.

“As a consequence, Juan was placed in a reading group comprised of all the lowest scoring children in the class, assigned a seat in the back, and labeled ‘At-risk.’ Juan will eventually be called upon less than his classmates, who perform more successfully on tests and classroom assignments. He will also experience a disconnect with the activities his classmates are engaged in and the opportunities they are afforded. Juan has joined a rapidly growing population of children who are, in fact, being left behind.”

RayS: All of this sounds very familiar. Juan’s problem is that English is not his native language. But this sort of treatment of troubled readers has been going on for a long time. If it is not a problem with native language, it’s a problem that English-speaking students are reading disabled, learning disabled, dyslexic, you name it.

I am going to try to look for methods of working with students whose native language is not English in my professional journals. What do my readers think about this “case history”? Eventually, I will collect the ideas, suggestions and techniques for dealing with troubled readers in one place.

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