Thursday, May 25, 2017

Age Appropriate Texts - Finding My People!

In the large vender hall of the CEC conference I spied the sign “No Baby Books for Teens” across the room. I quickly realized that I had found my people.

I’ve blogged about the difficulties of finding ageappropriate texts for years now. There is nothing more disheartening then having a fifth grader at a crucial turning point in making huge gains in reading – only to have nothing to hand him except a book with cartoon characters of a sweet turtle and a frog. I am constantly on the search for age appropriate guided reading books, and have become so frustrated with the dirth of materials available that I’d even started to write my own.
But here – in this large booth were racks of books written for high schoolers reading at lower levels. It made me tear up. Someone is listening.

Well, almost listening. I am still looking for books written for fifth graders who are reading on kindergarten to early first grade level. But people, I think we are moving in the right direction.
A Saddle Back rep found me signing happily as a thumbed through titles. I was impressed by the older looking text and pictures, along with the simple language. The rep explained to me that many of the books were written in pairs so that they each had one fiction and one nonfiction corresponding text.

Many of the books are written for high schoolers who just entered the country. The fiction books cover topics that new immigrants may struggle with (fitting in, adapting), while the nonfiction books may cover relevant topics like how to dress for the weather. This is a particular problem for students coming from warm climates who move to Minnesota. However, he said that he was getting feedback from teachers who teach high schoolers with intellectual disabilities. These teachers love the texts because they essentially become social stories that children with intellectual disabilities can read to themselves. These students also need direct instruction on how to dress for the weather each morning, even if they have lived in this climate their whole lives.

The rep sent me away with a few copies to try out with my students. He warned me that many of his texts are written with high schoolers in mind, and so they deal with high school appropriate concepts in first grade language. (This was a big warning to NOT use some of the texts with fifth graders). The texts he sent me with were fifth grade appropriate. I had one of my current clients read one and he loved it. The text was below his reading level, but it is rare he is able to experience reading something easy that is also interesting. It was a great opportunity for us to work on reading comprehension.

So often we just teach decoding to children with learning disabilities. We become so focused on their deficits that we forget the reason we read - to comprehend and gain meaning from those swiggly lines on the page. Without meaning there is no point behind reading.

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