Reading aloud to older students is gaining favor with increasing numbers of teachers. So many adolescents simply lack the necessary comprehension skills to read middle-school or high-school texts. A recent Carnegie Corporation report on literacy noted that although American 4th-graders have some of the highest reading scores in the world, by the 10th grade they score among the lowest in the world. Most research on the efficacy of reading aloud has involved elementary school students and little is yet known about its value for adolescents. One high school in Alabama is experimenting. Ten years ago, the school decided drastic measures were needed because one-third of entering freshman were found to be reading at or below the 7th grade level. Many were reading only at the 4th or 5th grade level. Now the teachers use wordless picture books in an attempt to get students' attention and introduce them to more complex subject matter. The principal acknowledges that his high school "looks more like an elementary school." He said that is because letting the students draw pictures and make cut-outs seems to help them. The English teacher uses shorter articles to help students gain confidence before tackling books without pictures.
The school library is building a collection of more picture books, magazines and comic books. Other schools are also increasing their use of picture books for high school courses. A teacher in California says she uses picture books to supplement the U.S. history curriculum for 11th graders. An English teacher in Illinois says he reads John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men to his 11th grade students every year.
Some parents say that reading aloud to adolescents is just a way of "glossing over poor reading skills and poor content knowledge that should have been addressed in elementary school." That's exactly what I think.
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