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Literacy for Older Readers: Why It Is Never Too Late

Updated on
Modified on June 2, 2023
  • Literacy
  • Reading

As an educator for more than 15 years, I am eager to share my care for adolescent students and the reasons I love literacy instruction. In my career, I’ve taught in middle and high schools and in the education department at Appalachia State University. Throughout those experiences, I often found narratives of reading and writing surrounding adolescents are limited, echoing the sentiment that students at this age range simply are not reading as much as they should, and early interventions are key.

That sentiment is sometimes, but not always, true. While I agree early intervention is essential, I also know from experience it is not too late for upper-elementary, middle grades, and even high school and adult learners to improve their reading and writing skills and reach new levels of literacy success—given the right instruction and tools.

Drawing on the work of critical scholars, researchers who have examined reading instruction and development, and scholars who describe literacy in the 21st century, I work from the belief that all my students can learn and grow.

What is more, I believe having an assortment of strategies, texts, and tools at a teacher’s disposal is essential for working with students. From beginning a class by frontloading formative assessments to continuing to be aware of both trends in research and proven, science-based materials being published, I believe we can still make a difference for students throughout their school years. By continuing to be aware of tools and texts, and by focusing on areas of strength to build upon,  even with students who present the most challenges, teachers can help shift what has been termed “reader identity” (see also the work of Beach, Johnston, and Haertling Thien).

As a practicing teacher and teacher educator, I recognize this is complicated work. My goal is to add to and even begin further conversations with those of us who are in the trenches of teaching.

I hope you'll join me for my January 17 webinar, Transforming Reader Identity: Positive Approaches to Literacy for Older Readers, during which I'll share strategies and ideas you can use in your classroom now. You can register here.


About the Author
Jason Dehart
Dr. Jason DeHart
Teacher, Wilkes Central High School, Wilkesboro, NC

Dr. Jason D. DeHart is a teacher at Wilkes Central High School in North Carolina, and was an assistant professor of reading education at Appalachian State University. DeHart's research interests include multimodal literacy, including film and graphic novels, and literacy instruction with adolescents. He taught middle grades English/Language Arts for eight years and continues to work to keep current with trends in education. DeHart’s work has recently appeared in SIGNAL Journal, English Journal, and The Social Studies, and he has a co-edited the volume, Connecting Theory and Practice in Middle School Literacy, to be released by Routledge later this year. He is passionate about literacy, inclusivity, engaged reading, and authentic writing practices.

Learn more about Dr. Jason DeHart