Literacy for Older Readers: Why It Is Never Too Late
by Jason DeHart, Ph.D. on January 5, 2023
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.