How do we determine if a reader is dependent?
The secondary students are screened for reading difficulties with a short reading assessment that enables us to not only quickly determine which students need help but also determine what areas to focus on to help them.
The dependent readers receive small group instruction to address their specific reading challenges, to re-establish a positive relationship with reading, and to develop positive reading habits. The students meet with the reading specialist twice a week for 30 minutes sometimes alone or with other students with similar reading difficulties.
How do we get rid of the stigma?
One particularly challenging aspect of working with older students is that they might be extremely reluctant to receive support and they can be very self-conscious about coming to reading support sessions. Luckily, the school philosophy of inclusion and caring hearts makes it unlikely that NISC students will be stigmatized by their classmates. Also, I assess many secondary students, so it isn’t unusual for me to ask a student to come read with me.
In addition, I make sure my students know that while they are with me no one will laugh at them for reading a word incorrectly. Reading support sessions are a safe zone where mistakes are an opportunity to work on something together. Parents can also help their child who is receiving reading support by being positive and encouraging about their extra reading sessions.
How do readers become independent?
There are many things that I try to teach my students to help them with their reading, but the two most important ideas are: 1) that they need to become independent readers that can read a text without any assistance, and 2) that they need to read for meaning.
Students need to acquire the tools that make them independent readers. It has been shown that reading strategies need to be explicitly taught (Rupley) and simply reading together will not improve a student’s reading abilities. Reading is like learning a sport. One must learn the techniques then practice them until one can perfect them. Students also need to focus on understanding what they are reading.
The goal of reading is not to simply decode the words but to truly understand what the author is trying to tell the reader. Inference or determining the deeper meaning of a text is the most problematic skill for my dependent readers. All our reading support sessions are designed to enable students to be independent readers and to determine the deeper meaning of a text.