Teaching Reading to Students with Learning Difficulties

By Sze, Susan | Reading Improvement, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Teaching Reading to Students with Learning Difficulties


Sze, Susan, Reading Improvement


Learning disabilities affect many students' academic performance. One area that is particularly hindered by learning disabilities is reading skills. Students with LD may not respond to the same type of reading instruction and practice as the general education students. They may fall through the system and never achieve higher level reading skills as a result. Students learning basic reading skills can be a challenge. With a learning disability, it can be even more challenging. Reading affects a plethora of areas in life. Students with learning disabilities often fall into this category due to a lack of practice with reading and less time to focus on building skills (Hall, 2000). This paper examines the background, the relationship between reading and learning disabilities, the characteristics of students with learning disabilities and their struggles in reading, and the issue of mislabeling. The author offers treatment and assessment advice to teaching reading to students with learning disabilities.

Background

The U.S. Department of Education states that one in five American adults is functionally illiterate. This is an enormous number when we consider the population of the country and take into consideration that everyone in America is required by law to go to school. This high amount of illiteracy greatly harms the work force and increases unemployment. Virtually every job requires some type of reading. If a person is illiterate they have few options for employment.

According to Bill King (2005), the National Center for Educational Statistics' most current National Assessment of Educational Progress indicated that 28 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students cannot read. From eighth-grade on, only about 8 percent of students pick up some sort of reading skills which lowers the number to 20 percent of adults being illiterate.

Educators decide the future of our country. If the consequences of their work results in an illiterate rate that continues to remain high, the next generation may be even more affected.

There are many reasons for this illiteracy rate. Students with learning disabilities and those for whom English is not their first language are among these. Often overlooked are regular education students who are experiencing difficulty. Due to the fact that many regular education students cannot read, systems such as 'response to intervention', are being put in place to help the students that do not qualify for special education services but struggle in one aspect or another.

Educators need to focus their teaching on basic life skills, that every person needs, in order to be successful. These skills include basic reading, writing and math skills. The belief that government sanctioned assessment standards correlate to improved reading scores are proving problematic. While the state believes that, since they put in high standards to assess these skills, the students are improving; exactly the opposite is occurring. Teachers are bombarded with too much curriculum to teach in such a short length of time that the basics are often overlooked. An example of this is in 7th grade mathematics curriculum there one of the focuses is Pythagorean Theorem which most students will not use in the real world. Multiplying and dividing decimals and fractions, are skills students will actually use in the real world, are taught at a young age and quickly forgotten. If more time is spent on real world applications of content then students will be more successful in life.

Some states have such a focus on meeting the standards of the state and having the students pass the test that something was lost along the way. The thing that was lost is the foundation of all education, reading. If a student cannot read then they will struggle with every other content area. Due to a lack of funding, reading teachers are getting cut and general education teachers are looked to teach reading along with everything else the state mandates them to teach. …

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