Planting the Roots of Reading Sophistication. (Language Arts)

Article excerpt

It's probably not an accident that most writing for the general public has a middle school reading level. "Reading instruction gets a great deal of attention in elementary schools, [but] it seems to be overlooked for students in the middle grades. A good start is critical, but not sufficient," says Debby Kasak, president of the National Middle School Association.

That's why educators, policy makers and the community are being urged to place greater priority on reading instruction in middle schools. Middle school is when "most students extend their reading abilities, become sophisticated readers of informational texts and lay the groundwork for using reading in their professional and civic lives," says Donna Ogle, president of the International Reading Association, which has teamed with the NMSA in this mission.

A position paper adopted by both groups calls on schools to provide:

* Continuous reading instruction for all young adolescents. This requires a school, or district-wide, literacy learning plan

* Individual instruction. Because students arrive at middle school with a range of backgrounds, teachers must be prepared to offer individualized reading instruction. Reading specialists should provide intervention programs for struggling readers

* Adequate assessments. Large-scale assessment programs focusing on comparisons of student groups across districts, states and nations are not enough. These measures must be supported by strong informal, classroom-based reading assessments

* Ready access to a wide variety of print and non-print resources. In addition to offering opportunities for students to choose engaging reading materials, educators should model reading in various forms

Districts and policymakers are urged to provide the funding needed for schools to act on these guidelines, specifically for literacy programs, reading materials, staff development and new teacher mentoring activities. …