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Volume 15, Number 4
July/August 1999

Johnny Still Can't Read?

Why high school students aren't developing the reading skills they need—and what some researchers suggest to solve this growing problem


Each fall, Anna Lobianco, a reading specialist at Bread and Roses Integrated Arts High School in New York City, gives a reading test to the 90 incoming 9th-graders. As part of the assessment, she interviews the students about their attitudes toward reading and how they handle problems that arise while reading.

"I get the exact same responses from kids every year," says Lobianco. "They hate reading. It's just a labor." Of the students Lobianco screens, almost one-third are identified for inclusion in her remedial reading class.

"A question I always ask kids is what do you do when you come to a word you don't know," she continues. "They all say the same thing: 'I look it up in the dictionary.' They don't have any [other] strategies for reading. They don't have the 'skip it, try to figure it out and come back to it later' type strategies."

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

Boys Town Reading Center, Father Flanagan's Boys' Home, Boys Town, Nebraska 68010.

M.E. Curtis and A.M. Longo. When Adolescents Can't Read: Methods and Materials that Work. Cambridge, MA: Brookline Books, 1999.

C. Cziko. "Reading Happens in Your Mind, Not Your Mouth." California English 3, no. 4 (Summer 1998): 6-7.

P. Donahue, K. Voelkl, J. Campbell, and J. Mazzeo. NAEP 1998 Reading Report Card for the Nation and the States. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, March 1999.

Guide to the Reading Wars
, a collection of documents and articles on the MiddleWeb site. Funded by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, MiddleWeb provides information on middle school reform.

D. G. O'Brien, R. A. Stewart, and E.B. Moje. "Why Content Literacy Is Difficult to Infuse into the Secondary School: Complexities of Curriculum, Pedagogy, and School Culture." Reading Research Quarterly 30, no. 3 (July/August/ September 1995): 442-463.

The Strategic Literacy Initiative, WestEd, 730 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA 94107.

R.T. Vacca. "Let's Not Marginalize Adolescent Literacy." Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 41, no. 8 (May 1998): 604-609.