Monday, January 23, 2012

On the Journey to Read: Part 2 (Adult Literacy and Teaching Struggling Readers)

I have blogged before about my experiences tutoring a 60-year-old man who can't read. In fact, his reading level was so low when I started working with him that he couldn't read sight words such as "and," "to," and "the," let alone sound out simple decodable words such as "bag" and "dad." I have been working with this gentleman for several weeks now, and as of two weeks ago, he has begun to read. Two weeks ago I had an experience that I wish everyone could experience: He read a short story for the first himself. He wished that his long-time friend could've been there to hear him, he said. Since that time, his spirits have been high, and his motivation is off the charts. He even suggests material and strategies he could work on at home independently in between our visits. He is also learning computer literacy as he is just beginning the Reading Horizons software program. I wish everyone could have the opportunity to witness growth like I do in my friend who is on his journey to read. (See my previous blog posts about tutoring here: On the Journey to ReadTeaching the Homeless to Read, and Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2011: Teaching Struggling Readers.)

I have a colleague that recently blogged about her experience with adult literacy efforts, as well. See her post here. I think she, along with anyone else out there involved in teaching someone how to read, would agree that this is an incredibly rewarding experience.

If there is any interest among any of you reading this post in getting involved in adult literacy or tutoring struggling readers (since I've had some ask), here are a few places to start:
1) Visit the free Online Workshop to learn strategies for teaching literacy. On that link, you can also print out a syllabus to use for a systematic teaching sequence.
2) Make a plan for ways to get involved in literacy efforts in your area. For ideas, read my blog posts about how to get involved in adult literacy here: Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2011: Teaching Struggling Readers and Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2010.
3) View free webinars available online that are of interest to you for additional training and resources. Free webinars are available on the Reading Horizons webinar page, including ELL Emerging Literacy: What We Know; What You Can Do by Robin Lovrien Schwarz (if you are working with non-native English speakers who are emerging readers, such as refugees), "What Should I Say When They Get Stuck on a Word?" by Kathleen Brown, or Developing Fluent Readers by Neil J. Anderson.
4) Search my blog for topics that are of interest to you to help you with your tutoring. For example, learn how to teach whether the vowel is long or short in a word, how to determine syllable division in multi-syllable words, and ideas for how to teach sight words. (Note that these strategies could be used for native English speakers or English Language Learners alike.) Other teaching tips to help with pronunciation and spelling are also available here.

Click here to read about the pronunciation of -ed.
Click here to read about pronouncing plurals.
Click here to read about voiced and voiceless sounds.
Click here to read about rising and falling intonation in questions.
Click here to read about syllable stress and the schwa.
Click here to read about adding the suffixes -ing, -ed, -er, and -est.
Click here to read about teaching common suffixes.
Click here to read about teaching common prefixes.
Click here to read about spelling words that end in S, F, and Z.

Feel free to share your experiences!


  1. I have been reading your blog for a couple of weeks now and love it! I am a special education teacher and I am debating whether to get my masters in early childhood special education (which has a reading endorsement with it) or get a masters in language and literacy.

    Any insights you could give as an educator would be wonderful. I would also love to come and volunteer at Reading Horizons this summer if that is possible.

    My email is

  2. Hi, Autumn! Thanks for your interest in this blog and for your contributions to education! You are certainly engaged in a noble cause. I will reach out to you so we can talk. :)