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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

You can't give 'Hop on Pop' to a 7th-grader

Middle schoolers who read at the first, second and third-grade level won't read "baby books" and can't read grade-level books, says Louise Baigelman. They need to learn foundational skills from books geared to their interests, she tells Michael Horn on his Future of Education blog.

"The Driving Test" is written at a fourth-grade reading level.

After teaching beginning readers in middle school, Baigelman founded Story Shares. Books feature teenage characters and situations. Photographs make the books "look more like a graphic novel that maybe your peer is reading," she says. Decodable texts are combined "into a chapter book so that they feel like a YA novel, but each chapter is on a discrete sound or skill that they're practicing." "Charlie" (a girl) has to choose whether she prefers "Chuck" or "Chase."

Many of the authors, who come from around the world, are dyslexia specialists, she says.

Two-thirds of fourth-graders aren't proficient in reading, according to the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report card, says Baigelman. That includes students with learning issues, immigrants who aren't fluent in English and students who "haven't been exposed to the right instruction early on."

Students who struggle with reading fall behind in science, social studies and all their other courses as they move through school, she says. Teachers aren't trained in how to teach upper-elementary, middle- and high-school students who can't read.

My uncle taught reading to Army recruits in Arkansas during World War II, before going off to (almost) invade Japan. They loved the Army's "Cowboy Bob" books.

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