Empowering Struggling Readers

Practices for the Middle Grades

Leigh A. Hall, Leslie D. Burns, and Elizabeth Carr Edwards

Paperbacke-bookprint + e-book
November 29, 2010
ISBN 9781609180232
Price: $31.00 $23.25
238 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"
March 8, 2011
ePub ?
Price: $31.00 $23.25
238 Pages
print + e-book
Paperback + e-Book (ePub) ?
Price: $62.00 $34.10
238 Pages

This book provides classroom-tested methods for engaging struggling middle grade readers—even those who appear to have given up—and fostering their success. The emphasis is on constructing respectful, encouraging learning environments that incorporate students' diverse literacies, cultural interests, and prior knowledge and skills into instruction. Chapters outline effective, innovative strategies for instruction and assessment in comprehension, vocabulary, text-based discussion, critical reading, and other core areas. Realistic classroom examples are included throughout, including applications of nontraditional texts. Other useful features include reflection questions at the end of each chapter.

Winner—Literacy Research Association's Edward B. Fry Book Award

“Each chapter is richly informative and well documented and describes how traditional approaches have inhibited struggling students from learning while providing vignettes of innovative ways to draw students into being more active participants. References to research and scholarly work are embedded throughout the chapters, providing substantial evidence to support the challenge of instructional change....This book would also serve well as a course text in an undergraduate education program on teaching adolescent readers....This book sets the groundwork in initiating a classroom climate where everyone is seen as capable of becoming a better reader.”

Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy

“Recommended. Undergraduates and above.”


“Finally, a book on struggling readers that eschews deficit models and incorporates students' funds of knowledge into the classroom. The authors provide a framework for envisioning instruction that welcomes students into the classroom community, instead of viewing them as people who need to be fixed. They encourage teachers to become more conscious in their assumptions, language choices, and practices—and to share these with the students. This is an ideal text for English language arts methods courses; experienced teachers will also find it useful and encouraging.”

—W. Douglas Baker, PhD, Department of English Language and Literature, Eastern Michigan University

“The emphasis on culture sets this book head and shoulders above others that focus on teaching young adolescent readers. While addressing vocabulary, assessment, text selection, and other core topics, the book clearly and engagingly illustrates the significance of students' cultural lives in the classroom. I would definitely use this text in a course on teaching middle grades or secondary reading. Students will benefit from the sociocultural stance and the classroom-ready approaches discussed.”

—Bob Fecho, PhD, Department of Language and Literacy Education, University of Georgia

“This book reminds teachers that students who struggle with academic reading are likely to be reading on their own, but with different texts. Respecting what diverse learners bring to the classroom, and capitalizing on their interests and skills, will build their confidence, motivate them to improve their reading, and enhance content learning. This is a great resource for prospective and practicing middle school reading teachers.”

—Kay Parks Haas, MA, instructional projects specialist, Olathe District Schools, Kansas

“This book takes the research on adolescent readers and puts it to use where the rubber meets the road! The authors treat struggling students as people who want to read and learn, rather than just 'nonreaders.' At each step along the way, teachers are encouraged to reflect on how they might integrate or modify their instruction using the research and strategies discussed. The information in this book can make you a more confident, empathic, and successful teacher.”

—Brandon Abdon, MEd, English teacher, Ft. Thomas (Kentucky) Public Schools, and President, Kentucky Council of Teachers of English

Table of Contents

1. Who Are Struggling Readers?

2. Promoting Disciplinary Reading Practices in English Language Arts

3. Designing Classroom Environments That Support Literacy Development

4. Engaging and Motivating Marginalized Readers

5. Assessing Reading Performance and Students’ Funds of Knowledge

6. Implementing Reading Comprehension Strategies

7. Using Young Adult Literature to Promote Comprehension with Struggling Readers, Lisa Scherff

8. Culturally Grounded Vocabulary Instruction

9. Fostering Discussions about Texts

10. Reading Texts on the Internet

11. Using Nonprint Media and Texts to Support Marginalized Readers, Stergios G. Botzakis

12. Relevant Curriculum and Policy for Middle School Struggling Readers

13. Conclusion: Promising Readers, David W. Moore

About the Authors

Leigh A. Hall, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Literacy Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a former middle school English and social studies teacher who worked in Houston, Texas. Dr. Hall is the recipient of the Early Career Achievement Award from the National Reading Conference/Literacy Research Association. Her research addresses issues relevant to adolescent literacy, struggling readers, middle school education, and teacher education.
Leslie D. Burns, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Literacy at the University of Kentucky and a former English language arts teacher who worked in rural Kansas schools. Dr. Burns focuses his studies on research-based standards for literacy and teacher education. He chaired the Conference on English Education’s (CEE) Task Force for Political Action in Education Reform, serves on the CEE’s Standards Task Force, and chairs the English Education Program at the University of Kentucky.
Elizabeth Carr Edwards, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Literacy in the Department of Curriculum, Foundations, and Reading at Georgia Southern University, where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses. Previously, she taught elementary school for 7 years. Dr. Edwards's research and publications focus on elementary and middle grades vocabulary development and sociocultural pedagogical theory.


English/language arts teachers in grades 6–9, reading specialists and coaches, and teacher educators.

Course Use

May serve as a text in such courses as Adolescent Literacy, Teaching English Language Arts, and Reading Methods in the Middle Grades.