Finding the Right Texts

What Works for Beginning and Struggling Readers

Edited by Elfrieda H. Hiebert and Misty Sailors

September 16, 2008
ISBN 9781593858858
Price: $34.00
274 Pages
Size: 6" x 9"

Until now, no single volume has comprehensively examined the crucial question of how to select the most appropriate reading material for beginning or struggling readers. From leading authorities, this book meets an important need by reviewing the best available research on the role of specific text features—including linguistic and conceptual content—in supporting the development of proficient reading. Also explored are ways that teacher scaffolding can help students who have difficulties with particular aspects or types of texts. The book considers approaches to adapting the design and selection of texts to reinforce reading skills and provide well-paced challenges for K–6 students at a variety of ability levels.

Finding the Right Texts marks a watershed in early reading instruction. Over the past few years, our collective scholarship has restored text to its rightful—and central—role as a major factor in explaining both success and failure in learning to read, particularly for those students who depend on schools to learn to read. Read this wonderful volume, and you'll never look at a text the same way again.”

—P. David Pearson, PhD, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley

“Wow! This is truly a masterful collection from a 'dream team' of researchers. Instructors can use this book to teach preservice teachers and graduate students how to evaluate core reading programs. Curriculum directors, administrators, and classroom teachers will find guidelines for selecting well-designed programs that will bring about results for all students. The essential guidelines in these pages could also help publishers develop better texts for beginning or struggling readers.”

—Lynette Block, MEd, Nebraska Reading First Director, Nebraska Department of Education

“Anyone who works with teachers to improve reading instruction will be hungry for this book. The very well-respected editors and contributors give us research-based answers to the question of why texts are often so hard for students to read. They provide well-articulated remedies that will benefit all students, especially English language learners and at-risk readers. This book is substantive, engaging, and a delight to read and ponder. It gives professional development providers, coaches, reading specialists, and teacher educators important knowledge for helping teachers plan the best instruction they can with the materials available to them.”

—Kathy Harris, instructional coach, Piner–Olivet Union School District, Santa Rosa, California

“This book could become a classic. It provides clear information on what makes texts difficult for students and what teachers can do about it.”

—Richard L. Allington, PhD, Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher Education, University of Tennessee

Table of Contents

1. The (Mis)Match between Texts and Students Who Depend on Schools to Become Literate, Elfrieda H. Hiebert

I. Frameworks for Creating and Selecting Instructional Texts

2. Decodable Text: Why, When, and How?, Marilyn Jager Adams

3. Repetition of Words: The Forgotten Variable in Texts for Beginning and Struggling Readers, Elfrieda H. Hiebert and Leigh Ann Martin

4. The Challenges of Developing Leveled Texts in and for Developing Countries: The Ithuba Writing Project in South Africa, Misty Sailors, James V. Hoffman, and Mark W.F. Condon

II. Addressing the Content of Texts for Beginning and Struggling Readers: The Role of Informational Texts

5. Text in Hands-On Science, Gina N. Cervetti and Jacqueline Barber

6. Informational Text Difficulty for Beginning Readers, Nell K. Duke and Alison K. Billman

7. Text Modification: Enhancing English Language Learners' Reading Comprehension, Young-Suk Kim and Catherine E. Snow

III. Instructional Strategies for Adapting Texts for Beginning and Struggling Readers

8. Text–Reader Matching: Meeting the Needs of Struggling Readers, Heidi Anne E. Mesmer and Staci Cumming

9. Placing and Pacing Beginning Readers in Texts: The Match between Texts and Children's Knowledge of Words, Kathleen J. Brown

10. When the "Right Texts" Are Difficult for Struggling Readers, Alison K. Billman, Katherine Hilden, and Juliet L. Halladay

11. Teaching Adolescents Who Struggle with Text: Research and Practice, Mary E. Curtis

IV. Pulling It Together

12. Teachers Using Texts: Where We Are and What We Need, Anne McGill-Franzen

About the Editors

Elfrieda H. Hiebert, PhD, is CEO and President of TextProject, Inc. She has worked in the field of early reading acquisition for more than 40 years as a classroom teacher, teacher educator, and researcher. Her research, which addresses how fluency, vocabulary, and knowledge can be fostered through appropriate texts, has been published in numerous scholarly journals and books. Dr. Hiebert’s contributions to research and practice have been recognized with such honors as the Research to Practice Award from the American Educational Research Association and the Oscar S. Causey Award from the Literacy Research Association.

Misty Sailors, PhD, is Associate Professor of Literacy Education in the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her current research focuses on the instruction that surrounds elementary classroom texts, teacher education, and language policies related to reading instruction in international settings. Dr. Sailors is the Primary Investigator of a Teacher Quality Professional Development Reading grant. She also directs a project to develop reading and content-area materials for elementary learners in South Africa, funded by the United States Agency for International Development. Dr. Sailors is a recipient of the President’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching Excellence from the University of Texas at San Antonio and the Recognition Award for Emerging Scholars from the American Association of University Women.


Marilyn Jager Adams, PhD, Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Jacqueline Barber, PhD, Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley, California

Alison K. Billman, MEd, Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

Kathleen J. Brown, PhD, University of Utah Reading Clinic, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah

Gina N. Cervetti, PhD, Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley, California

Mark W. F. Condon, PhD, Reale Studios, Louisville, Kentucky

Staci Cumming, PhD, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, Oklahoma

Mary E. Curtis, PhD, Center for Special Education, Lesley University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Nell K. Duke, PhD, Literacy Achievement Research Center, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

Juliet L. Halladay, MA Ed, Teacher Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan

Elfrieda H. Hiebert, PhD, Graduate School of Education, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California

Katherine Hilden, BA, College of Education and Human Development, Radford University, Radford, Virginia

James V. Hoffman, PhD, Department of Communication and Instruction, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas

Young-Suk Kim, EdD, School of Teacher Education, Florida State University, and Florida Center for Reading Research, Tallahassee, Florida

Anne McGill-Franzen, PhD, Reading Education, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee

Leigh Ann Martin, MA, TextProject, Graduate School of Education, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, California

Heidi Anne E. Mesmer, PhD, Department of Teaching and Learning, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia

Misty Sailors, PhD, Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas

Catherine E. Snow, PhD, Language and Literacy, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, Massachusetts


Teacher educators, reading researchers, reading specialists, staff developers; also of interest to K–12 teachers.

Course Use

May serve as a text in graduate-level courses such as Text Selection, Reading Methods and Materials, and Psychology of Reading.