Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Part II: Aliteracy Vs. Illiteracy

Last week I summarized Kylene Beers research on the continuum of readers. At the end I asked some questions regarding instruction on each type of reader. Turns out Dr. Beers followed with another article detailing tips and techniques to working with aliterate students.

“We must realize that whatever motivates an avid or dormant reader probably won’t motivate an uncommitted or unmotivated student. Motivating Readers (p. 112) reveals the same activities that encourage readers in fact discourages nonreaders, intimidating them and confirming negative feelings. The activities that uncommitted or unmotivated readers preferred were limited, but specific” (Beers, 1996, p.111).

1. Personal Choice – They want to choose their own books from a limited selection. They were wary of being overwhelmed with a large library.

2. Nonfiction – Many reluctant readers prefer nonfiction over fiction.

3. Illustrations – Pictures and illustrations were very important to these students. Time again they shared that without the pictures they would not know what is going on.

4. Movies – Preferred to see the movie first, then read the book.

5. Read aloud – Having the teacher read aloud an entire book. Avid readers indicated they liked being read aloud to as well, but not for the whole book.

6. Art activities – Students indicated they wanted to draw, act out, make a puppet or do something to make a connection to the printed word.

7. Magazines – Uncommitted and unmotivated students saw themselves as nonreaders, but in fact that wasn’t true. While they did not carry around a typical novel, they did like magazines, how to books, comics, reference books, and informational books.

This list of tips and techniques is reminiscent of the summary of research on boys and literacy I shared a very weeks ago. It points to a need to expand our view of reading beyond a novel, to help students see themselves as readers regarding whatever their personal choice of reading material, to use active reading activities especially ones that develop a visual representation of the text to build readers. It also points to the need for the need for differentiation for avid, dormant, uncommitted, and unmotivated readers.

But to do all that we need to really know our students as readers, not just test scores!

Beers, G. K. (1996). No time, no interest, no way: Three voices of aliteracy part 2. School Library Journal, 42(3) pp. 110-113

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Aliteracy Vs. Illiteracy


Kylene Beers, as part of a research study, observed two 7th grade classrooms for one year. Through discussions regarding attitudes and habits as readers, she developed a typology of a reader.

“It was easy to identify readers at both ends of the spectrum; they readily fit the academic and social descriptions others have provided. It was more difficult to classify the aliterate readers. In fact, I found grouping them under one term – aliterate – was inaccurate because because they gave different reasons for not reading. Understanding these reasons eventually led me to three distinct types of aliterate readers: Dormant, Uncommitted, and Unmotivated” (Beers, 1996, p. 31).


I have been pondering this information for awhile. It makes me wonder who the students are in remedial classes. Are they illiterate or aliterate? How would we know or are we focuses exclusively on test scores? Are instructional strategies the same for each type of reader? Are there a disproportionate number of boys in the aliterate category? How can we help aliterate students see beyond the function to the beauty of reading?

Beers, G. K. (1996). No time, no interest, no way: Three voices of aliteracy. School Library Journal, 42(2), pp.30-33.