Struggling Readers and Content Area Text: Interactions with and Perceptions of Comprehension, Self, and Success

This year-long case study examines how a struggling reader in a sixth-grade social studies class, a seventh grade mathematics class, and an eighth grade science class “transacted” with the reading task demands of her specific classroom. Through regular classroom observations and interviews, the researcher documents how each student responded to and worked with text and reading instruction provided by her respective content area teacher.

The results suggest that each student attempted to be engaged with text as much as possible and was interested in learning course content. However, the ways in which the students approached text was heavily influenced by how she saw herself as a reader. Students who believed they could comprehend a piece of text were more willing to engage with it than if they believed it was too difficult. However, even when a student chose not to read a portion of text, she considered other ways in which she might learn the content being presented. Overall, the results suggest that there is more to working with struggling readers than considering the type of instruction they need. The case presented here suggests that teachers and researchers need to find ways to understand the connections between identity and instruction.

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Published in Research in Middle Level Education Online, 2005