can teachers and librarians reduce alliteracy in
action research project looks at the growing problem
of “alliteracy” (the state of being able to read
but being uninterested in doing so) in teenagers
and what teachers and school librarians can do to
fight the problem. This research establishes a clear
connection between teacher expectations and recommendations
and student independent reading performance. Using
a combination of Gates-MacGinitie defined reading
levels, Accelerated Reader diagnostic reports, and
library circulation statistics, I am able to show
that students can become literate adults.
began teaching senior English in 2001. I quickly
realized the school culture did not include an interest
in reading. While the principal mandated sustained
silent reading each day and students were required
to read ten books outside of their classroom work
over the course of the year, students were not successful
with their efforts. If my students were to be adequately
prepared for college, I needed to turn them into
readers. Because the Woodbridge School District
administers the Gates-MacGinitie test each spring,
I was able to analyze the reading levels of my students.
What I found was shocking. It wasn’t that my students
couldn’t read; instead, it appeared that they chose
not to. Most of the students who did not complete
their annual summer reading assignments tested at
a post–high school reading level. If they could
read, why were they not reading?
reviewed for the project illuminated three main
ideas. First, libraries can be intimidating to young
readers because of the seemingly unlimited number
of books on the shelves. In other words, students
don’t know how to get started when selecting a book,
so they often just give up. No book, no reading.
Next, the publication explosion in young adult literature
compounds the large numbers of books in libraries.
Additionally, most high school English teachers
do not particularly like young adult literature,
so they don’t read it. Students look to their teachers
for recommendations if teachers are unfamiliar with
new books, these recommendations are lacking. Finally,
an important revelation from the literature is that
“alliterate” readers don’t necessarily hate reading
or those students who love to read. Kylene Beers
identifies three types of “alliterate” readers:
dormant, uncommitted, and unmotivated. All English
instructors must read Beers.
the 2004–2005 school year, changes were made in
the Woodbridge library to accommodate student needs.
I added regular book discussions to planned lessons
and started an after-school book club. Both the
school librarian and I worked individually with
identified students to match books and student interests.
By the end of the year, instead of showing a 50%
reading failure rate, 57% of students in my classes
exceeded their reading expectations.
- Teachers need to identify students who can read
but don’t, through tools such as the Gates-MacGinitie
those students are identified, someone needs to
work one-on-one with them to connect them to a
need to become more familiar with young adult
literature and accept that adults and teenagers
have different likes and values.
- Teachers and librarians need to talk often about
what is happening in the classroom and what is
available in the library that would add to the
need to spend time talking about books, using
guided activities such as Book Pass and book clubs.