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TNLI: Action Research: Curriculum Implementation: Reducing “Alliteracy” in High School Students


How can teachers and librarians reduce alliteracy in high schools?


This 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.

I 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?

Literature 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.

During 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 assessment.
  • Once those students are identified, someone needs to work one-on-one with them to connect them to a book…any book.
  • Teachers 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 curriculum.
  • Students need to spend time talking about books, using guided activities such as Book Pass and book clubs.

Full Study
Coming Soon!

Joanne Collison

Secondary English
Woodbridge High School

TNLI Affiliate:

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute--Delaware, please e-mail Michael Rasmussen.



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