Reading & Literacy

Book Describes How Students with Learning Disabilities Read

By Mary Ann Zehr — December 28, 2009 1 min read

I take my holiday stocking cap off to Beth Fertig for writing a book that shows what it takes for some students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, to be taught to read. I’ve almost finished reading why cant u teach me 2 read?, a 2009 book about three young adults who graduated from or spent several years in New York City high schools without being able to read. The three students, all children of Dominican immigrants, win from the school system payment for one-on-one tutoring by private education centers. (See a Q & A with the author and USA Today‘s take on the book here.)

But with the tutoring, the struggle has only begun for these three adults. Fertig, a reporter for WNYC radio, obviously spent hours observing in classrooms in the school system and in the private education centers documenting how educators systematically try to address students’ learning difficulties, which can be a very tedious process.

The book includes more description of reading instruction than any book I’ve ever read. It’s particularly interesting how she describes tutoring and speech therapy sessions with Yamilka. The young woman desperately wants to be a reader but has a host of challenges, such as not being able to hear certain sounds in words, let alone sound them out when she sees printed words before her.

Fertig addresses a lot of big-picture issues regarding reading nationwide, such as whether school districts use direct instruction, where reading instruction is prescribed, or “balanced literacy,” where teachers have a lot of choice in the books read by their students. But where the book makes a wonderful contribution is in showing what happens between teachers and students who are at risk of not learning to read because of special challenges.

I can now see why some people say “reading is rocket science.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.