Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Review of Baron (2015) Words onscreen: the fate of reading in the digital world

Professor Baron is Executive Director of the Center for Teaching, Research and Learning World Languages and Culture, at the American University in Washington DC.

She has written an extremely thought provoking book, prompted by a concern that new media for reading and communication might, "alter the very nature of human interaction," and in particular the way we read.

The book is thorough in its academic rigour, citing a wealth of useful references and documenting her own research into the reading habits and opinions of students in 3 countries.  It is also extremely readable, illustrating points with reflections on her own personal preferences when reading.

Monday, 5 October 2015

What is happening with Unravelling Reading?

Those of you who have been kind enough to subscribe to an email alert when a new post appears on this website may well be wondering where I have got to...the only explanation is that things happen and distractions take over.

However, a few things have happened this week that prompt me to resume blogging:

1.  I am two chapters away from completing Unravelling Reading the book, and those chapters happen to include technology aids and maintaining an online community...hence the need to think about the future of this website.

2.  My bid to present a poster at the BDA International Conference in Oxford , March 2016, has been accepted, so I have to make progress against the abstract I submitted.  I will test things out between now and next March on this website, and hope to entice some of you to attend the conference!

3.  I listened with interest to a radio programme Word of Mouth, hosted by the children's author, Michael Rosen. The broadcast in question on 28 September (you can "listen again" on BBC i player radio ) is entitled Reading: Print v eBooks.

This is a fascinating insight into the different types of reading experience, delving into the history of printed and electronic media, and examining preferences.  It introduced to me a book published earlier this year: Naomi S Baron (2015)Words onscreen: the fate of reading in a digital world. New York, Oxford University Press

I am half way through reading this book (on my iPad!) and it is both fascinating and at times infuriating... so hopefully my next post here will be a review of this book.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Insights from the Dyslexia Debate

Elliott, J.G. and Grigorenko, E.L (2014) The Dyslexia Debate, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

I have just finished reading this book, which, it is fair to say, has caused and possibly courted some controversy in the media as well as in academic circles and among practitioners.  Even before it was published, there were two excellent commentaries on it by academics who had clearly obtained advance copies:

Dorothy Bishop of St John's College Oxford

Anne Castles, Kevin Whedall and Mandy Nayton from universities in Australia

They are both well-reasoned arguments for why we should read the book and respect its evidence base, though not necessarily agree  with its ultimate conclusion that the term dyslexia should no longer be used.

Here are my thoughts.  You can also read some more general comments of mine on:

Elliott and Grigorenko should be commended for the thoroughness with which they review the literature on reading, touching on adults and their reading skills as well as, understandably, focussing on children.  They have refreshingly wide view of the facets of reading skill, both when considering how we assess and how we make meaningful interventions to help struggling readers.  They cover fluency, vocabulary and comprehension as well as decoding skills.  They comment that phonics is not everything, "as the use of phonics tends to be less powerful for older struggling readers" (p 957).

They have some really useful insights into the methodology for researching reading interventions, warning the researcher about large confidence intervals in standardised test scores that make it hard to judge whether an increase in test performance (which may be statistically significant) actually reflects a "real gain." They point out that teacher interventions often generate smaller effect sizes than lab-style experiments, making it hard to compare these two fields.

The book debates the tension, when designing an intervention strategy, between going for longer duration or higher intensity of instruction, rather pessimistically concluding that neither can guarantee success with older children and adolescents who are resistant to learning.  The authors seem to argue for the use of sufficiently "individualized and structured" (p 1046) programmes of support to address specific needs.  However, they conclude that there is nothing special about support that is designated dyslexia support, and are particularly down on multisensory strategies.

I applaud a book that says that the most important thing is to concentrate on developing approaches that will help a struggling reader.  However, I think their mission to discredit the term dyslexia has blinkered the authors, somewhat, to the strategies that those of us working in the field, particularly of adult dyslexia, have to offer to the reading debate!

Monday, 29 April 2013

Unravelling Reading, the book

Apologies to my regular followers that I haven't written for some time. No real excuse.  Perhaps creating new content for which will be launched soon...

Anyway, I have finally made a start on Unravelling Reading, the book, designed as a guide for practitioners supporting adult readers in the AE, FE and HE sectors.  I have written 5000 words so far of a chapter on assessment of reading and have a plan for the whole book.  I need to have written 2 chapters before i can go searching for a publisher.

I am planning to put a box with "Summary for Key Points" with each chapter - a book about supporting reading should have tools to aid readability!  I would like your opinion about whether this is best:
  • at the start of the chapter
  • at the end of the chapter
  • both
  • not at all.
Please will you all post a comment back giving your view?  Thanks.

Monday, 3 December 2012

So what did I do to support "John?"

You will remember I spent an intensive half day with "John" over half term, trying to help him with strategies to make his reading more efficient.

John likes reading fiction, but prefers to re-read familiar books.  I wanted to encourage him to be less pressurised when reading fiction compared with reading for study.  There is absolutely no reason to develop long-term recall when reading fiction, but rather to enjoy atmosphere, character, mood and story line.  I asked John to experiment with reading aloud, then silently but seeing if he heard an inner voice (not always a bad thing, especially when reading for pleasure, where you want to get inside the character).  I asked him to try reading fast and then deliberately read slowly, to see if he could savour different things.  There really is no right or wrong way to read fiction.  With some books I like to crack on at a fast pace, with other books I want to wallow slowly, like reading poetry and weighing each word.  John is a sensitive young man, and I think he has the potential to read more challenging fiction, if he continues to experiment with how to read.

Next we explored different formats for reading. 

Monday, 19 November 2012

A review of WIAT

I bought the WIAT-II UK-T assessment tool in my role as an assessor of adults with dyslexia. There had been a ruling that Exam Boards preferred having a standardised score for reading speed when granting Exam Access Arrangements.  I didn't read the specification quite closely enough and actually the norms only go up to age 16.11 for a British test sample, but it is still useful to have US normative information for guidance.

The other thing that attracted me to this test is that it has a structured way of assessing reading comprehension, based on reading extended text, rather than sentences (as in  WRAT4).  Colleagues who use the Adult Reading Test (ART) for this purpose, mention several frustrations with it.  I still use miscue analysis of reading for qualitative analysis, but on a less frequent basis.

So, some reflections: 

Update on "John"

It would be lovely to have a few more predictions on what you think I did next with John....

In the meantime, I am posting a review of WIAT, as promised