What Research Says About Teaching Adults to Read

Teacher teaching two women to readResearch conducted by the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy indicates that:5

  • Low and beginning-level students need direct, systematic, and sequential instruction in phonemic awareness and word recognition skills, and
  • Intermediate-level students, who comprise the largest percentage of adult students, have learned some word attack skills and know basic phonics, but they do not make strong use of those skills. They need to increase fluency, build vocabulary, and enhance background knowledge typically learned in middle school.

In addition, fluency and comprehension improve with repeated oral readings of familiar material. Instructors should not ask learners to read unpracticed material aloud. Instead, instructors should allow learners to practice, understand, and feel comfortable with what they are reading before asking them to face an audience.6

For a compendium of current information about how adults learn to read, review the publication Research-based Principles for Adult Basic Education Reading Instruction, produced by the Partnership for Reading and written by John Kriudenier at http://www.nifl.gov/partnershipforreading/.

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