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A 40-ish publisher (editor, project manager, etc.), husband, and father of an even number of offspring, I grew up, or failed to, reading fantasy and sci-fi. I still enjoy reading, and now am trying to write. My favorite books include YA fantasy, manga, biography, and advice to authors. I'm also a former history major/grad student/high school teacher and assessment writer. Now I work for a school supplement publisher, specializing in high-low chapter books. I spend a lot of my time controlling reading levels. At night, I cut loose and use long words. W00t!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Never A Dull Moment: Body piercing? Extreme sports? Teen pregnancy?  Welcome to the action-packed world of hi/lo books

It's always nice to be mentioned in print, and even though it's indirect twice-over (my company, as part of a list), it can't hurt.

Michael Sullivan, in "Never A Dull Moment: Body piercing? Extreme sports? Teen pregnancy? Welcome to the action-packed world of hi/lo books,"
describes very recent changes in the world of high-interest, low-reading-level books for struggling and reluctant readers.

High Noon Books is the classroom materials imprint of Academic Therapy Publications. Our original focus, a quarter century ago, was on skill building, but the chapter books were an afterthought. The approach was to lower the bar to struggling readers' independent reading success by using frequently-occurring, and therefore more likely to be recognized, vocabulary.

Concern with reading frustration, and studies indicating a direct link with vocabulary familiarity, led us to recently adopt a strict vocabulary level and decodability formula for our hi/lo books. We also have invested a fair amount of time and energy into raising the interest level - the excitement - of our books through revision and new writing emphasizing contemporary, real-life experiences. It's hard to write about these with simple vocabulary, but I'm glad we're not the only ones trying.

As an exercise, take a page from the sequel of a novel you've been waiting to read. Copy the page, and have someone black out every twentieth word. That's 5% - the approximate border between successful independent reading and frustration, the fine line we're trying to walk, or rather write. Then read the page, and see how well you understand it.

Makes reading fun, right?

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