High interest, low readability

high low 300x300 High interest, low readabilityOne of the perennial struggles of teaching deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students is finding texts of interest for struggling older readers — high interest, low readability, as they are called. Not to get too research-y here, but studies show that the average DHH student graduates from high school reading at a fourth grade level. This is problematic for a whole host of reasons, but an immediate concern for teachers is finding books that are readable for their students and appropriate for their age and maturity level.

As I wrote about previously, one solution to this is the use of graphic literature — the pictures can support comprehension, and dialogue bubbles make interactions between characters clear for the reader. Many challenging texts have been translated into graphic literature format, which makes them easy to add to your classroom library. However, I don’t want to be too reliant on this as my go-to solution. I want my students to read more traditional texts alongside graphic literature.

There are some publishers who work specifically on high interest, low readability texts like HIP (High Interest Publishing), and High Noon books, and while these can be a very helpful addition to a classroom library, I typically find books written with the express purpose of being high interest, low readability to suffer in quality. These books are not written by a children’s literature author for the purpose of telling a compelling and meaningful story, these books are written with controlled syntax and vocabulary in mind.

So what is a Deaf Education teacher to do? I’ve experimented with building libraries of books on the same topic but written at different levels (in another life, I had a whole job where I went through a DHH school’s science curriculum and located books written on various levels addressing the same content), and I think there are some great authors out there who write very readable and compelling texts that do not talk down to the reader (Mo Willems, for example, although even with how smart the Pigeon, and Piggy and Elephant books are, I’m still not sure they’d be well-received among high school students).

What other strategies have you found for locating texts that are readable for our most struggling of readers, but on par with their age? Is there a series or publisher or author out there that I haven’t come across yet?

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Jessica Scott About Jessica Scott

Jessica Scott is an applied instructor in Deaf Education at the University of Tulsa and a previous high school teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students at the Alaska State School for the Deaf.

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