When Kids Can't Read: What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12


For Kylene Beers, the question of what to do when kids can't read surfaced abruptly in 1979 when she began teaching. That year, she discovered that some of the students in her seventh-grade language arts classes could pronounce all the words, but couldn't make any sense of the text. Others couldn't even pronounce the words. And that was the year she met a boy named George.

George couldn't read. When George's parents asked her to explain what their son's reading difficulties were...

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For Kylene Beers, the question of what to do when kids can't read surfaced abruptly in 1979 when she began teaching. That year, she discovered that some of the students in her seventh-grade language arts classes could pronounce all the words, but couldn't make any sense of the text. Others couldn't even pronounce the words. And that was the year she met a boy named George.

George couldn't read. When George's parents asked her to explain what their son's reading difficulties were and what she was going to do to help, Kylene, a secondary certified English teacher with no background in reading, realized she had little to offer the parents, even less to offer their son. That defining moment sent her on a twenty-three-year search for answers to that original question: how do we help middle and high schoolers who can't read?

Now in her critical and practical text When Kids Can't Read - What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12, Kylene shares what she has learned and shows teachers how to help struggling readers with

  • comprehension
  • vocabulary
  • fluency
  • word recognition
  • motivation
Here, Kylene offers teachers the comprehensive handbook they've needed to help readers improve their skills, their attitudes, and their confidence. Filled with student transcripts, detailed strategies, reproducible material, and extensive booklists, this much-anticipated guide to teaching reading both instructs and inspires.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“If I had to recommend just one book to middle and secondary teachers working to support struggling readers, this would have to be the book. When Kids Cant Read, What Teachers Can Do is a comprehensive handbook filled with practical strategies that teachers of all subjects can use to make reading skills transparent and accessible to adolescents. Blending theory with practice throughout, Kylene Beers moves teachers from assessment to instruction from describing dependent reading behaviours to suggesting ways to help students with vocabulary, fluency, comprehension, word recognition, response to text, and so much more. But its not just the strategies that make this book so valuable. Its the invitations to step inside a classroom and eavesdrop on teacher/student interactions. Its the student profiles, the if/then charts, the extensive booklists and, of course, the experiences of a brilliant reading teacher. This is simply the best book published to date to support struggling adolescent readers!”–Gillda Leitenberg,District-wide Coordinator, English/LiteracyToronto District School Board
This newest book by the author of Into Focus: Understanding and Creating Middle School Readers (Christopher Gordon, 1998/VOYA December 1998) should be required reading for all current English teachers and those preparing for the profession. It is the culmination of Beers's twenty-three years in the classroom, about half of which have been spent working specifically with struggling readers. Most secondary English teachers do not plan to teach kids how to read; they expect to assign classic novels and discuss literature. Beers held this ideal as she began her first teaching assignment, but she was quickly disillusioned. Many of her students hated to read, and a large number of them could not read. Her inability that first year to help one particular student named George was the catalyst by which she became an advocate for struggling readers. Each of the fifteen chapters begins and ends with a note to George, which adds a poignant tone to the author's message. Beers provides teaching strategies and activities, along with the rationale behind them. While admitting that it takes time, practice, and dedication, she never asks teachers to do anything she has not already tested herself. Worth mentioning is Beers's underlying premise that all readers are struggling in some way. The key is to become an independent struggling reader, one who possesses the tools to meet the challenge of any type of text. Not only can struggling readers improve but good readers can as well. As this reviewer, also a high school English teacher of twenty-three years, discovered, Beers offers real answers rather than just educational theories. 2003, Heinemann, 368p,
— Kim Zach
Kylene Beers, a teacher with over 20 years of experience in the classroom, is an expert in the field of struggling readers. This guide for teachers for grades 6-12 is an excellent resource in helping teachers identify problems and in offering practical solutions. The underlying premise of her work is her belief that "first, teachers want to help the struggling readers who sit in their classrooms; second, those students want to be helped; and third, the right instruction can make a difference." The book is organized in a highly effective manner. There are a few chapters devoted to analyzing the process of reading and understanding what independent readers do effortlessly and what dependent readers need to learn to do. Several chapters deal with comprehension strategies. Other chapters deal with vocabulary, word recognition, fluency, automaticity, spelling, and finding the right books to use. Therefore, teachers who are looking for ways to help a student with a specific problem are easily able to locate a relevant section of the text. In addition to a sizable list of references for further study, there are 14 appendices covering almost 70 pages that should prove helpful to many. Among these are a list of common roots, prefixes and suffixes, a list of phonics generalizations, and a list of common spelling rules. Beers insists that simply telling struggling readers, "Just do it," is not acceptable: "We must show students how to do it." This is not solely the responsibility of a reading specialist. Beers equips all middle and secondary level teachers with specific strategies that work, and following her own advice, shows them how to use these strategies. Many chapters include a section called"Step Inside a Classroom" in which she presents transcripts of classroom dialogue between a teacher and a student to illustrate a certain technique such as helping students make inferences. Another strategy Beers uses is a section of "Questions and Answers" in which she tries to anticipate questions that teachers may have and provide responses. Additionally, there are a number of charts, forms, and illustrations that facilitate the teaching of a particular reading skill. For example, the form, "Most Important Word," is shown filled in by a student in response to a poem. This form is found in a reproducible format in an appendix. This guide is certain to provide teachers with a number of new approaches to reach the struggling reader. It challenges teachers to take more responsibility for making dependent readers independent. KLIATT Codes: P—Recommended. 2003, Heinemann, 392p. illus. bibliog. index., Pucci
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780867095197
  • Publisher: Heinemann
  • Publication date: 10/22/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 95,089
  • Age range: 11 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Kylene Beers, Ed.D., is a former middle school teacher who has turned her commitment to adolescent literacy and struggling readers into the major focus of her research, writing, speaking, and teaching. She is author of the best-selling When Kids Can't Read/What Teachers Can Do, co-editor (with Bob Probst and Linda Rief) of Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice, and co-author (with Bob Probst) of Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading, all published by Heinemann. She taught in the College of Education at the University of Houston, served as Senior Reading Researcher at the Comer School Development Program at Yale University, and most recently acted as the Senior Reading Advisor to Secondary Schools for the Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College. Kylene has published numerous articles in state and national journals, served as editor of the national literacy journal, Voices from the Middle, and was the 2008-2009 President of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is an invited speaker at state, national, and international conferences and works with teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools across the US. Kylene has served as a consultant to the National Governor's Association and was the 2011 recipient of the Conference on English Leadership outstanding leader award.
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Table of Contents

A Defining Moment

Creating Independent Readers

Assessing Dependent Readers' Needs

Explicit Instruction in Comprehension

Helping Students Make Inferences

Frontloading Meaning: Pre-reading Activities

Constructing Meaning: During-Reading Activities

Extending Meaning: After-Reading Activities


Fluency and Automaticity

Word Recognition


Creating the Confidence to Respond

Finding the Right Book

A Final Letter to George Appendixes

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2010

    Great for English Teachers

    This book has so many great ideas for English teachers to use in their classrooms. I'm not a big fan of professional books, but I really liked this one. It was honest and straight to-the-point. There was also clear reasoning behind every suggestion the book made. I feel as though I could run a good classroom based on this book alone.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    Excellent and essential to teaching modern reading.

    Insightful writing on how teachers should rethink their teaching to upgrade literacy in this country. Essential for parents and new teachers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2004

    This is a life altering book

    This book has definitely changed my thinking about the teaching of reading. I have read other books which began a process of change for me but this book crystallized my thinking. I finally get it and I hope to make a difference for every student.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2003

    A Must Read for Teachers

    This is the most practical application of research into reading I have ever seen. It helps you understand the difficulties students are having and gives you specific techniques and lesson ideas to help them confront those difficulties.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2003


    This book has completely revolutionized the way that I teach my kids! This is a fantastic book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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