A renewed emphasis on literacy in middle school is catching reading problems among seventh graders and having positive results at bringing them to grade level.

Soft SkillsThe Houston Independent School District has identified a problem among middle school students. 12 percent of the students at Fondren Middle School are reading at a second grade level or below.  51 percent read at a third to fifth grade level.  According to principal Monique Lewis, 63 percent of all her students are reading below grade level.

How do students who read at no more than a second grade level make it to sixth grade?

“I can’t concern myself with how it happens,” Lewis said.  “I would waste a significant amount of time doing that. If I start pointing fingers and pulling my hair out trying to figure out how did you get to sixth grade without learning how to read, it wastes too much time.”

The school is adopting the district’s Literacy in the Middle program.  Fondren sets aside a block of time each day for extra emphasis on reading and writing.  There isn’t much teacher lecturing, and students are encouraged to participate in discussions.  Teachers read to students, and ask questions about what they have read. In addition, other core subjects are taught at grade level, but they have reading material available at the lower grade level of reading proficiency so that students can learn without reading being an obstacle.  They read for information, and grow stronger with the skill.

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