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How to Improve Middle School Reading Skills

by David Raudenbush

In elementary school, children unlock the secrets to decoding words and putting them together to read sentences and paragraphs. At the end of those years, they should be able to read novels and find essential information in a nonfiction text. Moving into middle school, children need the skills to dive into more sophisticated literature and grasp the content of social studies and science text books.

Middle School Readers

Apply comprehension strategies to understand a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts independently. Strategic reading begins with the ability to monitor comprehension. When readers recognize their comprehension has broken down, they should reread confusing passages, use context clues to figure out difficult words and explore the connection between what they already know to what they are trying to learn.

Make inferences, draw conclusions and read texts critically. Readers need to make inferences, combining what the text says with their background knowledge to find an implied idea. They need to recognize the important details in a text, gather the information and use it to draw conclusions. Finally, they need to look at what they read through a critical lens, deciding what to believe and what to agree with.

Develop a broader vocabulary. Middle school readers not only need to recognize challenging words, they need to use them in speech and writing. They need strategies for figuring out new words by breaking down prefixes and suffixes from base words. When possible, they should be able to find the meaning of words from context. As they read more history, science and other subject area texts, middle school students should apply the vocabulary of the content they are studying to show that they understand the ideas they have read.

Read passages fluently so that stumbling over words does not hinder finding important ideas in the text. Children need to have a degree of fluency to allow them to smoothly read a passage either to themselves or out loud. The skills necessary for fluency include proper pacing that is neither too fast nor too slow, appropriate expression volume depending on the situation and proper grouping of words together in meaningful phrases.

Items you will need
  • novels
  • short stories
  • informational texts

About the Author

David Raudenbush has more than 20 years of experience as a literacy teacher, staff developer and literacy coach. He has written for newspapers, magazines and online publications, and served as the editor of "Golfstyles New Jersey Magazine." Raudenbush holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in education.

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