Students who are struggling readers manage to succeed in college despite their difficulties. How do they manage to overcome their reading difficulties? This study addressed this research question both quantitatively and qualitatively. The quantitative analysis of reading skill was necessary to measure and compare the fluency achievement of adult struggling readers who have succeeded in obtaining some postsecondary education with their typical adult reader peers. How fluent are these successful struggling readers, as measured by their grade level of word recognition, their reading rate and comprehension, and their performance on a lexical decision task? The qualitative survey and interviews were used to learn the reading, study, and social strategies that successful struggling readers have used to overcome their reading difficulties in college. Twenty-two self-identified adult struggling readers with some postsecondary education were compared to twenty-three typical adults readers enrolled in 4-year undergraduate and graduate school courses. One-way analysis of variance was used to test differences between the groups in reading fluency. Results indicate that there are no significant differences in word-recognition accuracy between typical and struggling readers on high-frequency real word identification; however, there are significant differences between typical and struggling groups on the recognition accuracy of non-words of 4, 5, and 6 letters in length. There are also significant differences between struggling and typical readers on 3, 4, and 5-letter, high-frequency word recognition latency, and 3, 4, 5, and 6-letter non-word recognition latency. Successful struggling readers report that they don't do a lot of reading, but when they do read, it takes them longer, they must take copious notes, and their reading is likely to be nonfiction that is related to their career goals. Academically-successful struggling readers also develop relationships with people who can help them succeed. College reading instructors can use these findings to help students choose appropriate materials and develop their reading fluency skills.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2008. Major: Educational Psychology. Advisor: Samuels, S. Jay. 1 computer file (PDF), vi, 147 pages.
Willcutt, Jennifer Ruth.
A comparison of academically-successful struggling adult readers' and academically-successful non-struggling adult readers' fluency skills: Implications for college reading instruction.
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