Using Digital Simulations to Teach Disciplinary Literacy: Introduction

Today's Reading Crisis

Students and teachers in today’s schools are currently facing a reading crisis. Despite the ever-increasing importance of high-stakes testing, fewer high school students are developing the literacy skills they need upon graduation. It is a widely agreed upon fact that literacy skills and ability to read are directly correlated. However, according to a 2009 study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress indicates that 70% of eight grade students in public schools “perform at or below the basic level in reading comprehension nationally (Fagella-Luby and Wardwell, 2011, p. 35). In addition, a National Endowment for the Arts study found that , 75% of adults are either non-literary readers or light readers, while only 4% consider themselves to be avid readers (Gallagher, 2009, 3). So it seems that not only are people reading less, but reading comprehension is also on the decline.

As a result of school accountability programs like No Child Left Behind, teachers have felt an enormous pressure to focus their lessons around teaching to a standardized test. These practices have reduced reading in school to isolated, irrelevant activities that not only alienate the student, but actually reduce the likelihood that students will read on their own (Gallagher, 2009, vii). As students read less, their reading comprehension and other literacy skills suffer.

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Michael Slowinski
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