respond to reading preferences. This requires more than awareness of award-winning adolescent literature that may be emphasized in some methods courses. Middle school teachers need to be knowledgeable about a wide range of literature, including popular series fiction (e.g., Animorphs series) and other texts that "hook" reluctant readers such as scary stories, comics, magazines, sports books, and drawing books (Worthy, 1996). Recent research (Worthy et al., 1999) has shown that reading preferences are remarkably consistent in middle school readers regardless of gender, achievement, reading attitudes, and income level.
Teachers need direction in how they might build a diverse classroom library that would entice students to read and that would include materials for a variety of instructional purposes. This would require not only an understanding of reading preferences, but also substantial knowledge about reading levels and genres. The reading levels represented in any one middle school classroom could span from first or second grade all the way through high school. Thus, it would be important to include a plethora of books on almost all levels, ranging from easy-to-read picture books and relatively simple chapter books, to young adult and popular adult fiction.
A similar range in genres (e.g., magazines, poetry, information books, newspapers) and topics is necessary. In our recent study of reading in sixth-grade classrooms (Ivey & Broaddus, 1999), most students reported reading contemporary realistic fiction or award-winning books of historical fiction or fantasy that were assigned during classroom reading time. Unfortunately, such narrow reading does little to expose middle school students to varied forms of exposition. This becomes a major concern for teachers who must ready students for high-stakes testing in the content areas. Teachers should have a firm grounding in trade books that support content area learning. The Sidebar lists a sample range of materials that should be included in middle school classroom libraries.
Approaching reading instruction as a developmental process. Given the range and diversity that exists among middle school readers, it only makes sense that students need a similar range of instruction. For many middle school teachers, however, it is difficult to imagine how to help a seventh-grade student who reads most comfortably in easy picture books such as Frog and Toad All Year (Lobel, 1976) and misspells even simple one-syllable words such as rain and friend, particularly when that same student is expected to understand the material from the seventh-grade science textbook. It is even more difficult to imagine how to help this student within the context of a classroom of 24 other students, each with a unique profile as a reader. For some teachers facing this problem the solution is to refer struggling readers to special education programs where reading may not be the focus of instruction. We believe that even middle school students who are extremely behind their peers in reading can make significant strides given the right kind of instruction (Ivey, 1999; Morris, Ervin, & Conrad, 1996). Like Allington (1994), we believe the majority of reading difficulties are the result of a lack of experience with print, rather than a lack of ability, even in the middle school years. Consequently, referral to special education programs is not a workable solution for many students. What students who lack experience need is a wealth of experiences with print, and we see no reason why regular classroom teachers in the middle school cannot provide it.
The critical issue, of course, is for teachers to provide experiences that are appropriate for individual students. Giving a seventh-grade student reading on a first-, second-, or third-grade level a choice of reading experiences in sixth- or seventh-grade texts will probably do more harm than good. In order for middle school teachers to provide productive reading experiences, they need to understand the big picture of how reading knowledge evolves from the early years through adolescence and into adulthood.
Teachers can begin to approach reading developmentally by facilitating different kinds of reading experiences that target the essential skills and strategies students need to evolve as readers. We recommend some critical components of instruction that address the development of all students and that are not typically included as part of most middle school reading curricula: teacher read-alouds, fluency activities, linking reading with writing, and word analysis.
Reading aloud to students. Teacher read-alouds are a greatly underused method for getting middle school students engaged in reading. Middle school teachers need to explore the diverse benefits of reading to students: providing a model of expressive reading and reading engagement, building vocabulary knowledge in the context of literature, modeling comprehension strategies, and exploring literature as a model for