Have you ever thought about writing for struggling readers?
I became aware of content created specifically for struggling readers while working as a dyslexia intervention specialist about ten years ago. Flip through education publisher catalogues and you'll see categories like Hi/Lo Readers, Leveled Text, Reading Intervention Programs, and research-based programs for struggling readers.
First, you need to become familiar with reading levels. Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Readability Levels is a good place to start. My experience has been that publishers tell me what readability guide they prefer. It’s good to be familiar with them all.
If you want a printable reading level chart that compares grade levels, guided reading levels, DRA levels, Success for All levels, Reading Recovery levels, and Lexile levels, check out this chart from Scholastic.
Hi/Lo books are high interest for older students, but low reading levels. They are developed with older children and teens in mind. The subject matter and illustrations reflect the older students who might be embarrassed about their struggle to learn to read. If you have ever taught upper grades, you know students like to hold the latest big, thick, cool novel in their hands and look as though they are reading it. No older student wants to sit in class and read from a skinny first grade beginning reader.
Reading Rockets (a MUST-BOOKMARK site for education writers) has an excellent article on the subject of Hi/Lo readers.
High Noon books specializes in the Hi/Lo market. Click on “Hi/Lo Reading Books” on their home page to see their large selection of Hi/Lo books.
Remedia Publications also has a nice selection of High Interest content for struggling students.
HIP Books has an edgy, fun look that older struggling readers would be attracted to.
Reading Intervention Programs
If you are asked to write content for a Reading Intervention Program, you need to be familiar with common terms like these on the Reading Rockets website. This website was created to be a resource for parents and teachers of struggling readers, and is my go-to spot for a quick review of terms.
Most publishers who need writers for reading intervention programs have a clearly developed plan, and need writers to create activities and lessons within their framework. You might be asked to write lessons based on grade-level state standards in a different way so students who are not reading on grade level can read and understand the content.
Where are the jobs?
I don’t have an easy answer for this. It comes down to persistence and research – and of course good timing. It helps to have a degree in education and experience with struggling readers to land your first job, but if you are a good writer, writing Hi/Lo stories or leveled readers is a good place to start.
So, what have I missed? Any ideas or experiences to share?