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Bridging the Gap: Addressing the Needs of Advanced Readers

This is our second blog post from our interview with Dr. Nancy Young. To learn more about Dr. Young, her infographic The Ladder of Reading & Writing, and the new book she co-edited with Dr. Jan Hasbrouck, read Understanding and Embracing The Ladder of Reading & Writing.

We recently had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Dr. Nancy Young to discuss differentiation, meeting students where they are, and understanding students' learning profiles to determine instructional needs.

During our conversation with Dr. Young, she sheds light on a topic often overshadowed in education: the needs of advanced readers. With a passion for advocating for these students, Dr. Young delves into the importance of differentiation and personalized instruction to ensure their academic growth and success.

Understanding the Gap

Dr. Young acknowledges that in education, much focus is directed toward students who require intense instruction or support, leaving advanced readers somewhat overlooked. Drawing from her own experiences advocating for her own children's learning needs, Dr. Young highlights the persistence of this gap in understanding the needs of advanced readers within the field of education. 

Advanced readers and students with learning challenges require tailored instruction to reach their full potential. Implementing research-based practices in the classroom can be challenging, but teacher knowledge and observation, collaboration with colleagues within the school and with parents/caregivers, and tailoring instruction to individual students’ needs can help. Understanding these individual needs and differentiating instruction is essential, and teachers must be mindful to tailor their teaching of what is taught and their instructional methods accordingly.

Differentiation Strategies

One of the key points Dr. Young emphasizes is the need for appropriate instruction tailored to the abilities of advanced readers. She suggests that extended learning opportunities for deeper analysis and critical thinking be provided and that subject-specific acceleration be considered. Specific strategies, such as personalized spelling and writing instruction, will most likely differ from the instruction needed for a beginning reader or a child with dyslexia or dysgraphia. In Young’s Infographic The Ladder of Reading and Writing, noted to the right of the green area, are the words “Extended Learning or Acceleration, Likely Essential” referring to deeper and deeper understanding and analysis than typical and may include subject-specific acceleration. 

Challenges in Assessment

Assessments are important to understanding instructional needs. Currently, many assessments used in the classroom are designed to identify students at risk for reading failure. Dr. Young also discusses the challenges associated with accurately assessing advanced readers. She warns against using assessments designed for struggling learners, as they may not accurately reflect advanced readers' abilities. Instead, she advocates for the use of appropriate assessments that enable educators to determine how advanced a student’s skills may be. This includes observation and feedback from parents/caregivers. 

Supporting Twice-Exceptional Students

In addition to addressing the needs of advanced readers, Nancy touches upon the importance of understanding and supporting twice-exceptional (2e) students—those who have exceptional abilities and learning challenges. She recommends dual differentiation, which involves addressing their giftedness while supporting their challenges and addressing their social-emotional needs. Finding students' strengths is an essential part of that process. In addition, ensuring that intentional grouping is being done to meet all students' needs. 

Bridging Research and Practice

Dr. Young underscores the significance of bridging the gap between research and classroom practice. She encourages educators to stay informed about research findings while also being mindful of their students' individual profiles and needs. Collaboration among educators and ongoing professional development are essential in ensuring that instructional practices align with research-backed strategies.

In part two of our interview with Dr. Young, she highlighted the importance of recognizing and addressing the needs of advanced readers in education. Educators can create a more inclusive and effective learning environment by implementing differentiation strategies, using appropriate assessments, and supporting the social-emotional well-being of students. Through collaboration, ongoing learning, and intentional instruction, we can bridge the gap and ensure that all students, including advanced readers, thrive academically and personally.

Learn more about Dr. Young's infographic and her new book, "Climbing the Ladder of Reading and Writing: Meeting the Needs of ALL Learners” co-edited with Dr.Jan Hasbrouck. 

Connect with Dr. Nancy Young! Visit her website and find her on Facebook.

For our full conversation with Dr. Nancy Young about The Ladder of Reading & Writing, check out our latest episode of the Together in Literacy podcast. If you like what you hear, don’t forget to rate, leave a positive review, and subscribe!

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