Reading Next by Biancarosa and Snow

Last Fall, I taught EH 091, UAB’s remedial composition course for those students who did not do well enough on the ACT to qualify for the traditional EH 101 freshman composition course. The first assignment I gave my students was to write a literacy narrative—a short narrative essay about their relationship with reading and writing over the years. Many of the narratives I received echoed sentiments found in Biancarosa & Snow’s (2004) Reading Next. With stunning frequency, many of my students had learned to read at an early age and enjoyed reading when they were in elementary school, but by middle school, most of them had lost interest in reading. Other interests like sports and video games had gained more importance, and there was lingering resentment that teachers had assigned them too many readings they didn’t care about. When they began writing response papers, it was clear that quite a few of these students lacked basic reading comprehension skills. For example, if an article was an interview or biographical profile of a notable person, they often could not tell the difference between the author of the article and the subject of the article. Reading for subtext was far too high of an expectation. The fifteen-point plan outlined by Biancarosa & Snow gives me some hope that I can help future college students be far better prepared for the challenges of college and their future careers.

The Fifteen Elements of Effective Adolescent Literacy Programs

  1. Direct, explicit comprehension instruction, which is instruction in the strategies and processes that proficient readers use to understand what they read, including summarizing, keeping track of one’s own understanding, and a host of other practices
  2. Effective instructional principles embedded in content, including language arts teachers using content-area texts and content-area teachers providing instruction and practice in reading and writing skills specific to their subject area
  3. Motivation and self-directed learning, which includes building motivation to read and learn and providing students with the instruction and supports needed for independent learning tasks they will face after graduation
  4. Text-based collaborative learning, which involves students interacting with one another around a variety of texts
  5. Strategic tutoring, which provides students with intense individualized reading, writing, and content instruction as needed
  6. Diverse texts, which are texts at a variety of difficulty levels and on a variety of topics
  7. Intensive writing, including instruction connected to the kinds of writing tasks students will have to perform well in high school and beyond
  8. A technology component, which includes technology as a tool for and a topic of literacy instruction
  9. Ongoing formative assessment of students, which is informal, often daily assessment of how students are progressing under current instructional practices
  10. Extended time for literacy, which includes approximately two to four hours of literacy instruction and practice that takes place in language arts and content-area classes
  11. Professional development that is both long term and ongoing
  12. Ongoing summative assessment of students and programs, which is more formal and provides data that are reported for accountability and research purposes
  13. Teacher teams, which are interdisciplinary teams that meet regularly to discuss students and align instruction
  14. Leadership, which can come from principals and teachers who have a solid understanding of how to teach reading and writing to the full array of students present in schools
  15. A comprehensive and coordinated literacy program, which is interdisciplinary and interdepartmental and may even coordinate with out-of-school organizations and the local community


Biancarosa, G., & Snow, C. (2004) Reading Next—A vision for action and research in middle school and high school literacy:  A report to Carnegie Corporation of New York. Washington, DC. Retrieved from


One thought on “Reading Next by Biancarosa and Snow

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