Adolescent literacy

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Adolescence, the period between age 12 and 20, is a time of rapid psychological and neurological development, during which children develop morally (truly understanding the consequences of their actions), cognitively (problem-solving, reasoning, remembering), and socially (responding to feelings, interacting, cooperating). All three types of development have influence—to varying degrees—on the development of literacy skills.

In recognition of the unique psychology and neurology of adolescence, distinct from the literacy development of younger readers or adults, the International Reading Association (IRA) has outlined seven guiding principles of literacy development for this population. According to these principles, adolescents require the following to become motivated, lifelong readers:

  • access to a wide variety of reading material that appeal to adolescent interests
  • instruction that builds the skill and desire to read increasingly complex materials
  • assessment that shows both strengths and needs
  • expert teachers who model and provide explicit instruction across the curriculum
  • reading specialists (for students having difficulty learning how to read)
  • teachers who understand the complexities of individual adolescent readers
  • homes, communities, and a nation that support the needs of adolescent learners


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