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Not just reading, but understanding

Gary Moskowitz

NORTHEAST GLENDALE -- It’s a mixture of old and new techniques when

teachers work on improving reading comprehension at Wilson Middle School.

And students like eighth-grader Mike Kazaryan, 13, who participate in


the school’s accelerated reading program, say the process is working.

“When you read, you really have to pay attention and remember what you

read,” Mike said. “We used to do book reports but didn’t always know what

to talk about. Now we have to answer questions about details.”


Mike is one of at least 500 students at Wilson who participate in

accelerated reading, which is a program designed for students whose

reading comprehension is not at the level state standards say it should


Students who fall into this category can be English language learners,

and many have scored below the 35th percentile in reading and math on the

Stanford 9 exam.

During a typical reading session, students like Mike check books in


and out with old library cards and name stamps. Books are color coded by

difficulty and students choose books appropriate to their ability.

They then complete computer programs that test them on what they have

read. The computer provides instant printouts of their score, and reviews

any incorrect answers with the student.

Students have to earn a designated number of points by the end of a

10-week quarter.

“When you have to pay attention, it’s more fun. And tests like the SAT


9 ask you questions like the ones we answer on the computer,” Mike said

after scoring 100% on a quiz on “Song and Dance Man” by Karen Ackerman.

Mary Dall, a Title I teacher on special assignment at Wilson, said

similar programs are happening at the district’s other middle schools.

Four new tutors were being trained Tuesday at Wilson on accelerated

reading software and will begin working with students on reading

comprehension next week.

Dall said the school began using computer programs for reading

comprehension three years ago with the help of federal grant money. The

school received $53,000 in grant money this year for the accelerated

reader program.

“Sometimes kids’ mechanics don’t work and they won’t comprehend what

they are being asked to read, and they won’t get any meaning out of it,”

Dall said. “We are responding to higher standards and have a big

responsibility to prepare them for being successful in high school.”

Dall said the school had just two teachers teaching accelerated

reading during the 1999-00 school year and now has eight reading