How less-skilled adult readers experience word-reading

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Reading skills are central to the development of over-all literacy but large numbers of adults worldwide continue to experience complex reading difficulties, in particular at the word level. Less-developed adult reading skills have negative impacts on personal wellbeing including health, earning ability, and family and social life. Low literacy skills can be disadvantageous for families and communities. However, current adult literacy initiatives are dominated by economic priorities and the experiences of individuals are frequently overlooked. In this study narrative inquiry was used to understand the experiences of 36 less-skilled adult readers in Western Australia and New Zealand as they attempted to read words. A metaphor of following a path through woodland was used to illustrate the difficulties in readers' experiences. Four themes of word-reading experiences are identified: locked out, anxious, wandering and persistent readers, and presented as a narrative. Each narrative tells of individuals' thoughts and experiences as they read words. It is argued that the narratives build appreciation of individuals' experiences and offer insights for understanding adult reading needs. The on-going confusions of readers, and diversity of the described word-reading difficulties, support calls for specific professional learning for adult-reading teachers on how to diagnose and effectively address word-reading difficulties.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalThe Australian Journal of Language and Literacy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2018


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