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Middle Schoolers' Reading Scores Triple with More Independent Reading Time

Categories: Audiobook Library, Books, Authors, & Movies, Education & Teaching, Educators, In the news, Reading Strategies for K-12

Last October, middle school English teacher, Cathy Hatcher, decided to do things differently in her classes. She gave up some instruction time so her middle schoolers would have more time to read independently; then, she challenged them to read for thirty-three days. Her students' reading scores tripled. Their reading habits improved. Students could more easily recognize their own reading interests, and as importantly, they felt really good about their reading progress.

Instruction Time vs. Reading Time

“Giving up precious instruction time is a decision that teachers do not take lightly,” shares Ms. Hatcher. “Yet, the value of giving up my time, increased my students’ love of reading, as well as their self-esteem.”

Cathy Hatcher is a seasoned teacher in secondary and higher education. For the last three years, she has worked with 7th and 8th English Language Learners at Folsom Middle School, Folsom-Cordova USD in California.

33 Days of Reading


For her students with reading deficits, like those with dyslexia, and with IEPs requiring a reading accommodation, Hatcher chose access to the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution. “I wanted to test the theory that if students read for 20 minutes a day for 33 days, they would improve their reading habits and it worked!” Her students experienced considerable growth.

One and a Half Year Reading Growth

Students began to see a pay-off from reading human-read audiobooks. Their fluency skills improved. Upon taking the standard iReady diagnostic exam, Hatchers’ students’ reading scores tripled thanks to the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution. Students were reading one and a half grade levels above their baseline. Hatcher knew she was on to something big! "We were completely overwhelmed with their reading progress," said the teacher.

Hatcher also saw positive changes in her students’ learning confidence and self-worth. “They were excited about reading on grade-level. They read daily and on weekends. They read audiobooks of interest and understood what they read. They felt accomplished."

Critical Time for Reading

Hatcher affirms that middle school is a critical time for students to have positive feelings about themselves as learners. “At this age, children are still eager to please their teacher and explore new ideas,” she shares. “They aren’t shutting down, like many older students who struggle to read. They liked the autonomy of selecting books on their own. They liked the trust we had in them to access the Learning Ally digital library of more than 80,000 human-read audiobooks 24/7, 365 days a year.”

Diverse Reading Interests

One of Hatcher’s students, an 8th grader, who decoded words on a 3rd grade level, became completely absorbed in the Raider’s Night, by Lipsyte Robert through the human-narrated audiobook. This book is fairly large and listed at a 9th grade reading level. Hatcher said, “It would have stalled a struggling reader. When he saw how thick the book was in print, he became so impressed with himself. He never would have read that book on his own.”

Access to Core eTextbooks


For class instruction, Hatcher downloads core textbooks and novels from Learning Ally. She encourages students to browse the audiobook library for additional reading assignments and titles that interest them.

In addition to students reading independently, they listen to a selected audiobook for whole class discussions. Students recently read Kwame Alexander’s novel, The Crossover. “It was a big hit!” adds Hatcher. “They really related to this book. They enjoyed the figurative language. We analyzed the characters and looked at the poetic nature of Kwame’s writing style. They loved the reading assignment.”

Hatcher’s students also participate in Learning Ally’s Great Reading Games, an annual 7-week national reading challenge. Her class won 4th place in the nation.

Reduction in Reading Delay Tactics

Hatcher says her students no longer use delay tactics to avoid reading. They put on their headphones, press play on their devices, and are quickly absorbed in an audiobook. “They aren’t hung up on trying to decode words that slow their comprehension,” she says. “Their cognitive skills are more intact because their frustration to read is minimized.”

All Students Matter

Folsom School District is in the early stages of developing equity training to ensure that every student receives the right kind of support, like the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution, to address their unique needs, and Cathy is leading the charge. “We want all students to believe that they will learn English and pass the ELPAC exam,” she says. “It starts in believing in yourself. Adding independent reading time into my class schedule was a win/win. It enabled my students to improve their reading habits and their learning confidence. Learning Ally’s prescribed formula of reading for 20 minutes a day for 33 days was successful. No teacher will say “no” to this kind of reading progress.”

Note: Since writing this article, the Principal of Folsom Middle School has moved to the elementary campus, Navigator Elementary, a Title I School. After seeing the reading success of Hatcher’s middle schoolers, he implemented the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution so that younger students with reading deficits would have the earliest opportunity to access human-read audiobooks and improve their chances for academic success.

Support Your Students with Reading Deficits with the Learning Ally Audiobook Solution

The Learning Ally Audiobook Solution is a multi-sensory reading accommodation that levels the playing field for students who struggle to read due to a reading deficit, providing them the opportunity achieve in school and in life. Gaining access to the books they want to read—and the books they need to read—in an easy-to-absorb format can be a game changer. Sign up for a demo or get more information today to experience the satisfaction of seeing students who have never before experienced reading success blossom, with improved grades, higher test scores and increased confidence and self-esteem.

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