Free Online Tools Aimed at Struggling Adolescent Readers

Grantees in this story

Free on-line “intelligent tutoring system” tools created specifically to enhance the comprehension and decoding skills of struggling adolescent readers were introduced on April 23, 2008, Word Book Day, by Carnegie Corporation grantee CAST(Center for Applied Special Technology).

In a departure from typical computer-based training software,UDL Editions by CAST™ provides students and educators with a “guided tour” through texts offering the reader a series of embedded features—tailored to their skill level—to increase comprehension and maintain interest. Within each passage are links that the reader can click to, for example, define words or translate phrases in languages other than English, gain insight into unfamiliar historical references and link to Google Maps for geographic reference points. These and many other comprehension-enhancement aids embedded within the text’s large context-specific multimedia glossary, help the reader better understand, enjoy and stay engaged with the text. Strategy Tutor™ offers adolescent readers customizable mentoring and support as they conduct Internet research and read websites.

Carnegie Corporation supported the development of these online tools in response to a fundamental lack of strong reading comprehension skills among many American adolescents. Weak reading skills are especially troublesome at a time when mere literacy will not lead to success in school and in an increasingly complex, information-driven global economy. Students who cannot comprehend and synthesize texts will find themselves at a serious disadvantage in the workplace and unable to fully participate in our democracy.