Timothy Rasinski and Belinda Zimmerman's short article , What's the Perfect Text for Struggling Readers? Try Poetry! from Reading Today April/May of 2013, describes a critical piece of Kent State's summer reading clinic's approach to remedial reading- poetry lessons. This approach is fleshed out in Raskinski, William H. Rupley and William Dee Nichols's Phonics & Fluency Practice with Poetry: Tapping the Power of Rhyming Verse to Improve Student's Word Recognition, Automaticity, and Prosody-- and Help Them Become Successful Readers book.
They propose teaching students one poem a day. The teacher reads it to the class and discusses its meaning. Then a variety of rereads occur with the group- choral reading, reading at different paces or with different voices to make it more interesting. Then pairs of students read the poem to each other three times. Then students are encouraged to read the poem to as many people as possible. This performance component provides a rationale for repeated readings which improves automaticity and prosody of reading. Having the initial discussion about the meaning of the poem places emphasis on comprehension rather than merely on speed of reading.
The article includes a list of favorite poets for children which includes some perennial favorites like Prelutsky and Silverstein and some less well known ones like Lee Bennett Hopkins and Arnold Adoff. When working with trying to teach decoding or simple comprehension strategies, it is important to consider student reading level. Working with short poems with extensive scaffolding means that student interest is more important than reading level. Students tend to enjoy reading poetry and they tend to be less intimidated with short poems than longer works of prose, making it ideal for reading with struggling readers.
This approach has proven highly effective for improving word recognition and fluency among students who are struggling readers. Adopting this as part of a remedial program could be very helpful in improving reading skills and motivation with our struggling readers.