Guest Author - Heidi Shelton Jenck
Hi-lo readers are chapter books and short stories created for older students who struggle to read. Hi-lo stands for high-interest topics that appeal to older students, and a lower reading level for students unable to read typical stories written for their age group.
Teens and adults who find reading a challenge need appealing reading options for instruction and daily reading practice. Hi-lo readers were created to fill that niche.
Hi-lo readers are written at lower reading levels using a simple vocabulary. Older students who struggle to read need to practice fluency and comprehension skills daily. Building the volume of daily reading opportunities is critical so students who are behind their peers academically can close the gap.
By the time a student reaches second or third grade, they are very aware of the range of reading levels in their classroom. Motivating a struggling reader can be a challenge. Older students see peers reading chapter books about age-level themes and topics, and want to look like everyone else.
Hi-lo readers fill this need with books written about older children and teens, on age-level rather than reading level topics. The book covers are created to appeal to older students. From the outside hi-lo readers look like regular chapter books for older students.
If you peek inside hi-lo readers, you will find fewer words than typical books for this older age group, and many illustrations. The characters are realistic, and the simple storylines are straightforward and exciting enough to keep readers interested until the end. Descriptions tend to be short and clear, and vocabulary is simple and controlled. Sentences are short without complexity.
A key feature of hi-lo books is that they are created to quickly grab the readers interest by offering subjects and genres that appeal to tweens and teens. Older students enjoy non-fiction topics, humor, stories about disasters and emergency situations, science fiction, biographies, sports, and adventure stories. An important reading skill is making connections with the text, so hi-lo readers present material older students can relate to.
The best hi-lo readers are written with a compelling story, realistic characters, and topics the readers can connect with. Illustrations help the reader follow the storyline and provide clues as they read.
Older struggling readers no longer have to build reading skills using books written for younger students about bears, bunnies, and young children. Hi-lo readers can be found in public libraries and online.
Two publishers who specialize in creating Hi-lo books for older readers are:
High Noon Books