Vol. 14 (2007)

Impacting Struggling Adolescent Readers: A Socio-Psycholinguistic Study of Junior Secondary Students in Trinidad

Cynthia James
The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus


  • Secondary School Students,
  • Reading Ability,
  • Reading Programmes,
  • Junior Secondary Schools,
  • Slow Learners,
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • ...More


This paper analyses the classroom reading behaviours and literacy culture of 19 low SES students, aged 11-14, who scored between 0-30 percent on their primary school exit examinations, and were placed in an English-and-Math-intensive Form 1 Remedial class at a junior secondary school in Trinidad. Although there were large differences in reading abilities within the group, poor phonics, syntactic, and semantic competencies impeded decoding and meaning-making for the majority of the students. A reading interview, the students' reading journals, and a variety of authentic reading stimuli formed a backdrop for surveying six issues. An exploratory analysis of 8 two-hour sessions over a period of eight weeks suggests that isolating the students in a concentrated English-and-Math-intensive programme would increase their stigmatization and encourage reading fossilization. A blend of interactive, transactional, sociocultural, and engagement approaches seems likely to promote the best outcomes. It is also sugested that given the students' lack of access to the potential literacy benefits of high-end technology, that they be at least exposed to a wider range of sign system literacies for making meaning from text.