Simplified Classics? Educators Are Divided
by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg for The Wall Street Journal, May 23, 2005
Can kids with reading problems find satisfaction in retold versions of such classics as "Treasure Island" and "Little Women?"
Barnes & Noble Inc.'s Sterling Publishing unit has launched a new line of 10 literary classics that appeal to both those who struggle to read and to avid younger students whose reading skills aren't quite strong enough to let them master "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" in its original. The books, which have been retold using simpler words, have been surprisingly hot sellers, so much so that they are already in their fifth printing.
Priced at $4.95 each, the books have already sold about 533,000 copies. "There's a large world of people with disabilities who can't appreciate the classics because the books are too difficult," says Barnes & Noble's CEO Steve Riggio.
But several schools that teach kids with reading disabilities say they're emphasizing classics in the original text.
One academic institution says kids with reading issues may do better with the originals. "Just because you have reading problems doesn't mean you can't appreciate complex thought and complex language," says Maureen Sweeney, assistant head and director of admissions of the Windward School, an independent nonprofit school in White Plains, N.Y., for children who have language-based learning disabilities. Ms. Sweeney said such students can be taught to read in a multisensory program that includes books-on-tape.
A key issue, says Linda Spector, director of special education at Ann Arbor Academy in Ann Arbor, Mich., is that many kids with reading issues are at a high conceptual level. ... "We're getting away from the adaptations and want the beautiful, original language," she says.
The U.S. Department of Education says 2.9 million children age 6 through 21 were identified with specific learning disabilities during the 2002-03 school year, up 14.2% since the 1994-95 school year.