The National Center on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice

Sample of Current Research

The Impact of an Intensive Reading Program on Literacy Skills of Youth in Juvenile Corrections

Overview and Purpose
This study explored whether an intensive literacy program could positively affect reading fluency rate, reading placement level, and attitude toward reading, of incarcerated youth. The study involved six African American male adolescents incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility in an urban jurisdiction. Each participant received direct reading instruction for eight weeks, three times per week for one hour per day.

Changes in the youths’ behavior were documented using a single subject research strategy. Specifically, a multiple baseline design across students was used to analyze fluency skills based on the number of words read correctly. Reading placement levels and attitude toward reading were assessed using pre- and post-test measures.

Rationale for Study
Illiteracy is perhaps the strongest common denominator among individuals in corrections (Kidder, 1990).While research on strategies to improve reading literacy in juvenile correctional facilities is limited, some studies have explored the correlation between illiteracy and criminal behavior. The average reading level nationally for ninth grade youth in correctional facilities is fourth grade (Project Read; 1978).

While poor reading skills and poor academic performance are not direct causes of criminal activity, adolescents who have deficits in these areas are disproportionately represented in correctional institutions. Some studies have explored the correlation between illiteracy and criminal behavior. They have found that individuals with a low literacy level are at greater risk for criminal behavior and incarceration (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997).

In order to reduce crime rates and recidivism of students with disabilities and ethnic minorities in juvenile corrections, correctional educators need to incorporate programs that place a strong emphasis on literacy development. Advocates for correctional education believe that education prevents crime (Pell, 1997).

Results of Study
Results revealed positive gains with respect to oral fluency, grade placement and attitude. The results support the notion that educational services in juvenile detention facilities provide incarcerated youth with a chance to increase their academic skills and the emotional confidence needed to achieve personal goals.


Bureau of Justice and Statistics (1997). Juvenile offenders and victims 1999 national Report. National Center for Juvenile Justice U.S. Department of Justice: Washington, DC.

Gemignani, R.J. (1994). Juvenile correctional education: A time for change. (NCJ Publication No. I50309). Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Kidder, R. (1990, April). Should schools pay the price of prison? Christian Science Monitor.

Nelson, C. M., & Rutherford, R. B. (1989, September). Impact of the Correctional Education Training (C/CET) Project on correctional education. Paper presented at the CEC/CCBD National Topical Conference on Behavioral Disorders, Charlotte, NC.

Pell, C. S. (1994, March17). Should inmates get student aid? // YES: Pell grants dramatically reduce recidivism. USA Today, p. 13.

Project READ. (1978). To make a difference. Silver Spring, MD: READ, Inc.p.27 In Brunner, M.S. (1993). Reduce recidivism and increased employment opportunity through researched-based reading instruction. (NCJ Publication No. 14I324). Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

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