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Thinking Reader by Tom Snyder Productions

Poor readers tend to spend a lot of time and mental energy trying to decode words in text. This often prevents them from developing the comprehension skills necessary for understanding word meaning and content. As students enter middle school, if they have not sufficiently developed the skills needed to grasp the subject matter and themes of grade-level reading material, they risk falling further behind.
Thinking Reader from Tom Snyder Productions is a software series of electronic books developed to provide support to these struggling readers. The program trains students to read strategically in order to increase their comprehension. Specifically designed for Grades 5-8, the Thinking Reader series presents unabridged, grade-level literature via the computer screen combined with human voice narration.

The following books in the series were chosen because they represent core, grade-level literature, they present multicultural perspectives, and they tell engaging and meaningful stories.

  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Dragonwings by Laurence Yep
  • My Brother Sam is Dead by James Collier and Christopher Collier
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry


How Does the Program Work?
Students begin a book by logging onto the computer. They click the “Play” button, and the program reads the book while the text is highlighted on the monitor. Difficult vocabulary words are underlined, and a click of the mouse brings up a secondary window that speaks aloud the word and its definition. To hear the word and definition in Spanish, students simply click a box. Having instant access to definitions while reading helps students understand the text.

At various points throughout the story, a message appears on the screen that indicates “This is a good place to stop and think about the story.” Clicking on the message takes students to a set of directions asking them to use a reading comprehension strategy to respond to what was just read. Strategies used include summarize, question, clarify, predict, visualize, feeling, and reflect.

If they are unsure of how to respond, students are not left to flounder. They can get help by pointing to buttons on a pop-up window. Clicking the “Hint” icon brings up a helper who gives them an idea about how to answer the prompt. (See Figure 1). For additional assistance, two student buttons, “Justin” and “Destiny,” bring up characters who share with students how they might respond. This is called the Think-Aloud section. (See Figure 2). When students are ready they can either type or record their responses into the program. Clicking the “Send” button enters the response into the the students’ Work Log, which automatically gets sent to the teacher.


The Work Log and Reading Levels
Over the course of each book, students’ strategy responses are captured in a Response Journal. Teachers can use the Work Log for student-teacher conferences and to help them determine appropriate reading levels for students. (See Figure 3).

Thinking Reader offers five levels of support. The levels can be adjusted as students’ comprehension skills improve. Level 1 has the most supports, and Level 5 has the least. Lower level supports focus on content, while higher level supports are more general and focus more on strategies. Strategy prompts also vary based on reading levels. Lower level prompts tend more toward multiple-choice and sentence starters, while higher level prompts are more open-ended.

Using Thinking Reader in Different Settings
The materials that accompany each book in the Thinking Reader series provide teachers with invaluable ideas for using the program. The Teacher’s Guide offers suggestions for implementing Thinking Reader in supported reading environments such as pull-out programs and resource rooms, classrooms with students of varying reading abilities, computer labs and with English language learners.

The Teacher’s Guide also outlines a five step plan for using Thinking Reader:

Step 1: Modeling Strategic Reading. An excerpt from Tom Sawyer is used off-computer to walk students through the strategic reading process.

Step 2: Building Reading Comprehension Skills. Teachers complete the first passage with their students on the computer. Students then move through the program on their own.

Step 3: Assessing and Evaluating Student Progress. Teachers review the Work Log to view students’ responses and comprehension quiz results. Teachers can evaluate students’ progress by clicking the Recent Progress button on the Student Progress Screen. This will present the last five Work Log responses and the students’ most recent reflection responses. More formal assessment rubrics and comprehension quizzes are included.

Step 4: Engaging Students in a Discussion of the Literature and Strategies. Classroom discussions help students gain additional meaning. The Teacher’s Guide contains six graphic organizer templates for furthering discussions: character web, Venn diagram, relationship diagram, story map, incident summary and cause and effect.

A separate Discussion Guide booklet is included and contains questions, activities and extension ideas for highlighting themes and ideas.

Step 5: Extending the Strategies. The Strategy Response Journal can be copied and assembled into a booklet for students, enabling them to use the Thinking Reader approach with any book. The Thinking Reader Strategy bookmarks that come with the package also provide a quick reminder of reading strategies for students.

Research, Validation, and Accessibility
Thinking Reader was designed by David Rose and Bridget Dalton at the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST). The program incorporates research on proven approaches to reading, universal design for learning, brain-based behavior, and the benefits of technology-based materials for reading instruction. It was designed using Section 508 guidelines for universal accessibility, including adjustable font size, keyboard navigation, text captioning, screen reader compatibility, and text-to-speech.

Thinking Reader is aligned to state and national standards and supports the principles of No Child Left Behind (NCLB).

Ordering Information and Pricing
Thinking Reader is compatible with Windows and Mac OSX (10.2 or higher) systems. Single title pricing is $500 for a 10 student license. Included with each title:
- Installation CD for stand alone and network use
- Teacher’s Guide which includes step-by-step instructions, graphic organizers and worksheets, teacher-student conference guidelines, and an assessment rubric
- Title-specific discussion guide
- Reading strategies poster and bookmarks
- Paperback copies of the novel

For more information or to request an evaluation version or a research report call Tom Snyder Productions at (800)342-0236 or log on to



Forcina Hall, Room 101

The College of New Jersey

P.O. Box 7718

Ewing, NJ 08628-0718

P) 609.771.2795




Professor Amy G. Dell

Managing Editor

Anne M. Disdier