When deciding what vocabulary to use, the first choice would be the vocabulary familiar to the students and in common usage. A list of words needed by the students in their daily lives should be developed with each student. In addition, however, vocabulary which has a more general usage and is transferable should also be taught. That is, the words taught should be ones that are frequently used in material read by adults. A list of basic sight words for older disabled readers has been compiled (Johns, 1972) (3). This list along with the revised Dolch list (4) of basic sight vocabulary make up more than 50% of the words frequently used in the newspapers, magazines and books read by adults. By incorporating these words into the reading program of the beginning reader, the instructor will ensure that the student is learning words which are in common usage.
Although the Dolch and Johns' lists provide a guideline for selecting vocabulary they obviously cannot all be taught at once. When developing reading material for the beginning reader it is important to control the number of words presented. One of the problems with much of the presently published material for adults who are learning to read is that the material moves too quickly. The writers of the material seem to assume that because the words are part of the reader's spoken vocabulary they will be learned quickly and little if any repetition is required. Although this may be the case for a few fortunate adults it is not the general rule. Adults need repetition. They need material in which the vocabulary is presented in an organized and sequential manner so that provisions are made for repetition. Gray (5) suggests that a word should be used "nine times at interval!; --- the first five uses being close together as an aid to mastery," (p. 18) and that once a word has been introduced that it is continually used in succeeding material rather than dropped. Gray made these recommendations in connection with material designed for children who are learning to read but, it can also be applied to adult material. If used as a rough guideline the instructor developing his/her own material will ensure that the adult learner will have an opportunity to learn the words in their written form.
Instructors preparing adult reading material for the first time have to have some means of determining the readability level of the material. This is especially true for simplified versions of news items and magazine articles. One of the quickest and simplest methods to use in determining readability is the Fries' readability formula (5). Grade levels determined by this formula are based on the number of syllables and sentences in a hundred word sample, excluding proper nouns.
By preparing their own teaching material and checking the content, format, vocabulary and readability, instructors will be able to offer their students reading selections and exercises which are interesting and at their readability level.