From Malls to Motorcycles - a vocabulary development story for struggling readers

When Christine Smith moved from New York City to the countryside of New Jersey, she wasn’t certain that she would fit in with the local teenagers. As a city girl, she spent her free time shopping in boutiques, exploring art museums and riding subways. In New Jersey, her new neighbors fished in ponds, hunted for deer, and galloped on horses; however, most of all the teenagers loved riding their dirt bikes through wooded trails.  Christine feared she would not be able to assimilate into the neighborhood because she was not adroit at riding dirt bikes or horses. She didn’t want to be a pariah.


In her mind, both those activities required courage, but Christine’s courage was very tenuous. She knew from experience that motorcycles could be very dangerous. In fact, her uncle had died in a bike accident when Christine was very young. Like all humans, Christine had a primeval desire to survive, so the thought of riding a motorbike had never entered her mind. Even so, Christine knew that if she were going to make friends with the other teenagers, She would have to transcend her fear and engender a change in her life. She was convinced that she could do it because she was mutable.


One day a group of teenage boys were going out for a ride on their dirt bikes and Christine asked if she could join them. George, a tall boy who was one of the best bike riders, rolled his eyes. After a moment he sighed, pointed to the back of his seat and said, “Okay, hop on. You can ride with me.”  Christine was annoyed because George seemed to be talking down to her. She did not like his condescension.


A sly, ephemeral smile spread briefly over Christine’s face. Her father had been secretly teaching her how to ride his Harley, so she was confident she could handle a dirt bike.  When George turned around to put on his helmet, Christine hopped on his bike, shifted through the gears and sped away. He watched in amazement as Christine raced across an open field.


Christine was proud of herself until she suddenly came upon a prodigious rock jutting out of the ground. Since her biking skills were still marginal, she wasn’t able to swerve around it. When the bike hit the rock, it sent Christine flying over the handlebars. The bike flipped into the air and landed only inches from where Christine’s body lay prostrate on the ground.


George came running up to Christine. Although he was angry that she had taken his bike, he was relieved to see she suffered no major infirmity and the bike had not been damaged. Christine explained that she had a strong desire to ride with her new friends because riding motorcycles made her feel imperious. George commiserated with her and promised to help her become a better rider.

Honda dirt bike
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Reading teachers are familiar with "high interest low level" stories designed for use with middle school and high school students who are struggling readers. From Malls to Motorcycles belongs to a new genre of short stories known as "short stories with big words." Stories within this genre are flash fiction composed of approximately 1000 words. Students with attention deficit  disorder should have no trouble reading these stories as they can often be read within ten minutes. Despite the short length, these stories are beneficial for building vocabulary because they contain a high concentration of advanced vocabulary words. When used with the supplemental materials, students should be able to build their vocabulary quickly, which in turn will help improve their reading comprehension. Additionally, the downloadable version of the story, which is available on the Teacherspayteachers.com website, included embedded audio so that a student with dyslexia may hear the story read aloud. The free version of Adobe Acrobat reader is all that is needed to use the downloadable stories, which a affordably priced. Check them out!