Writing for diverse audiences necessitates understanding the needs and desires that motivate different readers. For example:
- How motivated are they to read your text? Is it something that will inform or persuade them? How convinced are they that they need to know? What will you need to do to gain that initial engagement?
- How much do they know about the subject matter? Will you need to explain some basic principles or can you assume that they already know this? Are they familiar with and expect subject-specific discourse or do you need to keep to plain English?
- Do you need to consider demographics, such as age and gender, and how this might influence your writing and presentation?
- What impediments and barriers might there be to their understanding? How familiar are they with English? Do they have physical or cognitive impairments that might impede them from understanding the message?
Two examples are included here:
- The first is a curriculum document for teachers to deliver drug education to young people with disabilities and learning difficulties, including those with cognitive impairment.
- The second is a set of booklets which explain the curriculum to parents with low literacy levels, including those with a non-English speaking background.
Drug education for students with disabilities and learning difficulties
I had worked with the Drug Strategy Team (DECD) for many years, editing books and other resource materials, so I felt fairly confident in this territory. However, when I was asked to write the Drug Education Teacher Support Package: Students with disabilities and learning difficulties R-12, I recognised my work was cut out for me, as I had not previously worked with the disability sector.
This book required extensive research to explore the communication barriers for young people with disabilities and learning difficulties, from students in mainstream schools to those in special schools. Consequently it meant researching an easy English style and advising the designer on suitable artwork. I also used a cartoonist to draw the material together to support young people who are visual learners.
Informing parents about the curriculum
These two booklets, ‘What is my child learning in English?’ and ‘What is my child learning in mathematics?’, sought to interpret the South Australian Curriculum, Standards and Accountability Framework for parents, particularly those with lower literacy skills.
Working with the designer (mkgd), we devised a way to read the booklets either by year level or by strand, using colour coding.
Focus groups with parents in identified areas demonstrated the success of the approach and highlighted in what ways we might modify the resource.