One of the best software I know for helping students with reading is
Inspiration (which you can download a demo copy at
Students are able to create semantic maps as they read fostering their
understanding of vocabulary (through creating Concept of Definition maps),
main idea and detail (through creating concept maps), text structure (as
they create maps representing classification, sequence, comparison/contrast,
or cause/effect), and study reading as the maps become study aids (as they
collapse the map to just the main ideas attempting to recall the details, or
collapse to the main topic as they practice recalling the main ideas).

We use Inspiration in our developmental reading program as students learn
PLAN, a student-oriented, strategic reading procedure.  Students create a
tentative map of the concepts in a chapter as they Predict what the chapter
will be teaching them.  Then, they label each node as they Locate on the map
what they know (which a checkmark) and what they don't know (with a question
mark) to engage prior knowledge.  As they read the chapter they Add new
links to those nodes they put question marks and confirm those nodes they
put checkmarks.  Finally, the Note the text structure reconfiguring the map
to represent the rhetorical pattern presented by the author (classification,
sequence, comparison/contrast, or cause/effect).

The mapping software is a means to an end guiding students through a process
where they learn to understand their role in creating meaning.  Eventually,
we wean them from the software to creating maps in their minds as they read
in what we call short PLAN.

We have had great success developing students abilities to read with over
90% passing state mandated reading tests and, more importantly, impressive
student retention after two years following instruction.

You can read about how we use this and other software in these references:

            Caverly, D. C., Mandeville, T. P., & Nicholson, S. A. (1995).
PLAN: A study-reading strategy for informational text. Journal of Adolescent
& Adult Literacy, 39(3), 190-199.
            Caverly, D. C., & Peterson, C. L. (1996). Foundations for a
constructivist, whole language approach to developmental college reading.
Retrieved August 31, 1998, from
            Nicholson, S., Caverly, D. C., & Radcliffe, R. (2003, October).
Are they getting it? Creating a community of learners and assessing for
transfer to college classes. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the
College Reading and Learning Association, Alburquerque, NM.

Let me know if you decide to try Inspiration.

David C. Caverly, Ph.D.
Professor, Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction
Texas State University - San Marcos
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