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AND MOTOR SKILLS
OF ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS:
ACCESSIBLE IS THE "BIG BOOK?"
book Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A. World Services,1976), popularly
referred to as the "Big Book," presents the A.A.
12-step plan of recovery from addiction through several
autobiographical case histories. This book is often used
as the central element of bibliotherapy in drug and alcohol
treatment programs. For this to be an effective component
of treatment, however, it must be comprehensible by the
client. Readability becomes an especially salient issue
for treatment programs in which a significant number of
patients manifest borderline literacy. A review of the literature
yielded no previous studies of the readability of any edition
of the "Big Book." The purpose of this study was
to determine the readability and difficulty level of the
most current edition of this widely used component of addiction
readability formula developed by Flesch (1974) was used.
The Flesch formula involves a weighted combination of average
sentence length and number of syllables per 100 words to
arrive at a reading ease (RE) score, which may be converted
to reading difficulty by grade level. Thirty page numbers
were randomly generated by computer. A 100-word sample,
beginning with the second paragraph, was taken from each
selected page; however, paragraphs of editorial, italicized,
or introductory content were not included. Average sentence
and total syllable count were determined for each of the
30 samples. A Flesch reading ease score was then calculated.
scores range from 0 to 100, with reading difficulty diminishing
as scores increase. The resultant RE score for Alcoholics
Anonymous was 70. 60, which rests at the division between
the categories of "standard difficulty" and "fairly
easy." The grade level corresponding to this RE score
is 7.1, so an individual who reads at the level of the average
beginning seventh grader would be expected to be able to
read this material adequately.
results indicate the "Big Book" to be a readable
text. Care should be exercised, however, in the prescription
of any bibliotherapy to assure that the reading assignment
is within the capability of the client. While the material
in this text appears to be within the reading proficiency
of most clients, it would be an inappropriate assignment
for those individuals who read at levels significantly below
seventh grade. For such clients, use of audio tapes of the
text could be considered.
World Services. (1976) Alcoholics Anonymous. (3rd ed.) N.Y.
R.F. (1974) The Art of Readable Writing (25th anniv. ed.)
York: Harper & Row.