Once you are a reader, it can be easy to forget just how hard it is to learn to read. As adults, we may share some common experiences when it comes to learning to read such as a favorite teacher, a beloved book, even a spelling bee in your journey to increased vocabulary. But there is no one pathway to literacy. Every child has different needs, strengths and paces, and every teacher has to help every child in their classroom.
This leads to much conversation and debate over how to teach literacy and it has gained increased attention in news outlets recently. I’m energized by the interest so many educators, parents and readers have in this dialogue but also hope we use this moment to focus on the nuances of need rather than a debate over what has gone wrong.
In a piece I read by Rachel Gabriel in The Washington Post’s Answer Sheet, she noted, “There is a wide divide between political debates about the teaching of reading and the actual instruction students receive in classrooms.”
I’ve spent time in over 1,000 classrooms across the country, and I continually witness this. I am also seeing a dedication to research-based strategies and a comprehensive approach to literacy. With comprehensive literacy, teachers are looking at every minute that a child spends in a classroom as an opportunity to both grow skills while encouraging a love of reading and writing. It is incredibly challenging in the time and resource constraints felt in many classrooms, but there is room for both.
When authentic mentor text is used in whole class and for read alouds, children are more engaged. This brings them through to small group instruction. Small group then becomes about the reader and the text meets the reader where they are. Here, there is a focus on the skills inspired by the mentor book whether that be a need for phonics, a decodable text or even advanced reading on the same topic. This is when a teacher can individualize instruction by using research-based, inclusive strategies to support learning. This ultimately sets a student up for success during independent learning time and the transference of skills beyond the classroom.
Scholastic believes in this approach while recognizing the hard work it takes. Thank you to all the teachers actively supporting their students’ growth by embracing their needs and building upon their strengths.
I recently wrote about the importance of taking literacy walks, and I encourage administrators to do so as they consider how to support these teachers and their students and families in the creation of lasting, literacy-rich environments across classrooms and communities. We look forward to continuing to partner with you and bringing you more resources.