Reading: The Road Ahead Pt. 2

The Race and the War We Dare Not Lose!

Though educators know more than in previous decades about the teaching and learning of reading, still it may be in danger of becoming an elitist activity. When we were an industrial economy, prosperity did not require highly proficient literacy levels. However, fierce global competition and the constant need for innovation demand higher degrees of cognitive and problem solving skills than ever. Some students catch on to the reading process without any instruction or prodding, while others need all the support schools and the home can provide.

What to Do?

Intensive Instruction – The wiring for language may be laid down but it has not been or is not being appropriately activated through proper instructional strategies that address the four learning channels: 1)visual (seeing) 2) ear (hearing), 3) verbal (saying), AND 4) kinesthetic (writing/touching) Workbook instruction favors visual readers. However, if students lack auditory (hearing/listening) discrimination, they can’t distinguish sounds such as think –thank or charge – sharp. Intensive instruction is necessary especially by third grade because up until that time, the brain is much more malleable, plastic. What to do! Make sure your child’s teacher is providing the instruction needed for your child to succeed. Gently, ask questions.

Crawl Baby Crawl - Some research indicates that early motor stimulation (such a jumping and crawling) is important to development of the language center of the brain that promotes reading skills; yet the average child spends hundreds of hours sitting in a car seat and/or swing seat by age two. Many Headstart/Early Start programs introduce crawling as part of their curriculum. What to do! Make certain your child or grandchild crawls while learning to walk.

Dyslexics Need More Time Students who have intellectual equipment necessary for reading yet they cannot despite motivation and their socio-economic background are dyslexic (word blind). There is problem within the language system of the brain. These students have difficulty transforming letters into sounds and need accommodations (more time) for testing and for completing assignments. What to do! Make certain that there is documentation for this condition so that students receive more accommodations during standardized and other timed tests. To keep students’ spirits up and self-esteem intact: tutor, mentor, and provide a nonacademic outlet.
More Exposure to Print – Too often the home does not permit enough exposure for the brain to begin to analyze and to decode words, especially true for low-income families. There is not enough practice or role models who read. Multiple exposure to print is necessary for the brain to begin to analyze words, to decode words, and to obtain an awareness of word patterns. What to do! Buy books, newspapers, and subscribe to magazines. Read with and to children.
Real Wealth

You may have designer clothes and furs untold, boxes of jewelry and chains of gold. Richer than I you can never be, I had a parent/mentor who read to me.

Reading: The Road Ahead Pt. I

Reading scores are a huge predictor for planning America’s prison population. Because of the link between prisoners and literacy, the number of prisons built is based partly on reading test scores of American third and fourth graders. A low literacy level is the factor prison inmates have most in common. Learn to read or go to prison?
So much economic and human capital wasted!

Some years ago, I read Dr. Benjamin Bloom’s Developing Talent in Young People, a book that chronicles world famous, high achieving mathematicians, scientists, writers, musicians and athletes. I was stunned to discover the number of white males who recounted NOT fully learning to read/comprehend until fourth or fifth grade. Unfortunately, an African-American male who is not reading by that time has most likely been written off by family, school, and/or by society. (A prison bed is being planned for him.)
However, three factors saved the future achievers in Bloom’s study:
1) a mentor,
2) a hobby, and
3) strong family support that boosted their self-esteem until their reading skills developed.

All fruit DOES NOT ripen on the vine at once.

Technology: Holding Readers Back?
Some research suggests that a child’s brain continues to evolve for up to eight years after birth, weeding out neural connections that don’t get used. Early exposure to screens has been linked to diminished deductive reasoning and reduction of other cognitive skills. What are the implications for a generation of students whose brains are acclimated to a blur of videos, color, sounds, images, logos and therefore, find it difficult to concentrate on the printed words that represent the cognition of the textbooks, the workplace and an information-based economy? ) State-mandated exams, the ACT, and SAT employ a paper-driven format.

If you Can Read this Post, Thank a Teacher.

If you Can Read this Post, Thank a Teacher.

In addition, channel and Internet surfing provide little time for the reflection and concentration on ideas crucial to improving the reading process.
According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, (NAEP) fifty-five per cent (55%) of the children of college-educated parents read BELOW proficiency levels by the time they reach 8th grade.

Reading Is a Social Act!
ALL Teachers Are Reading Teachers

Reading is a social act and cognitive process dependent on a number of skills: decoding, concentration, memory, reflection. The hallmark of an effective reader is to be able to decode AND to comprehend simultaneously. Comprehension is building bridges between the known and the unknown.
Recently as an educational conference, I sat at a table with a variety of educators. One young assistant principal insisted that social studies and science teachers didn’t want to be reading teachers. They merely wanted to teach their content. When I stated that ALL teachers are reading and writing teachers, he bristled. I added that ALL students need to be able to speak, read, and write knowledgeably about any subject they study. I further reminded him that most content areas have a specialized vocabulary that needs to be taught systematically.
I further lectured:

Literate people can use the communication system of a culture for their social and economic well being.
Literate people share in the fruits of the culture, society, community. They use literacy to solve problems in their daily lives. Being literate is how a society gives out its life chances; it is what gives people options.
In the collaborative learning community where students sit face-to-face and side-by-side and are interdependent, literacy is both a cognitive and a social act. Students read, write for and speak to an authentic audience. It is also the foundation for shared reading, project-based learning, problem seeking, critical thinking, argumentation and debate, and the writing process.

“The Foundation of every State is the Education of its Youth!” Diogenes

Next Blog Post: Some ideas on how to improve reading.