Friday, March 7, 2014

In Honor of National Reading Month!

Teaching Reading is no easy task.  As parents they tell us to read to our kids each and every night.  Many a nights I get on my son for repeatedly getting out of bed.  He will come to my door, saying, "One more book, dad? Just one more."  Seriously-How can I say No?  Of course I want him to stay in his bed, but if he wants to look at his books I have a hard time telling him no.  
We read to our kids each and every night(unless they are in trouble) and they look forward to this time.  In fact it can be melt down city when we go to bed without reading a book.  It is unfortunate that all families don't take the time to read to their kids because it truly does start here.  

Reading practice begins full force in Elementary school.  Learning the alphabet, putting sounds together, compound words, and finally putting together sentences in order to read all our favorite books- Green Eggs and Ham, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and Elmo books.  Kids begin to enjoy reading and read at home as much as they can, read for enjoyment and talk with their friends about it. I remember when I was young-Book-it was the cool thing.  I couldn't wait to get enough book-it points so I could get a personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut.  Why is that not still cool? 

As students get to middle school many of them get involved in sports, which leads them away from reading.  Reading becomes a hassle.  It becomes something that we have to do not something that we want to do.  Why is that?  Is it because all during elementary school and middle school kids watch their parents tweeting away or face booking or texting their friends instead of picking up a book and reading?  Is it because they don't have all the strategies needed to comprehend what they are reading so they lose interest?  Could it be its not cool to read?  Well if they get through middle school pretending to read then comes high school.

Yes Reading in High School-It can be taught.  

This year we have implemented a school-wide school reading initiative.  We have kids that read at a 3rd grade level all the way up to way beyond a college level. Before I talk about our program:

Picture this-You are a senior reading at a 3rd grade level.  You want to go to college or the military or technical school.  You know you can't read, but are too afraid/stubborn/embarassed to tell anyone.  You never get in trouble, never miss class, turn in all your homework and always get good grades.  Get all your chores done at home, great athlete, good in sports.  Great life huh!  Yet all you can think about is that you can't read.  Someone hasn't cared enough to teach you how to sound out words or understand what you are reading.  What do you do when you graduate?

Here are 3 things that I have found vital to successfully teaching Literacy in High School(And I'm no reading teacher)

1. Commitment

There has to be a commitment from everyone.  Everyone has to be on board.  She is not the reading teacher.  He is not MY kid.  They are not SPED kids.  All those thoughts have to change to- We are reading teachers.  He is OUR kid.  All of them are our kids.  The teaching staff has to be committed to being a part of the process.  Strategies for all have to be taught in all core classes, elective classes, etc.  We have worked hard at implementing vocabulary strategies in all our classes.  In our reading classes we have focused on specific strategies regarding comprehension and fluency.  However at many levels phonics is also an issue.  We also hit those kids that need those skills with our other programs.  
Another important part of this is getting parents on board.  There has to be commitment from parents that they want their kids to read.  Contacting parents and making them aware of our commitment and what we want for their kids is a great way to build that relationship.  I mean what parent, if they knew their kids had trouble reading wouldn't want them to get the help they need.  Anyone??  Anyone??  

All people must be on board and committed.  

2. Time

This also has to do with commitment.  You have to give the kids time.  Take time out of your schedule to dedicate to reading interventions and instruction.  We have committed 85 minutes every day for some kids and 45 minutes 4 days a week for others.  Its because of this focused instruction every day that kids have improved.  
Also you have to give your teachers time.  Time to develop their strengths, and for professional development.  Have we all taught reading before? No. Are we all reading teachers? Yes.  We all however need time to learn to become reading teachers.  I have met individually with our teachers, we have worked in services, etc training our teachers to become better reading teachers.  That never can stop.  If you want to make it a priority then you have to make a commitment.
Parents-This is also when you play a part.  Just because they are in high school doesn't mean there isn't quiet time at home.  Turn the electronics off and read with your child.  Model for them-Read the newspaper every day-online is ok!  Pick up a book and read along with them.  Take the time.

Take the Time, Give them Time

3. Encouragement-Show them you Care

Let's go back to that Senior who is reading at a 3rd grade level.  What does he have to look forward to?  Why didn't someone catch him earlier?  Isn't he in HS, and isn't it the Elementary teacher's job to teach him to read.  

It does break my heart to see a child who is 18 not be able to read.  But really no more than a child who is 7.  All someone has to do is show them you care.  If it is important to you it will be to them.  Give them a reason to read.  Show them passion.  Encourage them.  Encourage them.  Encourage them.  

If we teachers at the HS don't show them we care-who will.  Many students at this age have shut off and are in danger to not graduate if they can't read.  What will they do without their HS diploma?  The percentages are not in their favor.  We can use great programs, give them lots of time and all the commitment in the world, but if they see you don't care and don't put your full effort into it they WON'T learn to read.  
Another part of this is being intentional.  We talk about reading each and every meeting.  We discuss it in our PLC groups.  I look at data daily to see how our kids are doing.  IT has to be a focus of everybody and kids can improve.  

So the next my son comes in and says, "One more book dad? Just one more?"  I think I'll just smile and say, "Can I help you?  Do you want me to read it to you?"  

Will you turn down the opportunity to teach a kid to read?

Have a great Reading month!



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