In our March 2012 Educational Leadership article, “Every Child, Every Day,” we argue that every day, every child enrolled in school must
- Read something they choose.
- Read something accurately.
- Read something they understand.
- Write about something that is meaningful to them.
- Talk to peers about their reading and writing.
- Listen to a fluent adult read aloud.
We note that it is our struggling readers who are least likely to engage in any of these recommended activities. We also argue that, contrary to the currently popular view, the greatest problem struggling readers face is not the lack of effective instructors, but rather the lack of opportunity to actually engage in reading. Citing the available research, we show how each of these activities is linked to literacy development and especially to the development of literate understandings.
Examine the literacy activities that struggling readers in your school experience every day. Do all of them spend at least two-thirds of their reading and writing lessons actually reading and writing? Or do they spend larger amounts of time on specific skill-work activities and little time reading and writing?
When struggling readers interact with texts all day long, in science and social studies lessons, for instance, do they read with 98 percent accuracy or higher—or do they struggle with reading accuracy, then fluency, and finally comprehension? What are students learning about language and literacy in settings where they have an uninterrupted diet of challenging texts?
- Are the adults in our school making decisions that create struggling readers?
- Are instructional systems and uses of time designed to ensure the activities recommended above? If not, what is in their place?
- What am I going to do to ensure that every child spends most of every day in high-quality, literate, learning environments?
Post submitted by Richard Allington, professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Rachael Gabriel, assistant professor at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.