Research Based Methods To Increase Student Literacy, Prevent Aliteracy, And Improve Reading Skills

The Joy Of Reading

The largest problem that we have with literacy is that students don't want to read. Many kids are only reading to please a teacher, accomplish a specific goal, or to earn a prize. Very few children will voluntarily pick up a book. I have worked in a number of school settings. While in a school recently I was delighted when a student asked me if I had ever read any Steven Kellogg books. It turns out that this was this student's favorite author. This young man went to a school that had no "reading textbooks". The reading textbooks were "real" trade books (the same books that you would see in a bookstore). Downtime was to be spent picking a book of your choice and reading. I think back to my own development as a reader and realize that reading choice was a huge piece of my own literacy. I was never a big reader until middle school when I picked up a Piers Anthony book. The right book for the right person at the right time makes a world of difference in the development of readers.

I don't remember much about my early reading instruction. One teacher does jump out in my memories. It was my middle school reading and language arts teacher. She loved the classics. These were the books that we read and discussed in class. I remember those books and loved many of them. She took away the fear that so many people have of reading classic titles. Another thing that she did was use this note card system for tracking reading. We had a note card box. When we read a book we had to write it on the card, include how many pages it was, and write a summary of it. We could read each others' cards as well as go through our own. She required a certain number each grading period and we had to have at least one in a number of genres. Classics earned double pages. The pages were important because the student with the most pages won prizes at the end of the year. My class ended up with a tie at the end of eighth grade. I tied with two of my friends. This was a fun activity. We loved it. It was such a relief to do these cards over the traditional book report forms. It was also competitive. The competition encouraged us to read, read, and read. Covering large numbers of books and genres allowed us to find that right book.

I encourage anyone who is trying to create readers to look at how the reading is presented. That big text book is not appealing. It is big, heavy, intimidating, and resembles work rather than leisure. Let kids try to read what they want to read. Books can be read in class to practice discussions and critical thinking but the focus should be on self-selected reading and writing.

The Common Core Standards

The great news is that the new Common Core standards support the use of texts rather than textbooks. The Common Core instructs teachers to use real books and real source materials. A book list is given; however, it is not a mandatory reading list. The Common Core provides the list so that teachers have examples of high quality texts. Teachers are encouraged to use any books that fit the description of high quality, age appropriate materials. In the Common Core teachers and children are asked to read a variety of materials and to be able to react to, critically analyze, and use the writings that are read. This concept gives teachers the freedom and encouragement to allow children to read from a variety of sources.

From The Experts

Below you will find tidbits from well respected researchers in the fields of reading and writing. Use these as your defense for what you do in class. When a parent wants to know where the big textbook is, you will have an answer. These tidbits may also get your brain thinking about alternatives to traditional language arts instruction.

Teach The Joy Of Reading, The Rest Will Come More Easily

  • Richard Allington stresses that enjoying reading will increase the frequency and volume of reading. Increasing reading volume and frequency will increase reading proficiency.
  • Nancy Atwell recommends giving students special time and a comfortable place to read quietly without distraction.
  • According to Jerome Bruner, interest in the material that is to be learned is one of the best motivators. This encourages students to be involved in their studies, participate in learning, and think for themselves.

Reading that Is Embedded In Realistic Activities Helps Students To Learn

  • Kylene Beers has found that students will learn and retain vocabulary words more successfully when they are able to actively construct meanings and use the words in everyday context.
  • Linda Hoyt stresses the importance of authentic learning. Students get the most out of reading when they use it realistically, reading a text because they want to know about something that is in the text.
  • Jeffrey Wilhelm notes that when students aren't in school, solving a real life problem is a strong motivator to read. This can be replicated in the classroom.
  • Real world models of strong writing that cover a wide variety of purposes (game instructions, comics, advertising, literature, etc.) are wonderful models of how reading and writing are used successfully in everyday life according to James Britton.

Reading And Writing Reinforce Each Other

  • James Britton has found that students use writing to express themselves, convey information, and write creatively. Students need to practice reading and writing in all three manners.
  • James Britton also notes that students learn and retain information more effectively if they take notes during class.
  • Gay Pinnell and Irene Fountas believe that deeper understanding develops when students are exposed to reading and writing that are used for different purposes.
  • According to Jeffrey Wilhelm, it is important that we expose students to a variety of reading options so that they can discover a genre or style that they like.
  • Maxine Greene feels that it is important that we do not lose artistic and creative works. There is a lot of focus on subject area reading. Artistic studies must not be lost.

Students Need To Be Able To Use Reading And Writing In A Variety Of Ways

  • James Britton has found that students use writing to express themselves, convey information, and write creatively. Students need to practice reading and writing in all three manners.
  • James Britton also notes that students learn and retain information more effectively if they take notes during class.
  • Gay Pinnell and Irene Fountas believe that deeper understanding develops when students are exposed to reading and writing that are used for different purposes.
  • According to Jeffrey Wilhelm, it is important that we expose students to a variety of reading options so that they can discover a genre or style that they like.
  • Maxine Greene feels that it is important that we do not lose artistic and creative works. There is a lot of focus on subject area reading. Artistic studies must not be lost.

It Is Important To Allow Students To Self-Self Materials To Read And Write

  • Donald Graves believes that all children want to to write but only if we let them. The best way to encourage their writing is to allow them to choose their writing topics.
  • Jerome Harste has found that if students can see themselves in the literature they will connect more with reading. Allowing students to choose their own reading materials encourages this connection.
  • Nancy Atwell finds that helping a student connect with a book is like helping them pick a best friend. It is a very personal process that the students need to do for themselves.
  • Patricia Cunningham developed the Four Blocks Literacy Model. She encourages teachers to use each of these literacy blocks in their classrooms daily. One of her four foundational literacy blocks is self selected reading.

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Comments 2 comments

lfulton profile image

lfulton 2 years ago

Thank you. I appreciate the way you summarized the research of so many established names in literacy. It helps me to feel validated in my teaching methods. Nicely done.


Lwelch profile image

Lwelch 2 years ago from USA Author

Thanks! It was based on a project that I did for a wonderful teacher who really helped me form my beliefs about reading and writing. Now to find a school and a job for me that allow me to work in a workshop/mini lesson format so that students can focus on writing and reading more often and picking what they are interested in reading.

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