Reading for Success ~ by Margaret Haviland
A WFS Faculty Blog post by our Head of School, Margaret Haviland
Published Wednesday, January 6th, 2021
Children learning to read is fundamental to their success in life. Whether they grow up to work in skilled trades, create new technologies, run their own restaurant, help people lead healthier lives, develop crops that will grow in space, or any other possible work they might imagine, they must read well. To be informed engaged citizens they must have the skills to read and make sense of fields outside of their own areas of expertise and experience.
So how do you as the parents and guardians of young children know what to look for when assessing where your child will learn to read (even during the pandemic)? At Westfield Friends School, we believe you should look for the following:
1. A schedule which takes reading and writing seriously by providing it with that most precious school commodity - time. Ideally, students are involved in language arts (reading and writing) two to three hours a day. Within that time students should be reading independently at least 30 minutes a day and expected to read each evening as the main focus of any homework they might have. Children should be reading high quality fiction and nonfiction books they have chosen for themselves. They should be choosing from books curated to meet them at their just right level.
2. A program which supports teachers to create and sustain a community of practice focused on childrens’ reading and writing. When teachers have time and peer leaders to foster discussion, wonder together, help each other solve problems; teachers will work together to create vertically integrated reading and writing programs that support each learner wherever they are in their own growth as confident readers. Communities of practice help teachers inform their teaching with research. Communities of practice help new teachers become master teachers and master teachers continuously evolve and adapt their program to emerging themes.
3. A philosophy of teaching which assumes young children are all starting from unique places as they begin to learn to read and write. Some children will have had little experience with books and need to learn the basics like the front versus the back of a book; that the abstract marks are letters, that letters form words, that words form sentences; or that pictures on the page relate to the text. Some children will be reading short, repetitive texts. Some children will be reading early chapter books. A philosophy which believes each student will learn and achieve competency as readers and writers in their own unique time. A philosophy which sees the role of the teacher as meeting, supporting, and fostering children’s individual growth as readers and writers.
4. A school which holds joy as one of the core values in its reading program -- children should learn to love reading and love to read. They should know what they like AND be open to exploring new genres and nonfiction topics. Ask students in the school to tell you about a book they just read independently, with a classmate, or as a part of their teacher’s read aloud program. Do their eyes light up? Can they tell you important things about the book and why it matters to them?
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