Lots of teachers say they believe that all kids can learn to read, but are we acting on that belief as much as we can? How many of us are putting forth our best effort to make literacy happen for each and every kid in our classroom? Or do we make excuses for some kids:
*His parents don’t speak English, so he’s always going to have problems with reading. There’s no one at home to help him.
*She came to us from another school where the instruction was not good enough for those first few years. Now how am I supposed to catch her up for all that lost time?
*My struggling readers get pulled out for so many things that they are never in my room when I need to meet with their group.
*He qualified for LD, so there’s not too much I can do as his classroom teacher.
*Her older brother was a slow reader. She’s just like him.
And on it goes. Instead of thinking of reasons why this child will never be a proficient reader, let’s start participating in the problem solving.
Recently I read an article that Katie recommended to me, “What At-Risk Readers Need” by Richard Allington. You can find it in Educational Leadership, March 2011. I highly suggest that everyone read it. He lists several things that are NOT working, such as, sending the hardest-to-teach kids out in the hall to read with paraprofessionals, computer programs, and overreliance on core reading programs. He mentions a few things that schools should be doing so that every student can learn to read by the end of first grade, such as more Reading Recovery (recommended by the What Works Clearinghouse) for first graders, high quality kindergarten intervention, and lots of high-success reading experiences (time spent reading books that students can read.) “At-risk readers need more expert reading instruction than we have been providing.” When Allington spoke on this topic at the recent IRA convention he refuted the complaint that there’s not enough money available to do all that needs to be done by saying, “The money is there; we’re just not spending our money in the right ways.”
I’ve been thinking about this article and Allington’s sessions at IRA a lot this week. Please find that article and share it with some teachers and administrators at your school and let us know your thoughts.