- Every child reads something he or she chooses every day. The authors note that the two most important factors in developing good readers is student access to a wide variety of books and having choice in what they read. It is a truism that if you wish to develop good readers, you must ensure that students are reading. Allowing some choice adds enjoyment to the activity and leads to more reading.
- Every child reads accurately. Accuracy implies appropriate strategies for word recognition, decoding, and word analysis skills. Students should read books with at least 90% accuracy, and some studies put that number as high as 98%. Accuracy in reading leads to improved comprehension and vocabulary development. Students who are forced to struggle with text well above their comfortable reading level will never rise up to that level. The fastest way to improve their facility with difficult text is to develop their ability with easier text. Not providing this appropriate level of reading instruction is comparable to teaching long division to students who have not mastered multiplication or subtraction.
- Every child reads something he or she understands. Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading, but it is often the case that students who can read fluently (that is, they can read and understand the words) do not read with comprehension (that is, they do not understand the meaning of the sentence or paragraph. This is, of course, a much more complex task because it assumes an understanding of word usage, cultural traditions, figures of speech, and context. Remedial reading instruction typically provides too much time to isolated skill development at the expense of genuine comprehension development.
- Every child writes about something personally meaningful. Teachers would do well to dispense with fill in the blank worksheets and require students to write daily in their personal journals. Student journals are an effective way to personalize instruction and can be used to develop vocabulary and comprehension as well as spelling, grammar, and handwriting. When students "compose" writing instead of just responding to isolated questions, they are forced to consider audience, genre, setting, plot, characters, and the like. It is a much more sophisticated task, and it develops fluency with language that is directly related to reading comprehension.
- Every child talks with peers about reading and writing. Peer discussions should focus not merely on retelling or summarizing but on analysis, comparison and contrast, motivation, alternative story lines and the like. Discussing writing is little used, but if implemented strategically with specific guidance about the kinds of conversations that students should have about their writing, it leads to improved fluency in language and reading.
- Every child listens to a fluent adult read aloud. It is sad for all that few teachers above the primary grades continue this practice, but everyone loves a good story. Reading aloud creates interest in reading and develops language fluency. Teachers can model appropriate pacing, pronunciation, inflection, and voice to enhance the experience and make the stories come alive. By adding appropriate commentary (don't overdo it!) they can show students how different characters "think" and how the setting plays into the development of the story line. Teachers can ask questions about what might happen next or about how one character might respond to a situation. All of this develops an understanding of language that makes reading more enjoyable and understandable.
Although I am not presently teaching at the K-12 level, I frequently teach teachers who do. I therefore keep up with current research on all things educational. Recently, I read an article in Educational Leadership (Allington & Gabriel, March 2012) that discussed key elements of reading instruction. I thought I would summarize and comment on their key ideas here:
Brian Hazeltine has a B.Ed. from the University of Saskatchewan, an M.A. from Grace Theological Seminary, and an Ed.D. from Walden University. He has over thirty-five years of experience as a teacher, principal, superintendent, and professor with Christian schools. He has written extensively on all aspects of Christian education and is available to speak or lead workshops upon request. He is currently Superintendent for Algoma Christian School in Michigan. In his "spare time" is also a Special Appointment Professor for Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, where he teaches a number of graduate courses in education. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org