It was early December last year that a newspaper headline screamed out at me:
Teach teens to read, NAPLAN chief warns”
Finding the same article online (The Age. December 2, 2015) the headline had been toned down a little:
NAPLAN chief says first step to better results is teaching teenagers to read”
The message however is the same: students need to be taught to read throughout their school years, not just up to Year 2, which, it is said, is a common occurrence in schools across our country.
Following a report on the controversial NAPLAN testing conducted throughout Australia in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 which indicates that reading levels beyond Year 7 are stagnating, ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority) general manager, Stanley Rabinowitz, comments that as students get to higher levels there needs to be an emphasis on not just reading to learn but learning to read.
The assumption is that because we think they are reading, we don’t have to do reading instruction in years 7 and 9.”
I have long argued that reading is the cornerstone of all education. I’ve talked about this at conferences
and endlessly with work colleagues in schools in which I’ve taught. I’ve blogged long and hard over the years about the importance of reading and the necessity to create an atmosphere that inspires our students to read.
Over the years, I’ve put my words into action by creating a range of innovative and inspiring reading programs within those schools I’ve worked. Most of all though, I talk with the students in my classes each and every time I have the pleasure of sharing with them in my library. I talk with them about the importance of reading and the immeasurable joy and knowledge that can be gained from reading. Without a doubt, I tell them
Read a book ….. Learn about the world!”
There’s no doubt in my mind that reading is the key to successful educational achievement. Resources poured into education seem misdirected if they are not supporting this basic key skill. Our students need to not just be taught to read, but to be inspired and encouraged to read. A positive and inspiring reading climate in each and every school must be created.
- Saturate students with books.
- Inundate students with positive role models.
- Make reading a ‘cool’ activity.
- Initiate enticing book events.
- Talk lots about books, authors and writing.
- Encourage a whole school reading involvement.
- Utilize the enthusiasm & expertise of Teacher Librarians.
- Talk regularly about the value of reading.
- Create reading opportunities during the school day.
- Invite – often – authors, illustrators & storytellers to the school.
There’s no room for complacency. Programs designed to encourage reading should come with no strings attached. Negative overtones should not enter the picture.
A fascinating discussion about education was recently presented by Fareed Zakaria in his regular CNN broadcast. Reporting on the merit of Australia’s announcement for a bold new school curriculum which gave more prominence to coding over history and geography, Zakaria moved the discussion on to the importance of developing workers who not only had skills but learned how to interact, relate and communicate with others. “Succeeding at work and in life is more complicated” he says “than simply learning to code.” Distinguishing between ‘relationship workers’ and ‘knowledge workers’ he emphasized the importance of students learning to interact with people. A powerful tool to develop these skills is reading.
Reading fiction with complex characters and stories trains us to observe others and empathize with other people … which is why many medical schools are requiring that their students read fiction to become better doctors. (at 3.17 mins)
It is encouraging to hear the voice of a highly reputed social analyst support what Teacher Librarians have been saying for a very long time.
Encourage our students to read. Inculcate reading across the school curriculum rather than relegating it to the sidelines of school programs.
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