Reading is key to learning…

  • Low literacy is closely related to unemployment, poverty, poor health and crime – 43% of those with the lowest literacy skills live in poverty and 70% of the prison population falls into the two lowest levels of reading proficiency (1998 National Institute for Literacy Fact Sheet).
  • The National Assessment of Educational Programs (NAEP, 2001) provides a troubling picture of where we are as a nation in reading – 38% of 4th graders cannot read at a basic level.

Key Definitions

Here’s a good definition about the reading process and what school literacy programs aim to do. This may help parents better understand your child’s school curriculum, the assignments teachers are giving your children, and the kinds of questions to ask teachers.

From Read Oregon:

The Reading Process: Reading is both the acquisition of information and the making of meaning. Not only do readers take information from the printed page, they bring to the act of reading their own knowledge, experience, cultural background, and personality, all of which affect how they understand a text. For this reason the reading process is always a complex interaction between text and reader. The text gives clues and the reader uses strategies. We call textual clues, the “cueing systems” of written language because they guide readers as they attempt to decode and comprehend text. The major cueing systems are grapho-phonemics (letter to sound correspondences), syntax (the grammatical structure of language) and semantics (the meanings of words and phrases). The strategies beginning readers use include sounding-out unfamiliar words, chunking words into parts, drawing analogies between known and unknown words, and predicting from what has already been read. But there are also more sophisticated strategies that become available as readers grow in experience, confidence and competence.

School Literacy Programs: The purpose of a school literacy program is to enhance individual and civic life in a democratic society. To individuals, reading and writing are effective tools for work, play, social interaction and spiritual fulfillment. To society, they are a powerful force for expanding and maintaining our ideals of freedom, equality, compassion and peace. To achieve these goals a school literacy program must pervade the entire school curriculum and operation. Teachers and students need to read, speak and write continually as they gather and disseminate information, formulate arguments, express ideas, opinions and feelings, describe and explain, and take action. Teachers in an effective literacy program use a variety of validated methodologies and resources for all students and provide additional help to struggling students. Phonemic awareness and phonics are necessary tools for beginning readers, but comprehension and critical analysis are also needed. These thinking tools gain importance as readers progress and texts become more complex. It is the job of the reading teacher to make students aware of all the cueing systems and strategies available to them and to facilitate their use through instruction and practice.