As a student, I always enjoyed reading and being read to, but I also vividly remember a period in my life when reading was a struggle. For the longest time, I thought I was the one to blame; that maybe I didn’t try hard enough or maybe I just wasn’t meant to be a good reader. However, while traveling down the path to becoming an educator, I’ve learned more and more that it’s our job as teachers to provide instruction that meets the needs and abilities of all students, especially when it comes to reading. Literacy is something that any individual can learn, develop, comprehend, and enjoy. However, the way a child inherits these qualities and a love of reading is through effective reading instruction, and more importantly, through a teacher that values authentic reading experiences.
As a child, an adult holds our hand to help us write and reads to us continuously at school and before we go to bed. The support and scaffolds that we receive in literacy eventually start to decrease, and then it’s up to each individual to decide whether or not it’s worth persuing. However, reading and writing should not feel like a struggle. It should feel like a new opportunity to experience, imagine, and create something wonderful. As teachers, it’s not only our job to help our student’s write letters or read the words on a page, but to foster a love of literacy. Literacy shouldn’t be about levels, rather, it should focus on discovering what each individual enjoys and providing them with the tools they need, and the experiences that make them want to continue to grow and develop as readers, writers, and thinkers.
As a literacy teacher, my goal is to help all students develop a love for reading and writing. Not all students come to school with the tools, background knowledge, or even language that supports their literacy development. However, I believe that all children, regardless of disability or language difference, can become life-long readers and writers. To support all students in literacy, they need to be met at their level and encouraged to push through any challenges they face. Student’s also need the opportunity to select and read high-interest texts. According to Freeman and Freeman, “If one goal of reading is to help students value reading, it is crucial to connect them with interesting and imaginative texts” (2000, p.43). When students, like myself, start to see reading as difficult, boring, or even impossible, it’s because they’ve lost interest or haven’t been provided with experiences that show them the joy of reading.
In my classroom, I want my student’s to be excited and passionate about reading and writing. I want them to learn at their own pace and be provided with the supports they need in order to be and feel successful in literacy. Frank Smith, the author of Reading Without Nonsense explains, “children shouldn’t all be expected to learn to read at the same time or at the same rate or from the same materials, for the simple reason that children are individuals” (2005, p.151). I strongly believe in differentiation and the importance of not only meeting students’ strengths and needs, but also their interests.
When it comes to reading with young children, it's imperative to choose texts based on the students' interests, but it's also vital to ensure that they are culturally relevant. According to Freeman and Freeman, culturally relevant texts are those that can relate to the student in many different ways. Social factors, setting, time period, age and sex of the characters, world views, and personally experiences are just some of the elements a text should have in common with a student to encourage reading. Engaging students in experiences that they can relate to not only grabs their attention, but allows them to fully immerse themselves in a text and assists their ability to constructing meaning. Through the use of high-interest and culturally relevant materials, students are more likely to enjoy reading, ask questions, make inferences, and better comprehend what they've read. This combination is the key to reading proficiency and long-term literacy success.
Literacy is everywhere. It’s how we communicate, learn, educate, navigate, and develop has human beings. As teachers, it’s our job to ensure that all of our students our provided with high quality, differentiated literacy instruction, choice, and authentic reading and writing experiences. In becoming a literacy coach, I hope to provide my students all of this and so much more. I want them to become life-long learners and thinkers, that continue to grow through literacy.
- Looking Backwards: Looking back, I learned through experience in each course. In some cases, I was asked to complete assignements based on the classroom and the students I was working with at the time. For others, I was given the opportunity to experience what it was like to develop as a student, emersed in hands-on and authentic literacy instruction. Some of my favorite classes were the ones where I got to experience learning for myself. As a writer, I loved EDLIT733. It made me realize that the journaling I did when I was younger was more than just me pouring my heart out to my diary, but that it was an experience the helped me grow and develop as a writer and as the person I am today. Journal writing, especially free write expereinces, is something I want my students to appreciate and engage in, in hopes that it will encourage them to become advid writers that feel that their thoughts, ideas, and experiences have sense of purpose.
- Looking Inward: When I look inward, it's similar to how I felt looking backward. Through my classes at Hunter, I've become more aware of how my teachers, life, and education expereinces have impacted the reader and wrtier I've become today. Another class that greatly impacted the way I think of myself as a learner was EDLIT734. Many of my peers thought that this class was "strange" and a "waste of time". However, growing up as a dancer, singer, and imaginative thinker, this was the type of learning I wish I was exposed to more when I was a student. When I was younger, I vividly remember having to complete Wordly Wise booklets. Each booklet was leveled and contained reading and questions that had to be answered. Not only did I dread Wordly Wise every day, but I also wasn't good at it. I was on the "purple" level for what felt like a life-time. Seeing my friends grow levels and knowing that I hadn't moved from where I started killed my self-esteem. I didn't think I was good at reading and writing and I never thought I would be. Now, almost 18 years later, I have a totally different outlook. Classes, like EDLIT734 showed me that learning to read doesn't have to happen though a book and pencil. It showed me that reading and writing should be an exerience through aesthetic education. It showed me that it's okay to imagine, question, move, create, and so much more when it comes to literacy. As a teacher now, I want to provide experiences like the ones I've had, ones that build my students self-esteem and encourage them to love reading and writing everyday.
- Looking Outward: My experiences and learning here at Hunter have impacted my teaching and my students’ learning. EDLIT742 provided me with opportunity to reflect on my own teaching practice, in order to improve my students learning. From this experience I have recognized strategies and tools I need to improve and reach each individual. Similarly, during my last semester at Hunter, EDLIT736 and EDLIT737 have provided me the opportunity to assess and provide instruction with one student. Through this opportunity, I was able to consistently apply what I was learning in class directly into my instruction. The tutoring experience has impacted the way I think about reading instruction and how I can best support individual readers and writers. I now have a plethora of research-based strategies, assessments, and tools that I can use as both a teacher and literacy coach.
- Looking Forward: Looking forward, I have many short term and long term goals as a literacy educator. A short term goal that I have for myself is to improve my guided reading instruction. Guided reading is a time of day where each individual has a chance to be instructed at their level. As a teacher, I want to improve my ability to identify a student's area of need and build on their strengths to help them become better readers. It's also an opportunity for students to develop a love of reading by being provided engaging texts. To this day, I remember certain books because I was able to see myself in them or because the way it was written grabbed my attention. I want my students to fall in love with books because they too see themselves within these stories. A long term goal I have for myself is to become an expert on differentiating my literacy instruction. As a special education teacher, it's my job to ensure that students are being provided instruction that helps them grow at their own rate and in their own way. For EDLIT745, Literacy Research for Change, I decided that this would be the focus of my research. Now, I feel that I have been provided with many different tools and resources that I can use to support my differentiated instruction in literacy, however, it will take time to discover what works the best for each individual student. Overall, my goal is to ensure that each and every child, regardless of whether or not they speak a different language or have a disability, is successful and develops a love for literacy. That way, they can identify who they are, what they believe, and find their place in the world.
Freeman,D. & Freeman, Y. (2000). Teaching reading in multilingual classrooms.
Smith, F. (2005). Reading without nonsense. New York: Teachers College Press.