Big questions on literacy

A visit to several different schools today led me to conclude that literacy remains critical, central, and pivotal in the life experience of our students, regardless of the technology that they use either at school or in their social on-line world. We still need to find ways of promoting reading for pleasure, and metacogntivie involvment with what is happening in the book.

Teachers are always concerned about the literacy development of their students, but can seem to me to be remarkably unconcerned about the actual need to help foster an interest in reading. The problem is that teachers do not differentiate between literacy acquisition (as well as remediation) and literacy development. Students need to engage with a wide range of texts, not only for a purpose (learning) but also for fun!

I have seen great succes in promoting reading using a program called Accelerated Reader marketed by Renaissance Learning. It has a nice use of technology as a quizz tool. Yes I know that sometimes this program doesn't work at all!! But I am convinced that this is the result of poor implemetation, and poor engagement of the teachers in providing individual support for each student's emerging or developing literacy.

I was greatly heartened by one message, that appreared recently on the listserv for teacher librarians in Australia, about experiences with Accelerated Reader. For some the vote is still out on whether or not the program is worth including in the school curriculum.

" We have been using Accelerated Reader for the last 4 years and we absolutely love the program and the results we are seeing everyday! I have Junior School teachers who can see the benefits so clearly with their student's, they are now willingly giving up their RFF time each week to work with me on the program! I am definitely not a rep for AR, just an ordinary TL who gets soooo excited when I see kids reading! Throughout the use of the program we have seen the student's attitude to reading change – they now read the books they borrow, they now love reading, they plonk themselves all over the library to read. They reading in their lines, in their classrooms, they even read eating lunch and walking through the playground! They are excited about books!

We are a co-edschool and the boys in Year 3-6 are now reading as much as the girls. After years of trying to teach them how to use the catalogue they are now independent users because they need to locate their books on a regular basis. Teachers working with me on AR in the library find they are totally involved in their student's literature program, they receive regular, helpful and comprehensive reports on all students and are able to closely monitor their student's progress with me. Students love the freedom of choosing their own books and doing the quizzes but they definitely need to have read the book. In my experience they cannot score highly on their quiz by just watching the movie or reading the blurb! We have our AR books integrated throughout the collection and their student levels are zones of proximal development where maximum learning takes place with minimal frustration. We are trying to move right away from the reading scheme mentality. Over the past few years we have surveyed the students, parents and teachers and have shared ideas with each other on how we can improve its implementation. Every school is different and I agree with Judy, it may not work for everyone. I do believe however, the key to its success is the way it is implemented. We have found our students are more confident when reading and their vocabulary, comprehension and literacy skills have improved. Our students read widely now and across genres. AR inspires them to share their reading experiences with their classmates and read other booksthat are not on the program! Our more capable students have been extended and challenged and our slower ones encouraged through success.This …is the day-to-day nitty gritty classroom/library/student/teacher real evidence – for us the AR program WORKS!!!"

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