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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Nurturing Literacy: Tips and Resources For Developing Lifelong Readers

The importance of early literacy cannot be understated. Countless studies have shown that students who start reading earlier are better prepared for the academic road ahead. Not to mention, early readers are much more likely to become lifelong readers.

Parents and teachers play an important role in lifelong literacy, but how exactly can they best help their kids cultivate a love for reading? Well, there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution, and I'm sure you all have strategies of your own. But we wanted to highlight a few resources from around the Web that can offer support in this challenging task.

  • Early Literacy Teaching Guides: MAKE WAY FOR BOOKS, an early literacy advocacy nonprofit, offers a wealth of resources for educators. And MWFB’s early literacy teaching guides are just one example. Each guide offers tips, strategies and activities for helping young learners develop a love for reading. The MWFB website also features a section for families that offers information about early literacy and strategies for enjoying books with your kids.
  • Excerpts from Building Student Literacy Through Sustained Silent Reading: ASCD published the first chapter of Steve Gardiner’s book for free, with other chapters available if you purchase the e-book. The first chapter is a wonderful resource, and it provides a solid overview of SSR, some research behind it, and ideas for incorporating a silent reading program in your classroom. Also check out sixth-grade teacher Donalyn Miller’s article “Becoming a Classroom of Readers,” originally printed in Educational Leadership, which offers strategies for encouraging reading in your classroom.
  • Early Literacy Resources from Reading Is Fundamental: Early literacy nonprofit Reading Is Fundamental produced this collection of activities, book lists, articles and multicultural reading resources, and it's full of helpful information. For middle school students, there’s the interactive reading resource “Reading Planet” that would certainly be useful in class. You might start with the article "Getting Your Child to Love Reading,” by Kathryn Perkins.
  • Tips for Creating a Home Library from Reading Rockets: Reading Rockets is a fabulous source for reading resources for parents and teachers. It’s hard to pick just one piece -- but I felt that this article really fit with the theme of cultivating a love of reading. A home library is a powerful motivator for kids, and here you’ll find fun tips for putting one together on any budget. For students who use tablets for reading, “Top 12 Comprehension Apps,” is a great source for reading tech inspiration.
  • Interactive Reading Resources from ReadWriteThink: These interactive resources from ReadWriteThink cover a variety of topics. But for reading specific modules, check out the Learning About Language and Organizing and Summarizing collections. Both offer some extremely useful tools to encourage deeper reading, comprehension and organizing notes and research.

    Really, there are many different useful tech resources. Which ones do you use in your classroom? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check out these other useful tech resources for reading comprehension:

  • Some Recent Edutopia Reading Blogs:

    Edutopia's bloggers wrote some pretty inspiring posts about literacy and lifelong reading last year. These are just a few from 2013 that were hits with our readers, and each one offers practical tips, tools and strategies for encouraging students to read.

    Comments (6)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

    zep's picture
    zep
    Education Specialist

    "Countless studies have shown that students who start reading earlier are better prepared for the academic road ahead." Well of course students who read early are ready for schools which place a high priority on the written word; but what does that have to do with actual learning and longitudinal educational attainment? Against the suggested research, I'll stack up the research which shows that forcing a child to take on any task, reading included before they are ready and interested is a surefire way to a negative correlation with lifelong learning. Forcing early learning does help to explain the 50% drop-out rate across the nations urban centers; the message is clear, if you don't learn to read early you don't stand a chance when measured against standards which focus on early reading, whether the child is ready or interested or not. Force your kid to read early whether they like it or not and maybe hem can graduate with the school system's blessing. Actually align a student's learning to their individuality and hem won't stand a chance. No wonder we hear "educators" completely redefine differentiation as meaning different means to having every kid learn exactly the same concepts. Sounds to me a lot more like homogenized schooling than differentiated instruction, unless we buy the newfangled redefinition of differentiation. Take a look at Webster's definition of differentiation and ask yourself why the CCSS world finds it necessarily to create an entirely new definition?

    Norah's picture
    Norah
    Early childhood teacher, writer, life-long learner

    These are great resources. Thanks for sharing. The ability to read doesn't only help children meet academic targets in a system which values them, as suggested in the previous comment by Education Specialist (I would question the speciality). The ability to read empowers learners to take charge of their own learning and the direction of their lives. I agree that learning is best (and in fact only) done when the learner is ready and forcing students to attempt things way beyond their capabilities only sets them up for failure. A challenge with support to help them attain the next step is necessary though. An interest in the learning is not only motivational, it is also empowering. Children will learn to read when the conditions are right. Both my children were reading well before they were 4 years old. They were read to daily (many books), were talked with, played with, encouraged and supported and came to reading effortlessly and without formal instruction. They were lucky. Children who come to school from language-impoverished homes where books are rarely read and rich talk about a variety of subjects is seldom engaged in; where negative commands outnumber positive statements of encouragement will struggle to see the value in learning that would enhance their lives.

    zep's picture
    zep
    Education Specialist

    Absolutely agreed that reading readiness is key, it concerns me when absolute standards are implemented in a way which does not take that concept into account. I would be interested in your consideration of children who come from "language-impoverished" homes which are culturally aligned, cultures which place more emphasis on non-verbal communication including intentional focus on forms of communication other than the written word, should these students be expected to align their behaviors with the dominant culture? How do we as educators place value on this form of learning and respect their culture? The common concept of code-switching, discussed in a culturally respectful manner comes to my mind though I am by no means an expert in teaching these students in a culturally respectful manner.

    Keith Heggart's picture
    Keith Heggart
    High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia
    Facilitator 2014

    A very interesting read - thanks for sharing Matt. I remember my High School English teacher saying that the surest path to exam success - in any subject - was to read widely, deeply and often.

    I think something that cannot be underestimated is modelled reading - by that I mean parents and teachers reading while students are reading. I reckon it sends the right message.

    Grenard Madrigal's picture
    Grenard Madrigal
    Web Developer for BirdBrain Science

    I'm one of the founders of a very small, very new startup called www.birdbrainscience.com. We're basically a science textbook written at multiple reading levels. So, a teacher can assign an article and their students get the same article at their own specific reading level. Then, they take a quiz that allows them to move up or down reading levels for future articles. Anyhow, what's interesting (and pertains to this article) is that we're based on middle school standards and almost HALF of the teachers who've signed up to try us out are from elementary schools, not middle school! So, I find it cool that some of these kids are actually reading about things like fossils or planets... or even photosynthesis at an early age. The teachers are also able to make articles available for independent/optional reading too, so these young students are reading science stuff that they're interested in, and at their own pace. Awesome.

    Terri's picture

    Technology is a wonderful tool for most people. I think Microsoft Office is the greatest invention. I do believe technology has stolen the love of reading from our students. "Nurturing Literacy: Tips and Resources for Developing Lifelong Readers" mentions many great resources for instilling a love of reading in our students. It is not too late to build or to build on a love of reading with our elementary students. Most of these students if they have been read to prior to entering school, will have a love of reading all throughout the elementary and middle school years. It is extremely hard to sell the love of reading to a high school student. If the book or material is of interest to the student, you might have a chance of the student reading. Interest level must be the standard for developing a love of reading in the high school student. Even during the SSR period, teachers are constantly saying put up your phone, your phone cannot be out, NO Cell Phones...This occurs even with those students that may be reading a high-interest book. For the elementary school student and the middle school student there is hope of maintaining and instilling a love of reading. Instilling a love of reading in the high school student, there is much research to be done.

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