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Forget reading? Not hardly. Orlando.

Posted by on in Literacy
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Orlando happened. Unimaginable. I read a letter to the editor of the local paper yesterday. A Dr. Mom was at her kiddos' K classroom when the school went on lockdown. Imagine. 

Now that newly five graduated and is ready for big kid school, I do think about her doing safety drills. We pray for the better now. The outpouring of humanity we witness at the moment gladdens our hearts and soul.

Tonight I write about a subject with intense fervor and passion, the cause of literacy for America's children. Regardless of personal circumstance, each student brings a story, every child possesses a number of gifts waiting to burst forth. We have such a grand, important job to do. We cannot give up. Never. Ever.

For those of us who just love to read, carry a book or kindle wherever we go, it's hard to understand a child not reading. Literacy means reading, writing, speaking and listening. A perfect pie of equal slices. Reading, writing, talking about favorite books, sharing true stories and make believe that brings such joy we cannot put that book down. Reading to know, reading to enjoy, reading for information, reading constantly. Having a purpose for our reading is so important.

Classrooms overflowing with books, audio books, media, graphic novels, classics, young adult literature, the more the better to catch the interest of kids. The new emphasis on informational text offers STEM worthy reading experiences. Tried and true classic novels, fairy tales, pleasure reading without extrinsic motivators grabs most kids. It's extremely important to offer reading selections at an independent reading level. Frustrated readers are generally reluctant or non-readers. Always has been this way, not new. But what is new is the notion to just leave these kids alone. Why bother? Orlando.

Educate to elevate. That levels the playing field. Hopefully, great education and great readers helps prevent another Orlando. I know we can do that. At least it's a big something we can do. And that can do attitude is what I am talking about tonight. Action. Profound, simple, might. Teach and reach each person we come in contact with, and that includes adult non-readers, hiding in the shadows.

  • Can a student be literate without reading? More questions than answers, but lots to think about, for sure.
  • Would you agree there is literacy involved across content areas? I think so.

Reading scores took a big hit this school year. Not surprising. Teachers did a great job and so did students.  I was terribly worried about NAEP scores being so low.

I'm much more confident now. 

But Forget reading? Just pack it in and move on? Why worry. Ask Siri. I think not.

During the years I worked in youth and adult penal education, I observed a correlation between non-reading and incarceration. In fact, I wrote my master's thesis about it. It only makes sense. Reading is key to just about everything in life, one way or another.

To be STEM literate, reading matters. Reading is not just about the past, but present and future. Everybody can learn to read better or more quickly with a variety of resources and ed tech.

Twitter colleague Oskar Cymerman recently forwarded an article "Reading It's Not Always fun-damental" requesting comment. We ended up with a number of insightful back and forth exchanges based on this must-read blog post.

There are some very valid points. Skim the links- each one is worthy. I'll be interested in your take on this.

After a bunch of back and forth, Oskar summed up everything we had thought about and were tossing around.

Oskar wrote "That's what the author suggests- let them get information in other ways- forget reading." 

I caught my breath then asked whether he was posting the article. He generously gave me the honor, told me he knew I'd take the high road, although I'm not sure now what that means. I promised a straight answer. So here goes. 

Forget reading?

We just can't. No way. I never gave up on a kid. Never. Certainly not now. I see Lisa's point, kids would probably rather watch You Tube and there are most definitely ways to access information today using all the senses. Learning styes and multiple intelligences kind of went by the wayside for awhile, but not really. Teachers always know how to differentiate. In fact, every class really should have an IEP for each student.

What we're contemplating right now is whether to just let reluctant and non-readers have a pass. Exempt them from reading because they don't want to read. Hope that somehow along the way, the passion and fire we feel from and about reading will appear. Voila!

 Questions for you to talk about with a colleague: 

  1. Do we just leave non and reluctant readers alone? (No.)
  2. Can students get enough information from You Tube and other sources? (Maybe?)
  3. Is is true we can motivate all kids to want to read? If so, how? (Of course. What's working for you?)
  4. What are ramifications of a decision to "give up" on non-readers? (What does this mean, anyway?)
  5. Do you agree we should just let nature take its course with some kids? (Hmmm).
  6. What about testing? Free range teaching? (No comment here.)

Traditional methods of teaching reading combined with ed tech and hands-on experiences suggest that we have the best opportunity ever, to help all children become capable, confident readers, who love to read.

Why give up now? No way.

Dewey taught us to meet students' needs and interests. KWL. Student designed learning, teacher guiding, makes sense. With a combo of info-text, recreational reading, YA literature, graphic novels, tech projects etc., why not want to read? The wide variety of reading strategies in place are working for many students. We just need to recalibrate to catch those kids we somehow missed. 

I can't change what happened in Orlando, but I can continue to learn, teach others, mentor, write and hopefully inspire. Your modeling love of reading and need for reading makes a huge difference in the learning lives of kids and may just keep one out of trouble. I'd bet many more. That's what I call success.

Leaving footprints on your reading hearts, Rita 

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Modeling the art and craft of teaching reading for 46 years, Mrs. Wirtz taught language arts, speech and reading at all levels preschool-adult, including penal. She served as Pre-school and K-6 Principal. Rita was also a Curriculum Consultant, ESEA, Title I Program Evaluator and literacy trainer. At the university level she taught school administration in the Bilingual Cohort at CSUS and National University, Sacto. Mrs. Wirtz also taught all reading courses for Chapman University for many years in Sacramento and Placerville, Ca., and mentored student teachers. On the national level she was a well known motivational Keynote Speaker and Seminar Leader. Most importantly, Rita walked the talk, teaching with teachers in more than 500 K-12 and special needs classrooms. Rita authored books, publications and Pre- YouTube, videos were filmed by San Diego County Office of Education. Calif. ASCD authored companion book guides, and Calif. school districts correlated her basic skills instruction with State Standards. Mrs. Wirtz' newest book is Reading Champs! Teaching Reading Made Easy, a review of the basic building blocks of English and Reading. Rita is currently teaching in a multi-age, fully incuded preschool, ages 2-8. Find Mrs. Wirtz on Twitter @RitaWirtz, Facebook and website- www.ritawirtz.com.

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Guest Monday, 05 December 2016