Saturday, February 27, 2016

From Reading Aloud and Beyond - Best of Frank Serafini


The problem is that we teachers are hurried usurers, lending out the knowledge we possess and charging interest. It has to show a profit, and the quicker the better! If not, we might start losing faith in our own methods.
                                                            Daniel Pennac,  Better Than Life

            In contemporary society, if things don’t happen quickly, we see a need to change them, to hurry them along. For example, fast food restaurants, drive-up dry cleaners and convenient stores have thrived on the basis of providing fast service, not necessarily quality service. In public education, if current school reform efforts don’t show measurable gains on standardized tests in a matter of minutes, they are often discarded in our fervor to locate the next “silver bullet” reading program that will solve the literacy crisis, engage all students, calm the nerves of concerned parents, raise standardized test scores and win someone the next school board election.
            In the opening quote, Pennac refers to the need for teaching methods to show a profit quickly or else face elimination. In today’s political climate, profit equates with increased test scores. Although we believe, and scientifically-based research supports, reading aloud with children increases tests scores, that is not the sole reason we read aloud with children.
Activities designed to mimic standardized test experiences are being forced upon students with greater and greater tenacity. Because of the pressure from federal and state legislatures to raise test scores, public school classrooms may become places where children learn to read well enough to score higher on standardized tests, but may not be places where you learn to love to read, discover great authors and pieces of literature or learn how to read in order to succeed in the “real” world. If we make reading in schools so boring, so sanitized, that children refuse to engage in reading have we, in fact, educated them at all? Reading instruction in schools should develop students’ passion to read, support their engagements with text of all sorts and encourage them to become life-long readers capable of fully participating in a democratic society.
            In order to ensure that teacher candidates (pre-service, education students) come to see the value in reading aloud and learn strategies for incorporating reading aloud into their curriculum once they have a class of their own, they need to be exposed to reading aloud and literature discussions in their university coursework. If college professors do not demonstrate the importance of reading aloud, support teacher candidates as they practice this important instructional strategy and explain how they use read alouds as the foundation for reading instruction, chances are that teacher candidates will not value these learning experiences once they become certified teachers themselves.

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