“Now I see the light and I want more of it”

This summer, students in READ 6313 Literacy Development and Language Study were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Gabriel J Garza

Why have I been out of graduate school for so long as a reading teacher, that is, as a literacy teacher? Before this year I was unsure about students’ literacy development and how to effectively teach it. I was committing round-robins while having students read narrowly and not often, encouraging prosody without knowing how to promote it. I gave out boring worksheets, homework that went unchecked and assigned closed- group activities. This all makes me wince come to think of it; however, I never was really informed about the entirety of my role as a literacy educator. Like many, I was given a book and a curriculum and told that that was what I was supposed to go by. Well, during the course of this year, and especially during this summer’s second session, things changed.

Cloudy notions I had about teaching literacy and fluency are now real and connected purposes filled with research-supported insight (the list is steadily increasing) on how to lead this campaign, even outside of the classroom. For example, something as simple as a suggestion for parents to keep the captions on during television so their child can “read the TV” (image + voice + text) is brilliant and completely practical in this day and age (especially for emergent bilinguals). Assigning homework that consists of independent reading for 20 documented minutes or more (parents and student record), implementing home fluency plans for emerging readers, or publishing class collections of student-written texts about a topic of interest or study are just a few angles of effective literacy instruction. Of course, there is more to all of the recommendations above, but the general conclusion is the same: literacy and fluency instruction needs to be research-based and meaningful, consistently at work in building reader-awareness, that is, creating readers that are actively aware of and involved in the art of creating meaning through words, and being critical and creative thinkers, word and text analyzers, writers; this will only be accomplished with the use of authentic texts and support of student backgrounds, interests, and strengths.

I’ve realized that reading material and instruction must be meaningful, but that it doesn’t have to be expensive—it could be found in the pages of a newspaper or in a student’s journal, or in a Reader’s Theatre script that will be performed by a student group later in the week. Reading fluency is not difficult to effectively teach if based on solid research. I can see the path ahead of me and my upcoming students, and I know that we are no longer in a tunnel.

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