One of the fundamental building blocks in education is reading. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the “Back to School month” September carries holidays like National Library Card Month and International Literacy Day (September 8th).
There are many theories surrounding how best to teach reading. One of the most prevalent practices is “Learning to Read and Reading to Learn.” The fundamental premise of this philosophy is as follows:
“Learning to Read” happens in the early grades (K–3) and consists primarily of decoding and memorizing basic sight words. “Reading to Learn” begins in fourth grade and consists mostly of reading for information.
Today, research suggests that for all children “learning to read and reading to learn” should be happening simultaneously and continuously, from preschool through middle school — and perhaps beyond. In fact, teaching comprehension has now emerged as a critical piece of learning to read.
My experiences with Ryan would certainly suggest that this is true. By 3rd grade, Ryan was an excellent reader; teachers frequently remarked about his advanced reading level. My concerns centered on comprehension. I really didn’t think he understood what he was reading. Perhaps if there had been more efforts to include comprehension along with fluency, he would not have struggled as much with this component as he aged.
Because of the importance of reading skills, International Literacy Day is celebrated across the world on September 8th. First started nearly 50 years ago, this day highlights that reading is not only a basic human right, it can be an empowerment tool as well. As Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Strong, engaged readers become knowledgeable, strategic, motivated, and socially interactive persons. Thankfully, because of public libraries across our country, literacy no longer needs to be something that only the privileged and educated can access. During this month, the American Library Association and libraries across the country join together to remind parents and children that signing up for a library card is the first step towards academic achievement and lifelong learning.
After all, “A book is a gift you can open again and again.” (Garrison Keillor)