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Spreading the Joy of Reading One Child at a Time

07/17/2013 08:12 EDT | Updated 09/16/2013 05:12 EDT
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Is it enough to strive to be a nation that knows how to read? Or must we strive to be a nation of readers?

In this four-part series on behalf of the National Reading Campaign, five readers with backgrounds in journalism, broadcasting, writing, and education frame their personal experiences of reading enjoyment within the context of a burgeoning national conversation. Today, Maureen Dockendorf and Faye Brownlie weigh in on reading communities.

In 2012, the B.C. Minister of Education appointed a Superintendent of Reading to focus on increasing the number of engaged, successful young readers in the province. A provincial initiative called Changing Results for Young Readers (CR4YR) was created and included a Provincial Resource Team, Provincial Facilitators, District Early Reading Advocates, and 59 BC School Districts. CR4YR goals are to increase the number of engaged, successful young readers in British Columbia (K - 3); increase the number of young readers who acquire skills to be proficient readers and also experience the joy of reading; and elevate the conversation around reading and research-based practice to generate and mobilize knowledge together throughout the system.

Changing Results for Young Readers builds on existing strengths and educators' expertise; extends the opportunities for educators to collaborate and implement effective principles of literacy learning and teaching; uses current research of what fosters reading success for all children; and is a value-added initiative as districts continue with current literacy practices. Participating educators aim to create readers who choose to read, not just readers who are able to read. To this end, the joy of reading is continually emphasized.

The CR4YR Provincial Resource Team is very pleased to confirm that this work will continue in Year Two. Districts' rich contributions have been invaluable and we are excited for the opportunity to deepen our learning on quality reading instruction and increase the number of engaged, successful young readers. We will continue to focus on evidence-based reading instruction for all students, in-class collaborative support for learners, self-regulated learning, social-emotional learning, and embedding Aboriginal principles of learning into the daily life in the classroom.

As the team of educators head into Year Two, we look back and celebrate that in Year One we had over 9,000 students and over 600 teachers in 66 teams working together to make a difference for all learners. The teachers met in collaborative inquiry teams, forming personal questions focused on quality reading instruction. Each classroom teacher or teacher team (classroom teacher and learning support teacher, for example) chose one focus student who the teacher considered to be vulnerable, that is, a student about whose reading the teacher was especially worried, students who presented atypically, or students who were struggling to make sense of literacy. Researcher and member of the CR4YR Provincial Resource Team Dr. Sharon Jeroski reports that the dominant word to describe the learners who are vulnerable is "optimistic." They have come to see themselves as readers who own their own learning and take pride in their ability to continue to improve. Preliminary results indicate gains in students' motivation, metacognition, confidence, and enjoyment of reading.

In Year Two, some districts in CR4YR will retain the same schools and participants while others will expand their Learning Teams to new schools and new teachers; incorporate early childhood, intermediate, middle and secondary educators; and increase the number of support workers and non-enrolling educators participating in the initiative, such as Aboriginal Support Workers, Resource Teachers, Teacher Librarians, and ELL (English Language Learning) and ESL (English and a Second Language) teachers. In all cases, the intent is to deepen and extend the learning.

The CR4YR Provincial Resource Team has worked hard to support teachers' professional confidence and competence and to move away from a dependency on reading programs. Teachers' reflections indicate that this goal is being achieved: throughout British Columbia, teachers reported feeling more skilled, more professional, more able to reach the hard to teach.

Each and every day teachers are encouraged to read with passion to all their children, from a variety of texts; encourage children to choose texts they would like to read; ensure all children have an opportunity to read "just right books" -- books that they are able to read independently with 95% accuracy and with understanding; provide time and support for children to talk to each other about their reading; and to write every day about something that matters -- science experiments, reading response, math questions, and what they are learning about the world and people around them.

Herein lies the joy of reading.

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To learn more about the long-term value to the individual and to society of fostering a love of reading in schools, refer to Towards Sustaining and Encouraging Reading in Canadian Society, a report commissioned by the National Reading Campaign.

TOMORROW: Najwa Ali on New Canadians and the complex situations in which we turn to books

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