Welcome to my 10-week series on struggling readers. If you’re just joining me, you can click HERE on the image above to get caught up.
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Struggling Readers Need Time to Read (and Re-Read)
Struggling readers need uninterrupted blocks of time to read (and re-read). This is a point that Allington continually brings up in What Really Matters for Struggling Readers. He also dedicates an entire chapter to it.
Allington reports the findings of several studies in which it was noted that in the school setting, lower achieving readers spent very little time reading passages and discussing what they read. Instead, their time was mainly filled with “word identification drill, letter-sound activities, and spelling and penmanship activities.” (pg. 36) While these things in themselves are not bad, they simply cannot replace time for reading because “reading is like other human proficiencies-practice matters.” (56)
I love this quote from Allington: “Getting lost in a book is the essence of skilled reading.” (53) How many of our struggling readers, whether in our classrooms or in our home, can claim that they’ve ever been “lost in a book”? If we aren’t giving them time to read, it may be near impossible for them.
What are some things we can do to create TIME for our struggling readers?
- If you’re a school teacher, see if you can work with your other colleagues to CREATE “SACRED TIME” (as we called it at my former school); where interruptions are at a bare minimal…”no pull-outs, no push-ins, no specials” (pg. 50). At home, limit the distractions as best you can. Turn off the phone, the computer, the TV. Play quiet music or let your child find a quiet spot in the house; maybe even his bedroom to read. The amount of time you protect greatly depends on your child. Younger children or children with severe reading delays may not be able to handle more than 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time.
- KEEP BEFORE READING ACTIVITIES/INTRODUCTIONS TO A MINIMAL. Lesson introductions are important. We use them to build or tap into prior knowledge. We use them to pull out vocabulary or difficult words to decode. But if more than 10-15 minutes is needed to introduce a text, I would venture to say it’s not an appropriate text for your child/student.
- VARY THE WAYS YOU ASK THE CHILD TO READ. There are many ways your child or students can read. In reading groups, buddy reading (to a peer), to a younger sibling or student, to you, with you, silently… If you chose to have a half hour time slot for reading, you may only ask your younger students or children to read silently for 10 minutes. You can vary it and ask students to read with partners or to you. This can make large chunks of reading time less intimidating for struggling readers.
- TRY TO ORGANIZE AN “ALL-DAY READING DAY.” See how many different ways you and you students/child can read. Allington says that he’s seen kids who are really amazed that they actually finished reading a book. (pg. 53)
- CREATE AN “I Can Read” BOX/BIN/FOLDER in which you keep books that the struggling reader can read and comprehend with independence. When it’s time for reading, the reader grabs the box and reads away. This helps to eliminate the need for the reader to get up constantly to get a different book, creating more time for reading and less time for “wandering”.
Lucy Calkins, an internationally known reader and writer, helps teachers create time for reading in the classroom. Here’s what she says about giving kids TIME to read:
Children can’t learn to swim without swimming, to write without writing, to sing without singing, or to read without reading. If all we did…was to create a structure to ensure that every child spent extended time engaged in reading appropriate texts, we would have supported readers more than efficiently than we could through any elaborate plan, beautiful ditto sheet, or brilliant lecture.” (pg. 68 of The Art of Teaching Reading)
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