The more that you read, the more things you will know

Apr 20, 2013
The charming city of San Antonio seems an unlikely venue for the International Reading Association’s 58th Annual Convention. Texas, after all, is among only a handful of states that have not signed on to the new Common Core Standards. Still, the Common Core can be felt everywhere here—from the nervous smiles of the teachers toting laptops, iPads, and Lexile conversion charts—to the strange new vocabulary that doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. Say hello, dear Texans, to “text complexity,” “qualitative versus quantitative,” “reader-task considerations,” and “Tier Three words.” And who can go five yards in these colossal hallways without hearing the word “assessment”? For months, people in 45 states—or 46, depending upon how you slice Minnesota—have been hungry for news about the student assessments expected in the 2014-15 school year. Information is starting to emerge. The biggest takeaway: Students will be asked to read and analyze long passages in a variety of text types and content areas. Central to this demand will be the ability to read well. In the rush to master the new vocabulary of the Core, let’s keep in mind a familiar phrase, “reading stamina.” How can teachers help students build enough stamina to read long passages silently and fluently? The question was posed to top educators at one seminar I attended. Here are some of the responses: • Your goal might be silent reading, but some of that practice needs to be oral reading. We know what that can do in terms of building up stamina and speed. Rereading is really important too, so is having kids read in a range of text difficulties. Also, vary the lengths. It’s the same thing you do as a distance runner. You don’t run just one distance if you’re trying to build stamina. You run three miles one day, four miles another, then you drop back to three. You do sprint work. Giving kids a much more varied experience in reading will offer them the best chance for building stamina. • I agree that we should ensure a diverse experience in reading. I would also vary the interest level of the texts. • Let kids run longer distances! It’s very unusual to see classrooms where kids actually have time to sit and read and think and discuss. • Don’t start developing kids’ stamina in third or fourth grade. Let children experience longer texts when they’re younger. Introduce them to complex texts in kindergarten and first grade through read-alouds. Keep in mind, assessments are just assessments—they are not the full measure of a child, or a teacher, for that matter. The next time you’re tempted to google “PARCC” or “Smarter Balanced,” pull a good book off the shelf instead and read it to your students. Take them on a journey they won’t forget. As Dr. Seuss said: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”