You must always ask the
question, if not you, then who? Somebody must take responsibility
for teaching every child to read, and if you don't do it, who will?
If you are a teacher, then you must make sure that every child that comes
into your class learns to read. It sounds unreasonable, but it isn't.
With very, very, VERY few exceptions, every child can learn to read.
And effective teachers can teach every child to read fairly quickly.
If you are a parent, then you also
have responsibilities. You cannot simply depend upon others to teach
your child the most valuable skill he or she will ever learn. First,
and foremost, helping every child learn to read begins with instruction
at home. I've written a short document that describes some of the
things that parents can do with their children to establish a strong literacy
foundation for their children (See P
is for Parents).
Beyond activities in the home, however,
parents need to work with their child's teachers cooperatively to insure
that the child is getting the best instruction and support possible both
at school and at home. Teachers and parents should communicate regularly,
sharing information and ideas.
And if you are neither a parent
nor a teacher, there is still a lot you can do. Many low-income families
cannot afford reading materials for their children. Children need
volumes of reading materials to practice with, and if they don't have them
in their homes, they don't practice. If they don't practice, they
don't succeed. There are surely ways in your community to help insure
that materials get into children's hands (check with your local library
and your local school first). If you want to help, begin there.
Your local school may have other
things that you can do to help the children in your community learn to
read. You would be doing a teacher a wonderful service if you relieved
him or her of the burden of some "busy-work" so he or she has more time
free to devote to teaching children. Parents often go in wanting
to work directly with the children, and that is admirable. But you
may be doing the children a better service if you work to free up the teacher's
And speaking of teacher's time,
teachers need time to study and learn new information themselves.
The school provides a certain number of "professional development" days,
but that really is not enough. Teachers need to be very well trained
and skilled, and they can't really develop the skills they need with just
a few professional development days per year. If you volunteered
at your local school to watch the children during recess, or to watch the
children after school when they get on the busses, then teachers would
have that time free to meet with their colleagues in regular study sessions.
Schools where teachers spend a fair
amount of time developing their own knowledge and skills are more successful
schools, and there is a lot that parents and community members can do to
support the professional development of their teachers.
The solutions are there. They
may not be obvious, but there is a role for every one of us in the battle