I have learned in my years of teaching that kids can often pronounce multisyllabic words perfectly without understanding what they are saying. These acts of mimicry convince teachers that vital reading skills have been acquired until the tests and quizzes start to roll in. I’m not sure how kids reach the seventh grade unable to decipher book content once the pictures are removed, but I do know this: We desperately need more remedial reading programs.
We need to teach reading to students until they can read. Currently, we pass students along into language arts classes where they are lost, unable to access the content needed to pass their tests. We place them in art and band classes that provide welcome escapes, but at the expense of hours that might help these students cross the reading threshold. We need to stop creating these one-size-fits-all curricula molded into one-size-fits-all schedules.
If we want to understand how students can graduate from high school unable to effectively read a newspaper or fill out a job application, these reading-light curricula and schedules should be added to the list of reasons.
Eduhonesty: I can already hear the objections.
“We give them plenty of materials to read!” Various district leaders might reply.
I’d like to answer that objection. An unreadable book might as well be no book. When our desire for “rigor” results in the purchase of books whose lexile level renders those books indecipherable, we are wasting our students’ time and our own time — and we are also wasting a great deal of money, the money that might have been spent on more accessible books instead.
Reading comes naturally to many children, but other children need help to master this essential life skill. We need to specifically teach reading. We can’t hope that our children will become readers simply because we thrust books into their hands. The wrong books not only don’t help, they may do harm. I am convinced those indecipherable books create nonreaders.