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Curriculum and Instruction

Simple Things Teachers Can Do to Help All Children Read Well

Schools play a pivotal role in helping young children learn how to read. This collection of tips will help administrators, teachers, and other school staff members set children on the path to reading.

Rigorously teach reading and writing skills and the core academic subjects.

Focus reading activities on developing higher-order thinking skills as well as on basic skills. Compare your reading curriculum and materials with those of the most successful schools and the best state standards.

Set high expectations for your students and encourage families to do the same.

If you expect a lot from your students, they will work to meet your expectations and expect more of themselves. Consult with appropriate school or district staff on how to extend high expectations to include students with learning challenges and special needs.

Encourage students to read at home with their families.

Provide suggested age-graduated children’s book lists to families. Families are often unsure of the level at which their child reads; book lists can help them choose books of appropriate difficulty, and provide examples of high-quality children’s books. Develop a rewards system for students who take books home, read with their families, and report back on the books they have read.

Plan a field trip to the local library.

Contact the head librarian to arrange for a guided tour and explanation of how students can use the library. Have all students sign up for their own library cards during this visit. If any of your students have visual, hearing, or learning disabilities, tell the librarians before the visit so that they can make the necessary accommodations. Ask about special resources such as books on tape, sign-language interpreters, books in Braille or large print, and accessibility for wheelchairs.

Encourage students to go to the school library and to the local library after school.

Such visits will help develop a link in the child’s mind between free time and reading. Work with the school librarian or media specialist to place a collection of age-appropriate books on topics of high interest to your students in a special area.

Use interesting community settings to stimulate reading and writing.

Organize students and their families to conduct an oral history project, a history or case study of their school, or a neighborhood project that involves collecting local stories or recipes for a community cookbook.

Have students frequently work in groups.

Group work allows students with varying levels of literacy and language proficiency to both gain from and contribute to each other’s learning. Rotate group members regularly to ensure that students work with all of their classmates.

Encourage the academic achievement of students with limited English proficiency.

Include books in the native languages of students in the classroom library. Obtain or develop appropriate native language materials and technology for classroom use. Provide daily opportunities for students to read and write in both their first and second languages.

Excerpted from: Simple Things You Can Do to Help All Children Read Well and Independently By the End of Third Grade (1997) U.S. Department of Education
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