Moving into a Year One classroom this year I took these same memories and put them into practice with the children I taught.
Thirty-five years later things had definitely changed. Children are now graded with levelled readers and the race to get them to the finish line is faster than ever. The words “reading mileage” have become the catch phrase for how well children read. The more they read, the better they supposedly are at reading.
Staff were encouraged to send out 3 books per night to ‘bump up’ children’s reading grades. Before long the children started to become aware of book levels and an air of competition had crept in. There was a sense of urgency to get to the finish line from the students and the teachers.
During our weekly meeting my colleagues and I discussed the concern we were having with the children as they pushed through the number of books sent home.
These curriculum changes went totally against what we knew was true about children’s developmental rates of learning.
As a team we decided to stop this merry-go-round and bring back what we knew actually supported the children with their reading. We allocated 2 books for the week and provided parents with strategies to support them with comprehension and word attack skills.
The proof is in the pudding as they say…….
Within two weeks the turn around in the general confidence and well-being in our children was phenomenal. We had noticed…
- the children couldn’t wait to come up and read
- they were eagerly sharing their books with others whilst waiting for their turn
- the levels of expression and fluency had increased
- the children sat and listened to each other read
- there was no discussion about levels - only books
- their reading levels were moving at a steady rate.
For us as a group of teachers we realised our decision to return to how we were taught to read, that is, giving each child the time and space took the pressure off us and supported the children. We no longer felt under pressure to churn out the ‘mileage of reading’ and the race to read was no longer being played. Our children produced results beyond what the curriculum was expecting, but the way we went about this was inclusive and meaningful to all.