The Importance of Reading for Young Writers

Today I read a great article from Science Daily, (Simple Teaching Tool Boosts Student Reading Performance, Study Finds) about a simple tool that can help teachers and parents work on their children’s/students’ reading fluency–“a child’s ability to read with sufficient speed and accuracy, while also reading with good expression.”

When I read that approximately 40% of US students don’t have good reading fluency, I was shocked.

The tool discussed in the article is just a program (Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies or HELPS) that emphasizes reading comprehension through a variety of reading skill set development techniques. I looked up the HELPS website (http://www.helpsprogram.org) and learned that it really only takes a 10-12 session two to three times a week! That could be as little as twenty extra minutes.

Here I am quoting directly from the HELPS about page:

“The evidence-based strategies integrated into each 10-12 minute HELPS session include:

1. Structured, repeated readings of ability-appropriate text
2. Having students listen to a more skilled reader read aloud, such as an adult (i.e., Model reading)
3. Systematic error-correction procedures
4. Verbal cues for students to read with fluency
5. Verbal cues for students to read for comprehension
6. Goal-setting (i.e., practicing text until a pre-determined performance criterion is met)
7. Performance feedback, combined with graphical displays of student progress
8. Use of systematic praise and a structured reward system for student reading behaviors and successes”

Well, the article brought back some memories for me, about my own struggles learning to read and write as a first grade student. I felt that my teacher was trying to punish me when she kept me in her classroom during afternoon snack time, away from my classmates–like some sort of punished criminal or leper. She wanted me to practice memorizing the alphabet and vowels, then practice reading until I got it, and finally writing until I was able to write my dad letters since he was overseas at that time.

I was ashamed but, eventually, her effort and patience got me to struggle through it. Hell, now I speak four languages and have a Masters Degree in Written Communications (English), and I wouldn’t be here where I am if she and my mom and grandpa hadn’t taken the time to struggle through my learning challenges as I grew up.

When I was in second grade, my grandfather wanted me to work on my ability to write on a straight line by matching the start of each upper-case letter and take breathing pauses during commas and periods whenever I read out loud or inside my head.

He explained that I should count inside my head “one” for each comma, and “one, two” for each period. I could also count “one” for each semicolon and colon. The act of mentally counting out would slow me down enough to make for a more pleasant reading experience for myself, and listening experience for others. I remember this like it was yesterday. And his lessons followed me through primary school, high school, college, and even now.

I always have had a soft spot for students who struggle through reading and writing, or learning languages. The time and effort they and their instructors (and families/friends/tutors,etc.) take in helping work through each challenge has direct repercussions for their homework in the short term and intellectual and analytical skills for the long term.

It is SO very important to freely and liberally provide a non-judging environment for helpful guidance to overcome the challenges students suffer through, perhaps silently.

Let’s work on creating a fantastic generation of readers and writers. Texting shortcuts or not! Let’s stop worrying about Why Are Finland’s Schools Successful? and instead make our own students successful from the ground up.

Creativity is the mother of writing invention (I’m taking some poetic liberty here), who knows what great writers are in the making now. While they text in short-hand today, they may be able to have a fantastic perspective on communicating what’s inside them in a way that makes them comfortable, tomorrow.

Few things in life are as entertaining and enriching as being able to read an enjoyable book or article, or being able to write clearly to communicate one’s feelings and inner-most thoughts…or sharing a moment with someone else to help spread the enthusiasm for writing and reading.

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