Are We All Teachers of Reading? Maybe Yes. Maybe No.

Guest post by Judy Brunner:

The idea that everyone is a ‘teacher of reading’ is nothing new. As a middle and high school principal, I embraced the idea in an attempt to encourage teachers to use specific types of teaching methods. At the time, I believed it was a way to persuade content specialists to routinely use vocabulary and comprehension strategies when the lesson involved print.

Looking back through the lens of experience, I now wonder if my literacy salesmanship was counterproductive. First, let’s acknowledge that middle and high school teachers ARE content specialists. They love their fields of study and work diligently to help their students do the same. So should we really be discouraged when an Advanced Placement chemistry teacher questions the necessity of being a reading teacher, too? Absolutely not.

Instead of asking ‘Are we all teachers of reading?’ why don’t we ask ‘Do we ever quit learning to read?’ The answer to the first question is not definitive, but the answer to the second is most certainly ‘No’. Secondary educators understand – but occasionally need to be reminded – that reading is a skill like any other. We are all getting better or getting worse. The adage ‘practice makes perfect’ fits on every level. Read routinely; read a variety of genres; read for information; read for pleasure. It all contributes to vocabulary acquisition and the ability to gain knowledge from print.

Facilitators of Learning With Print

While I don’t believe we must all be teachers of reading, we MUST all be facilitators of learning with text. Text can be traditional, electronic or multi-media, but it always involves learning from print and images.

Use the salesmanship of the principal’s position to change the paradigm from teaching reading to facilitating learning. The strategies for learning the course content will be the same – vocabulary and comprehension techniques that are research based – but the mindset will be different. As Albert Einstein said, “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” Understand the skepticism of the secondary educator, and change the framework.

Judy Brunner (@JudyBrunner) will be presenting at Ignite ’14 on Friday, February 7.  Join her for Are We All Teachers of Reading? Maybe Yes. Maybe No. For more information and to register visit www.nasspconference.org.

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