Teaching reading is one of the most complex cores to teach, one reason why us challenge-loving people take it on with such passion. I’m not sure that an educator can (or should) ever reach the point where they know enough about reading to justify not continuing to learn about this area of study.
Reading is the foundational skill for success not only in work life, but also in personal life. When teaching someone to read, you’re giving them a skill that may help them one day to pick up a book about marriage, because theirs is in shambles. Or, there may be someone who picks up a book about autism, because they have suspicions that their child has characteristics of it. In work life, I would venture to say that the majority of careers that exist have a component where someone either has to read as a part of the profession or may choose to read to continue their knowledge on a subject, and thus excel past those who do not read. (And yes, research shows that the most successful people in our society read). The importance of reading is brought up because it is lacking in our society, even by some inside of education. Knowing the importance is the first step. Then, the next step is knowing that reading instruction is a challenge to take on. It is by far more than “sound the word out” and “tell me about the story.” It is a metacognitive process, which means we have to teach students to think about their thinking. (See Tanny McGregor’s Comprehension Connections book for more explanation). Other challenges in teaching this subject include the following: elementary teachers are responsible for teaching more than just reading, making it harder to be an expert in the area of reading, having enough experience to fully grasp what reading is, having a deep understanding of the five components of reading, knowing how to pinpoint where a struggling reader is “caught up” at, and having adequate professional development in the core area of reading.
With all that said, let us not get caught up in the challenge, but rather some solutions. How can we improve our knowledge of core reading instruction with limited time in our schedules? Here are some options one may consider: devote 15 minutes of reading per day to continue your knowledge on the topic, commit to listening to one reading podcasts a day from itunes (such as Choice Literacy, Voice of Literacy or Teacher Created Materials), go observe a teacher you know is strong in reading instruction, use your district instructional/literacy coach, make a commitment to collaborate with your team on reading instruction for 10-15 minutes each week, and listen to your students read as much as possible.
My Twitter profile says that I am a literacy advocate. I absolutely believe in the power books have in changing lives. But, I also know, teaching reading is complex and difficult to say the least. The good news is we can always continue to improve as teachers, if only a small commitment is made. So go forth, make that commitment. Your students deserve it!