At the end of August, I had the privilege of attending the Changing Results for Young Readers Symposium to learn more about the new focus on early reading. As you likely know, the ministry has dedicated $10.7M in increased funding to support early reading in every school district. Maureen Dockendorf, a highly respected B.C. educator, has taken on the role of BC Superintendent for Reading and will be working closely with districts to guide an approach that draws on current research and an understanding of what builds reading success, including examples of approaches that have worked and are currently being applied in schools and school districts. This initiative builds on existing strengths and focuses on supporting the classroom teachers and the students in their learning.
The Changing Results symposium brought together 200 educators, including some teacher-librarians, from reading support teams in every school district to meet with the provincial resource team to learn more about the strategy, research and support. Amazing speakers shared their research and expertise to inform practice. The team-based approach is to support and enable classroom teachers to engage each student in the magic of reading.
As a librarian, I was inspired and energized by the learning and filled with enormous respect for the work of educators. As Maureen Dockendorf said at the symposium, “all projects are stronger when we’re connected and we share what we’re learning” and I am writing to share my learnings with you.
We all know that successful early reading is not just a matter of teaching children how to read, but also of building a culture that fosters and supports strong literacy skills. And who better positioned to support the building of a community of readers – a culture of reading within and beyond the classroom – than teacher-librarians? And by extension, public libraries bridge that reading joy into the community with their support for families, students and life-long learners.
We are thrilled that Maureen will be working out of the Vancouver office of the Libraries and Literacy Branch throughout her tenure as Superintendent of Reading. That’s a clear indication that both school libraries and public libraries are seen as key partners in any reading and literacy initiative!
Libraries have a lot to bring to the table: collections, services, relationship and facilitation skills, resources, book promoters and many other innovative learner supports. The biggest asset that a school library has is the teacher-librarian. And the biggest asset that any library has is the staff and the unique skill sets and service ethic and they provide.
Teacher-librarians, I encourage you to take your considerable talents, book knowledge, joy of reading, collaborative approaches, responsive service ethic, your unique expertise, inquiring practices, your ability to change lives, and the wealth of resources and connections you have access to (including other libraries!), and make a big difference to building a culture that exudes the joy of reading and learning in your school community and beyond!
Public librarians, I encourage you to connect in with your schools and ask to hear more about how the schools are focusing on the early reading initiative and building that culture of reading. Connect in with teacher-librarians wherever you can, they’ll be looking for ways they can support the effort within the school. If school libraries can see the public library as an extension and a partner, that would really demonstrate the power of libraries to change lives!
Whether your role is that of a teacher-librarian or a children’s librarian, there is always a need to be filled! Perhaps what’s needed is a talented book promoter. Maybe it’s more field trips to/from the library for storytime and book selection. Maybe there are reading promotions, programs, collection development efforts or author visits that provide opportunities for collaboration. Whatever it is, I know that the library will be there to respond to the need in the community they serve!
Libraries have already shown that they are partners in this reading endeavour by creating this resource website to support the initiative: changingresultsforyoungreaders.bclibraries.ca. Here you’ll find speaker presentations, videos and other supporting resources.
The goal is to foster a joy of reading in each and every child. It takes collective effort to support the kind of community and culture building that supports that goal. The Changing Results for Young Readers initiative is an elevation of the conversation around reading; let’s ensure that both school and public libraries are a part of that conversation!
My key learnings from the symposium:
THE BIG IDEA
Every child can learn to read, and every child wants to read. In partnership with teachers, districts, families, communities and students themselves, the goal is to give each child that opportunity.
The aim is to instil in each child the joy of reading!
Exemplary practices exist in every district. This is not an attempt to change that. Meant to be a value-added initiative that elevates the conversation about reading in the province by building a network, connecting in with other initiatives so it all works together.
The focus is on quality classroom instruction. All of the learning takes place in the context of the classroom; there are no pull-out classes. Given that the primary community of belonging for students is their home classroom with their peers, the project is about teachers in the regular classrooms working with other educators. The classroom teacher is the leader; the learning team supports the classroom teacher by further building their capacity to lead early learners to reading success, using a team-based communal approach. A provincial resource team supports the district reading/learning teams.
While there is a whole class focus, there is also a case study component with an individual child focus. Focusing on one student allows you to focus on the others. Focusing on one child is how we come to understand, and if we can understand one then we can understand the others. The one kid becomes the vehicle to trying different approaches to reach each learner by finding that sweet spot where the heart and mind come together.
“Listen hard. It’s a gift.”
Laura Tait and Trish Rosborough, Indigenous Principles of Learning in Reading:
- Reflective practice will capture all kids. It’s one change that will make the biggest difference to the effectiveness of your practice
Linda Kaser & Judy Halbert, Spiral of Inquiry:
- There is enormous power in developing an inquiry mindset
- Conceptualize inquiry as a cycle, or a set of inter-connected spirals
Faye Brownlie, Evidence-based Practice:
- “I haven’t met someone who couldn’t learn to read.”
- Some kids took longer to figure out, and sometimes she had to do something unexpected. Her advice is to really pay attention to that kid and look intently into their heart and mind. “The teacher’s job is to figure out how to help by getting inside the kid, really finding out what makes that kid tick.”
- Common elements where classroom reading interventions are successful: Intervention: One on one; no scripted reading program; kids engaged in reading 2/3 of time (e.g. 60 min reading, 30 min on related skill); engaged in high-success reading
- The teacher’s job is to help the child develop a system for approaching text.
- Faye also demonstrated how to give enticing book talks and talked about the power of hearing a fluent expressive reader of a book
Deb Butler, Self-regulated Learning (SRL) in Reading:
- Deb focused on creating a self-regulated learning environment (NOT self-regulation for developmental needs)
- Supporting self-regulation supports all learners in the classroom
- Self-regulation is the ability to respond to various stresses and return to a state of equilibrium
- Kids can be supported in their learning if they are taught SRL
- SRL fosters independence so kids can help themselves and teachers can focus more strategically
Kim Schonert-Reichl, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in Reading:
- Kim started her presentation with an animated reading of “Pete the Cat”. Pete exudes optimism and resiliency while Kim demonstrated the power of reading aloud. Two hundred adults collectively relaxed into a happy state at the prospect of being read to!
- “Optimism contributes to good health. Optimism and hope are key to resilience.”
- “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” Aristotle
- “Kids don’t care how much you know until they know you care.”
- The quality of a child’s relationship with the teacher is critical; teacher sensitivity and awareness is key
- High risk kids had the most achievement when they had both instructional and emotional support
- A safe caring environment with high expectations for learning success is foundational
- “Use the language of emotions. That has to be in the walls, doors, pores and floors.”
- Kim stressed the importance of each child feeling they have two adults in the school who care about them
See the Changing Results for Young Readers website for a rich collection of research-based resources to support changing results to improve every child’s life chances!