Teaching Literacy Matters, Improving Reading in a 1:1 District
6:00 AM Perris High School
The statistics are alarming. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, 43% of adults read at or below an 8th grade level while 44 million adults, (23% of the population), are considered functionally illiterate. The same study found that 75% of state prison inmates can be classified as low literate, illustrating the vital importance literacy plays in our society. Perhaps most heartbreaking is the long term effect low-literacy has on children of these adults – children who never hear a bedtime story or receive help with homework because their parent can’t read. Low literacy becomes intergenerational. The strongest indicator of a child’s success in school is the mother’s level of education.
Ms. Peacock explains her plan of action: “I couldn’t actually teach students how to read. That was supposed to have been done all the years prior to them arriving at my classroom door. So, what to do? Monday through Thursday nights, students were required to read for twenty minutes. However, they could read anything they wanted. Anything. Graphic novels, fantasy, romance, science fiction, biography, memoir, realistic fiction, historical fiction, whatever they wanted was on the table as long as it read like fiction because, no matter how interesting, reading how-to manuals isn’t conducive to doing literary analysis! I helped them find books they liked by doing a book pass: Place a different book on each desk, ask them to read part of it in about 1 ½ minutes, then rate the book on a scale of 1-10 as to whether or not they would want to read it. This way, each student had a list of at least six books they were interested in reading.”
Ms. Peacock had ten reading strategies with at least eight sentence-starters per strategy. For example, under “prediction reading strategies,” students would respond to sentence starters such as:
- “I think _______ is going to happen next because…,”
- “Since _______ happened, I think _______ will happen because… .”
After going through this process for a few months and administering the assessment again, the results were so very clear: reading improves reading. “As a bonus,” says Peacock, “the writing portion through the reading logs also improved writing, as I would edit them and give them guidance as to how to improve sentence structure, grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. Overall, it was an amazing experience for my students and for me.”
Ms. Peacock talks about one student’s experience that stuck out the most. “Kathie” had a hard time getting to school first period, so her first semester report card was riddled with Fs. Her first assessment result was a lexile of only 840 Which is an approximate 6th grade reading level -- 3 grade levels below 9th grade. However, after just a couple of months of diligent reading at home and completing reading logs in class, her second assessment showed an improvement to a Lexile of 1020 -- a 7.5 grade reading level. “Certainly, that could have been a fluke,” states Peacock. “Sometimes the second test is a big drop or gain from the first one, which is why I always give at least one more assessment so the numbers can even themselves out over the course of three test sessions.” Yet the results were undeniable. Kathie’s end of the year assessment showed an amazing improvement: 1145 Lexile -- a 10th grade reading level!
“I actually enjoy reading now and the reading logs.” - “Robert”
“I’m finding that this assignment is getting easier because we get to read whatever we want to read.” - “Rosetta”
“I start to read better within every chapter or page.” - “Omar”Ms. Peacock’s passion is evident as she describes Kathie’s reaction to her improved scores. “There is no reward greater to a teacher than seeing the look in her eyes and the tears on her face when she realized how far she’d come in such a short time.”
Literacy matters. It has to.