Literacy

Becoming Literate

Perry Rush
May 16, 2022
Literacy

Becoming Literate

Perry Rush
Perry Rush
May 16, 2022

What is required to support improved literacy achievement for young people?

We have seen a slide in national rates of achievement over the past decade. I have been asking myself what has caused this change?

The decline in literacy achievement has nothing to do with the increasingly visceral reading wars and the unfortunate and strident nature of the associated public discourse.

It is a shame that this discourse falls so easily to binary views that digest complex ideas and spit them out as soundbites that are then pitched against each other.

The practice of becoming literate is deeply influenced by many factors, never formulaic, and like most things in education not subject to claims that there is a magic bullet that cures all.

Effective literacy practice has always been about the importance of a child’s knowledge of letters and printed words, the child’s ability to hear the sounds in spoken language, and how to understand and use the relationships between sound and letter sequences. Effective literacy practice must also focus learners on strategies of meaning-making and the use of context—­­skills critical to learners’ capacity to function effectively, not only as literate people but as citizens in an increasingly complex world.

Rich phonological understanding and a focus on reading for meaning are found in all effective literacy programmes. The two do not cancel each other out!

In the public debate about the strategies to improve literacy achievement, we must be careful to avoid damaging the emphasis on broad, creative, and contextually rich literacy practice (such as we have had in New Zealand teaching for eons, in the days when literacy achievement saw us near the top in the international comparative rankings).

There are significant pressures on literacy acquisition that impacts at home and school. The rise of these factors over the past 20 years mirrors the decline in national rates of achievement:

· The explosion of the use of technology in schools can deprive young people of learning through primary means-vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Exploring the world through the senses is a powerful engine to make meaning and deepen understanding of language.

  • The serious reduction in the enjoyment of reading. Reading is struggling to compete with technology, particularly at home.
  • The damage to a broad and creative curriculum particularly the arts, which encourages young people to explore and play with language.
  • An economy that has drawn parents into the workforce to ‘make ends meet’ leaving limited time for children to engage at home with an adult in the support of regular literacy routines.
  • The reduction in oral language interactions at home and school. More individualised notions of learning at school, a more crowded curriculum that has reduced time given to discussing ideas, and the absence of ‘talk time’ in the home have all been influential.
  • The extraordinarily high levels of transience and absenteeism and the lack of resources for schools to adequately deal with these issues.
  • Societal deprivation—the most pervasive factor influencing student literacy achievement.

Such challenges require teaching approaches to grow and change to deploy effective pedagogical support for young people.

I note the appropriate pedagogical shifts in Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Support. It is great to see this resource deepen its reach and capabilities in the new Tier 1 support for class teachers through the provision of effective early literacy approaches to all learners, as well as contributing to the school-wide literacy strategy.

New too is the Tier 2 support targeted group support for learners alongside peers for children who are not progressing in their literacy learning after their first term at school.

This is in addition to the Tier 3’s 1:1 Reading Recovery support for children still not progressing after a year at school, until they are able to continue learning alongside their peers.

It is pleasing to note the explicit emphasis in Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Support of the Ready to Read Phonics Plus approaches, and a continuing focus on the meaning and context of words in sentences.

Reading Recovery has been a critical ‘help’ programme in the lives of members of my whānau and I am delighted that it is evolving to respond to need.

The real debate in education is not the false flag embodied in the reading wars but the funding available to enable a highly skilled workforce.

Funding literacy professional learning for teachers remains an ever-present need and the Government would do well to pay heed.

Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Support is a key support in schooling but foundational is a teaching workforce that is capable.

It is a simple truism that teachers are not adequately tooled up in their phonemic capability. Nor indeed is there substantive in-service professional learning focused on the importance of exploring language in context and the powerful impact of literacy-rich environments. Schools that judge their workforce require such training should not have to scratch around for funding. Any such funding would assist teachers to develop a fuller skill set to meet the increasingly complex needs of young people.

If we want to genuinely turbocharge literacy learning we must focus on the macro-environment within which language acquisition occurs.

That is where the real debate lies.

Perry Rush
Perry leads stakeholder engagement, to ensure Tui Tuia understands the needs and priorities of our key stakeholder groups and how we might support them around their professional development endeavours.
View Bio
SHARE THIS INSIGHT
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG
You successfully subscribed
Error submitting

Don't miss a post

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Becoming Literate

What is required to support improved literacy achievement for young people?

We have seen a slide in national rates of achievement over the past decade. I have been asking myself what has caused this change?

The decline in literacy achievement has nothing to do with the increasingly visceral reading wars and the unfortunate and strident nature of the associated public discourse.

It is a shame that this discourse falls so easily to binary views that digest complex ideas and spit them out as soundbites that are then pitched against each other.

The practice of becoming literate is deeply influenced by many factors, never formulaic, and like most things in education not subject to claims that there is a magic bullet that cures all.

Effective literacy practice has always been about the importance of a child’s knowledge of letters and printed words, the child’s ability to hear the sounds in spoken language, and how to understand and use the relationships between sound and letter sequences. Effective literacy practice must also focus learners on strategies of meaning-making and the use of context—­­skills critical to learners’ capacity to function effectively, not only as literate people but as citizens in an increasingly complex world.

Rich phonological understanding and a focus on reading for meaning are found in all effective literacy programmes. The two do not cancel each other out!

In the public debate about the strategies to improve literacy achievement, we must be careful to avoid damaging the emphasis on broad, creative, and contextually rich literacy practice (such as we have had in New Zealand teaching for eons, in the days when literacy achievement saw us near the top in the international comparative rankings).

There are significant pressures on literacy acquisition that impacts at home and school. The rise of these factors over the past 20 years mirrors the decline in national rates of achievement:

· The explosion of the use of technology in schools can deprive young people of learning through primary means-vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. Exploring the world through the senses is a powerful engine to make meaning and deepen understanding of language.

  • The serious reduction in the enjoyment of reading. Reading is struggling to compete with technology, particularly at home.
  • The damage to a broad and creative curriculum particularly the arts, which encourages young people to explore and play with language.
  • An economy that has drawn parents into the workforce to ‘make ends meet’ leaving limited time for children to engage at home with an adult in the support of regular literacy routines.
  • The reduction in oral language interactions at home and school. More individualised notions of learning at school, a more crowded curriculum that has reduced time given to discussing ideas, and the absence of ‘talk time’ in the home have all been influential.
  • The extraordinarily high levels of transience and absenteeism and the lack of resources for schools to adequately deal with these issues.
  • Societal deprivation—the most pervasive factor influencing student literacy achievement.

Such challenges require teaching approaches to grow and change to deploy effective pedagogical support for young people.

I note the appropriate pedagogical shifts in Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Support. It is great to see this resource deepen its reach and capabilities in the new Tier 1 support for class teachers through the provision of effective early literacy approaches to all learners, as well as contributing to the school-wide literacy strategy.

New too is the Tier 2 support targeted group support for learners alongside peers for children who are not progressing in their literacy learning after their first term at school.

This is in addition to the Tier 3’s 1:1 Reading Recovery support for children still not progressing after a year at school, until they are able to continue learning alongside their peers.

It is pleasing to note the explicit emphasis in Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Support of the Ready to Read Phonics Plus approaches, and a continuing focus on the meaning and context of words in sentences.

Reading Recovery has been a critical ‘help’ programme in the lives of members of my whānau and I am delighted that it is evolving to respond to need.

The real debate in education is not the false flag embodied in the reading wars but the funding available to enable a highly skilled workforce.

Funding literacy professional learning for teachers remains an ever-present need and the Government would do well to pay heed.

Reading Recovery and Early Literacy Support is a key support in schooling but foundational is a teaching workforce that is capable.

It is a simple truism that teachers are not adequately tooled up in their phonemic capability. Nor indeed is there substantive in-service professional learning focused on the importance of exploring language in context and the powerful impact of literacy-rich environments. Schools that judge their workforce require such training should not have to scratch around for funding. Any such funding would assist teachers to develop a fuller skill set to meet the increasingly complex needs of young people.

If we want to genuinely turbocharge literacy learning we must focus on the macro-environment within which language acquisition occurs.

That is where the real debate lies.