As school systems are entering restructuring phases in New Mexico, literacy has been placed on the forefront of many EPSS documents. Teachers and administrators are now realizing that literacy is everyone’s responsibility. Gail E. Tompkins (2010) notes that literacy encompasses reading and writing skills and the ability to use them in everyday life (pg. 4). Whether a student decides to go to college or decides to work in their family’s ranch, the ability to read and write is essential. In today’s fast paced world, literacy comes in various forms. Not only is the ability to read and to write important but also the ability to use reading and writing within the technological realm is becoming a crucial part of society.
In my own classroom, students struggle with reading on a daily basis. I have a broad spectrum of readers from non-readers to college-ready readers. So where do we begin teaching reading, while teaching the content? I find my students having many “holes” in their reading abilities. While some lack phonics, most of my students lack comprehension skills. During my collaboration with teachers and students, I introduced many reading strategies. As an instructional coach, I see that many students were not thinking while they were reading, while realizing that most teachers do not teach the reading strategies that are necessary for students to comprehend the text which they are given. This concept was foreign to many of the students and teachers. Students continuously asked, “Why do we need to think while we read.” My response was that we need to use the reading strategies because they are “the secrets” that good readers use every time they read and that is why they are successful readers.
By utilizing these strategies, my students made a connection that reading is interactive. Some told me that they were “just reading words and just trying to pronounce them correctly.” That is what reading meant to them. In the meantime, we also filled in some “holes” with phonics based lessons. My students at the ninth-grade level were learning about consonant blends and digraphs. One question from one of my students that I can not forget is “Why didn’t anyone ever tell us that we had to use these strategies while we read?” I was speechless. My only response was “well now you know.”
As much as reading skills are important, improving writing skills is of equal importance. The ability to convey ones message to another is a necessity for today’s global economy. Not only do students need modeling for reading but also need continuous modeling for writing. Students must understand that reading and writing go hand-in-hand. A well-balanced literacy program is needed, especially in the English Language Arts classroom. As I worked with the English teachers, I noticed that some classrooms were strong in the reading components while others were strong in the writing component of literacy. I continuously conveyed the message that both need to be balanced for a stronger literacy program.
Overall, literacy is crucial in today’s world. Without it life is a struggle.