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Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success
master ’s degree. Even the best undergraduate or graduate education program cannot fully prepare teachers for the complex process of teaching reading and the diverse needs they will face in their classrooms.
Reading is a complex process and to deal with it, teachers must have a strong background in cognitive behavioral and social sciences as well as in the humanities. Specific pedagogical knowledge and skills must be built from this base. Primary grade teachers must know a great deal about children’s development, how they learn, and what they can do. They must be able to see students’ strengths and weaknesses. They must plan good lessons to help students progress. And they must have a huge array of teaching techniques in their toolboxes in order to meet the vastly different needs of their students. In addition to all this, they must have content knowledge in literature, math, and science.
Teachers need to be knowledgeable about the scientific foundations of reading. Beyond this, a critical component in the preparation of primary grade teachers before they begin their careers is supervised, relevant, field experience in which they receive ongoing guidance and feedback. A principal goal of this experience is to achieve the ability to integrate and apply the knowledge learned in practice. Collaborative support by the teacher preparation institution and the field placement supervising teacher is essential. A critical component for novice teachers is the support of mentor teachers with excellent records of success in teaching reading that results in improved student outcomes.
It is absolutely essential that teachers at all grade levels understand the course of literacy development and the role of instruction in optimizing it. State certification requirements and teacher education curricula should be changed to incorporate this knowledge base, including, at a minimum:
information about language development as it relates to literacy;
information about the relationship between early literacy behavior and conventional reading;
information about the features of an alphabetic writing system and other writing systems;
information about both phonology and morphology in relation to spelling;
information about comprehension and its dependence on other aspects of reading and on language skills;
information about phonological awareness, orthographic awareness, and writing development;
procedures for ongoing, in-class assessment of children’s reading abilities;
information on how to interpret and modify instruction according to norm-referenced and individually referenced assessment outcomes, including both formal and informal in-class assessments and progress-monitoring measures used by specialists;