Out with the Old

April 8, 2017

Learn to Read vs. Read to Learn: No More

Children progress from learning to read to eventually reading to learn. If you are an educator responsible for teaching reading you may have heard some form of this catch phrase over the years. It has been a popular saying in the field of teaching for a while now.

News flash: it is done, over, and finished. No more! Stop saying it! Let me tell you why.

Students do have to first acquire the necessary foundational skills to learn how to read before they can do so independently.  No one is arguing that point. However, students are never too young to obtain knowledge from literature. When I first heard literacy researchers and fellow reading advocates steering folks away from the Learn to Read vs. Read to Learn saying I was shocked. The catch phrase had always resonated with me. It was simple, straightforward, and made sense. As an early childhood educator, I branded myself with the charge of teaching my students to learn to read- which is certainly no simple task!

Take Ownership

I may have been guilty of one issue, though. One MAJOR issue to be exact. I did not take a huge ownership over my students actually reading to learn. Or even planting the seeds in them that one day they would be independently responsible for reading to learn on their own across multiple disciplines. I should have done a better job intentionally using complex read alouds and modeling how I was obtaining new information and vocabulary from the books I read to my students. We cannot wait until students are in the 3rd and 4th grades before they start exploiting complex texts for the rich knowledge they offer.

“We can ALL become better readers.”

On the other hand, even if your students come to you as readers, you are still very responsible for teaching them how to read. I have heard many upper elementary, middle school, high school, and even college educators say how glad they are that it is not their job to teach kids to read. Oh, but it really is part of your job to teach students how to read. I tell my students all the time, “We can ALL become better readers.” I am a huge proponent of all educators being trained on the basic building blocks of reading acquisition. One can best address gaps in students’ understanding if you are familiar with where they are struggling and what to do to help them get back on track.

So ready or not, your students are learning when they read or listen to literature. No matter what grade level you teach reading to, you are tasked with teaching your students to read AND teaching them to learn through reading. Goodbye “Learning to Read vs. Reading to Learn.” You will be missed! I guess it’s like any other educational catch phrase: easy come, easy go! On to the next one…

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