Moving from “learning-to-read” to “reading-to-learn”.

I came across this critical finding from the unesco research report I’ve been reviewing:

“One way to consider these results is that there is a critical transition from “learning-to-read” to “reading-to-learn”. For most students this happens at about age 8 or 9, typically by the end of the third grade. If children are not able to read  with ease and understand what they are reading when they enter fourth grade, they are less able to take advantage of the learning opportunities that lie ahead. A critical indicator for countries therefore is the percentage of children that are able to make this transition successfully.

It’s evidence like this which we must use to develop policy. I think we focus too much on the primary to secondary transition point as being the critical point by which children should have mastered basics – when in actual fact it’s far too late by then.

7 thoughts on “Moving from “learning-to-read” to “reading-to-learn”.

  1. ‘I think we focus too much on the primary to secondary transition point as being the critical point by which children should have mastered basics – when in actual fact it’s far too late by then.’

    I agree with you 110%! OB

  2. Pingback: Don’s Learning Log » Blog Archive » Developing a developmental approach

  3. The process of becoming literate is lifelong because it is the ability and the inclination of the mind to find knowledge, to pursue understanding, to construct one’s own beliefs, attitudes and sense of self. It is also a cyclical process. I still have to decode (or would if ever I had the time) the names in ‘The Brothers Karasamov’. A 2 year old can comprehend abstract concepts such as good and evil with little difficulty. Focusing on the mechanics of reading to the detriment of meaning will limit their imaginations. Stories help us make sense of our own lives and encourage us to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from our own.

    Paulo Freire (‘Education:The Practice of Freedom’ (1973)) wrote: “To acquire literacy is more than to psychologically and mechanically dominate reading and writing techniques. It is to dominate those techniques in terms of consciousness; to understand what one reads and to write what one understands: it is to communicate graphically. Acquiring literacy does not involve memorising sentences, words or syllables – lifeless objects unconnected to an existential universe – but rather an attitude of creation and re-creation, a self-transformation producing a stance of intervention in one’s context.”

    That other great thinker, Dr Seuss, described it thus: “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” ( “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”)

    “Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge; it is thinking that makes what we read ours.” John Locke (1632 – 1704). Mediating between text (in whatever format) and learner is our job as teachers; as is empowering even the youngest child to investigate puzzling questions that arise from other peoples’ words so that they become deep thinkers. Bill Clinton said that, “Literacy is not a luxury, it is a right and a responsibility. If our world is to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century we must harness the energy and creativity of all our citizens.” A young woman attending a children’s school in Afghanistan, where the overwhelming desire of illiterate young women to learn means that exceptions are made to the rule against allowing mothers to attend their children’s lessons said simply, “Learning to read after so long is like walking into light from darkness.”

    Another quote, this time from Alvin Toffler: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Not all young people will learn to read fluently and thoughtfully. But all young people have the right to develop skills in processing information critically through interaction of their knowledge of the world and the information that is presented in writing and other media.

    Or there’s the alternative point of view: “You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test.” (George W. Bush!)
    Sorry for the plethora of quotes!

  4. Sorry – forgot to put my name to the previous post.
    I need to read more critically!

  5. As a Primary 1 teacher, I cannot agree more! However, how many (infant) teachers are finding it increasingly difficult to “do ” the reading – is that HEARING reading or TEACHING reading? In my experience, there is a huge difference.

    Over the last few years, I have found it increasingly more difficult to TEACH three or four groups a day, using a typical reading scheme (Oxford Reading Tree in our case.)My teaching practice has been turned upsidesdown as I have developed Formative Assessment and Active Learning strategies. As a result, I can’t always find time to squeeze the groups in every day – I’m sure I’m not the only one!
    Perhaps it’s time to challenge the way we traditionally teach reading – most parents expect to see a reading book home at least once or twice a week, many headteachers expect reading to be taught every day and children are used to getting a reading book home – but is this the best way to TEACH reading – a quick ten minute blast of the next Biff and Chip story before we go to PE and I’ll maybe manage the next group before lunch!
    Over the last couple of years I have tried out various strategies, the most successful of which has been to use whole class texts to teach my reading, and ORT reading books to reinforce/share stories at home. It’s been a bit of a slog trying to get everyone on side, but I am beginning to see results – luckily I have a very supportive Head and have managed to get the parents on side by inviting them in to observe whole class reading lessons.
    It’s maybe not everyone’s answer, but it works for us.
    However, in lots of schools teaching from reading books, whether that’s in groups,individually, daily, twice a week – is really hard!
    Do we need to rethink?

  6. Jen

    It’s exactly this kind of reflective thinking and practice which will help us to improve children’s literacy. How do you suggest we might take this forwards?


Comments are closed.