Picture this. You pull up to confer alongside a Kindergarten reader. Henry, let’s call him. He has become fairly confident at reading level B books, and he is reaching for level C. You only have a few minutes to work with him, and you want to make sure your teaching has the most bang for its buck. As Henry reads aloud, you think about the big work of level A/B readers. You know that A/B readers are learning a few high-frequency words, and one thing you notice is that Henry says a few words, like the and for automatically. You also notice that he doesn’t always use the beginning of the word to figure out what unknown words might be. You know that at level C, where not as much information is given in the pictures, readers must use beginning sounds to figure out unfamiliar words. You also know that continuing to build knowledge of high-frequency words is crucial at level C.
This week, thousands of educators are gathering with The Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College at Columbia University to learn, to think, and to share about the topic of the Teaching of Reading.
For over thirty years, educators have been gathering at TC for The Project’s summer institutes. Many of the basic principles and methods of learning are just as they have always been since the inception of the institutes: participants learn by doing the reading and writing they will be asking students to do, they hear amazing keynotes, they have access to great leaders in the field of literacy.
Already, the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project June Writing Institute is upon us. Thousands of educators from all over the country have descended upon Teachers College to learn, to talk, and to write. There is nothing quite like a TCRWP Institute. An Institute is a week-long opportunity for participants to completely immerse themselves in one aspect of literacy instruction. It is a chance not only learn invaluable fundamentals and best practices, but perhaps even more importantly, it is a chance to become a learner, to get to know a subject area inside and out because of daily practice and reflection.
The great Cynthia Rylant, author of Every Living Thing, When I Was Young in the Mountains, Poppleton, and so many more, has said this about reading aloud to children: “Read to them. Take their breath away. Read with the same feeling in your throat as when you first see the ocean after driving hours and hours to get there. Close the final page of the book with the same reverence you feel when you kiss your sleeping child at night. Be quiet. Don’t talk the experience to death. Shut up and let those kids think and feel. Teach your children to be moved."
Those who teach in balanced literacy classrooms can attest: there is no time in the day quite like read aloud time. This is a special time, in which a teacher gathers the entire class, reads aloud to them, and leads them in thinking and talking about the text. It is a time in which teachers invite children into the world of real, grown-up reading and model the multitude of reactions, thoughts, and feelings that reading evokes. A good read aloud can bring a group together like nothing else, can provide a foundation of camaraderie, trust, and respect in a classroom.