As teachers, parents, and supporters of our students and children, we are always trying to determine the most important and effective tools to use and bring with us into our classrooms and our homes. We are constantly on the lookout for methods and practices that will best prepare our students for their futures and will nourish their lives and worlds. It can be difficult to evaluate effective classrooms and to ensure that students are learning and absorbing information in useful, creative, and enriching ways. We have pinpointed some of the practices that we feel are most important to our children’s development as learners, readers, and writers and have considered the implications of measuring those activities.
Number of times students are read to
Reading aloud to students of all ages has been proven to have a wealth of benefits. The 2015 Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report detailed the importance of reading aloud. A recent New York Times article summarized the findings of the report in this way: “Reading aloud through elementary school seemed to be connected to a love of reading generally.” Encouraging students to love reading is the most important gift we can give them as they develop their reading lives. If they are motivated to read both independently and with the whole class, they will naturally acquire and continue to grow the essential skills they need as readers, writers, and learners.
The importance of the read aloud is echoed in a U.S. Department of Education Commission on Reading report, which reviewed over 10,000 studies and concluded that reading aloud is the most important activity for building and supporting successful readers. Successful readers will not only likely show positive results on standardized tests, but perhaps more importantly, they will be armed with the communication and linguistic skills they need for successful futures. Measuring the amount of time devoted to this simple yet essential practice will encourage teachers and parents to ensure that read alouds are a consistent and daily part of their students’ lives.
Number of minutes a day students are engaged in independent practice versus whole class instruction
The time devoted to independent practice versus whole class instruction is particularly important when it comes to reading and developing strong literacy skills. Allotted time for independent practice gives students the opportunity to develop their own reading interests and learn to select books that reflect their passions and abilities.
Independent reading time has been shown to directly correlate to the frequency with which students read. The Scholastic report found that, in children ages 12-17, frequent readers are more likely than infrequent readers to read independently during the school day. The report also states that, “Some children have opportunities to read a book of their choice independently during the school day, yet these experiences rarely happen every or almost every school day.” We need to make ample time in our classrooms for independent learning and reading so as to best encourage and model for our students the value and pleasure in developing into frequent and capable readers.
Number of books a child has access to throughout the year
According to a 2003 NCES report, a difference in access to as few as 25 books can have a noticeable and significant impact. The report found that fourth graders who reported having 25 books or more at home had higher scores on reading tests than students who reported that they had less than 25 books at home. This dramatic statistic illustrates the importance of ensuring adequate access to books, both at home and in the classroom, for all children.
Integral to the idea of varied and wide access to books is the importance of providing students with books that will appeal to them and support and sustain their interest in reading. According to the Scholastic report, 73% of kids ages 6-17 say that they would read more if they could find more books that they like. In this same vein, 91% of children ages 6-17 report that their favorite books are the ones they pick out themselves. It is important that we provide space and time for children to select books for themselves and to locate their interests and passions within their reading selections. The measurement of books children have access to should acknowledge and include a discussion on the kinds of books that children have access to throughout the year. Students should be able to read and select books that reflect their experiences and interests and introduce them to new perspectives as well.
As we consider the tools and skills that our students most need, let us continue to reflect on innovative measurements that will best push us to advocate for and support our students in their learning lives. Let’s put the student at the center of our thinking and focus on the practices and ideas that will prepare them for futures as independent and passionate readers, writers, and thinkers.