Reading for Life: A Multidisciplinary Approach

by Rhonda H. Lauer on September 22, 2010

Reading for Life: A Multidisciplinary Approach

As part of the exciting series Reading for Life, Foundations’ President and CEO Rhonda H. Lauer shares her expertise and insights about grade level reading. Join Ms. Lauer as she offers key viewpoints and commentary based on her extensive experience working in Philadelphia–and across the country–to give our children and young people the educational opportunities they deserve.

Through my work with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Making Connections initiative, I hear many wonderful stories about children who are making great progress with reading. Recently, I learned about a little girl at one of the sites, a rising second-grader named Fernanda. This year, Fernanda attended her school’s summer learning camp and received extensive literacy intervention. The camp curriculum also included a unique mathematics program that exposes under-achieving students to higher mathematics.

By the end of the summer, Fernanda’s reading had improved significantly – so had her vocabulary, especially her math vocabulary. During camp, trained mathematicians used high-level vocabulary with Fernanda and her peers; the students then used the same vocabulary to solve problems posed to them. In the process, the mathematicians also introduced students to the Socratic method of instruction, which encourages analysis and questioning, a technique applicable to reading as well. All told, the math program was the perfect complement to the literacy component of the summer camp and a key factor in Fernanda’s academic advancement.

Fernanda’s experience reminds me of a powerful book, Leading Change in Your School  by Douglas Reeves. He says (and I agree with him), that “educators of every subject are, first and foremost, teachers of children, not teachers of one particular discipline” and that literacy can be integrated into lessons in every subject. Math, history, social studies, art, and music: these disciplines should not be considered diversions from literacy learning, but instead viewed as opportunities to build reading, writing, and language skills in exciting and interesting ways.

Our schools must not be battlegrounds; teachers of different subjects should not be competing for time and resources with one another, but instead collaborating to help children read, grow, and advance in life. Literacy learning can – and should – occur all day and all year, at home, in the community, and in every subject in school. We must work together, as one team, with one goal: grade level reading, for all children, throughout the United States.

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