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 The Best Intervention is a Good Book (and Good Instruction)

Winter, even in San Diego, oftentimes produces images of cozy time with great reading material – especially for our thriving readers – those who love to read and choose to read because to them, reading is a “meaning-charged transaction between themselves and the text” (Harvey, 2017). Winter, paradoxically, is also a time when teachers grow increasingly concerned about their striving readers – those who have not read successfully enough to be confident and capable readers yet. The San Diego County Office of Education English Language Arts team believes the best intervention is a good book – and good instruction.

Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward (2017), in their book “From Striving to Thriving,” remind us that “four decades of research have established that voluminous, pleasurable reading is key to literacy development.”

Research on volume gives us a clear and empowering professional mandate. We have an opportunity to change kids’ lives by putting them on an upward reading spiral. The first step is to trust that through experience with appealing books – through a high volume of pleasurable reading – these readers will thrive. We replace the dooming label “struggling reader” with the dynamic, effort-based term “striving reader” because it connotes energy, action, and progress. We feel urgency and agency about matching striving readers with compelling reading material, arranging time and space to read a lot, and providing a lot of expert instruction.

While we cannot light fireplaces in our classrooms to capitalize on the inspiration that “winter” plus “cabin-like environments” do to inspire delight or focused scholarly reading in all students, we can (and often do) design learning experiences where both striving and thriving readers alike learn to successfully meet new reading challenges. Consider what students do and learn classrooms when elements from the list below are in full effect, again from “From Striving to Thriving:”

What Does Reading Success Look Like?

With the right books in their hands and our close monitoring, teaching, and support, strivers will:

  • Enter the world of reading with anticipation, rather than dread
  • Marshal the full force of language language -- speaking, listening, reading, and writing, as well as multimedia and the visual and dramatic arts – to make sense of text.
  • Participate in lively book talks and discussions about “their” books
  • Learn that reading is personal, social, cultural, engages minds and hearts, and sounds like language (which it is)
  • Recognize that reading is about about thinking, understanding, learning, and building knowledge
  • Develop identities as readers with personal reading tastes and inclinations (e.g., discover favorite authors, topics, and genres – plus learn where, when, and how to read)
  • Gain self-confidence