Some Things Never Change
Every year our educational plans become more and more complicated, more and more grandiose, and 2010 will be no different. New catchphrases will be invented for old strategies, and we will continue to explore new ideas. Cultures change, budgets change, priorities change, leaders change – but reading as the first educational priority remains. Because if a kid can’t read, nothing else matters.
Elementary school is all about reading. Nothing – absolutely nothing – is as important. Not being able to read is the single most frequent cause of kids’ falling behind and dropping out. That’s why the elementary principal should do everything possible to focus instruction on kids learning that skill above all others.
That’s why all primary children should have extended, uninterrupted blocks of time for reading instruction.
That’s why no child should be pulled out during reading time for extra help, resource room, physicals, counseling, testing, or anything else.
That’s why the reading block shouldn’t be interrupted by random calls from the office that are not emergencies.
That’s why kids shouldn’t be coloring workbook pages to keep them busy while the teacher works with reading groups. Especially when there are computers in the room.
That’s why every extra penny you have as principal should go into your reading program – teacher training, reduction of class size, materials, aides.
If everyone believes that reading is the most important thing that happens in the primary grades, classrooms should be rich in language materials – words, books, paper, computers, easels, white boards – everything that encourages a child to immerse herself in language. Reading silently and aloud should be part of every day and children should have a range of materials to choose from.
Not every child will learn at the same time, but the teacher needs to believe that eventually all will learn to read, and she has to be committed to making that happen.
Making sure kids can read is such a simple educational concept. We need to refuse to be distracted by other bells and whistles.