My description of the keynote, which I needed to submit in October 2019, looked like this:
Enabling understanding through reading: the development of a reading mind | The FOSIL Group
According to Saul Bellow in his Foreword to The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom, Balzac declared that the world belonged to him because he understood it. This means that the world and the fullness of its possibilities is open to our students to the extent that they understand how it works, or closed to them to the extent that they don’t. Our role in their reading journey from information through knowledge to understanding is a complex one, and the focus of this keynote.
As this is a very important topic, and a complex one, I had always intended to involve members of the FOSIL Group who I could learn from, colleagues such as Alice Visser-Furay. Alice ( @AVisserFuray) is the Literacy Coordinator and Reading Intervention Specialist at King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage, Oxfordshire. I first made contact with Alice after she shared her Literacy key questions and strategies 2019-202 on Twitter (this now also features on Alice’s excellent website – Reading for Pleasure and Progress). What struck me, from the perspective of a school librarian, was Alice’s emphasis on academic reading [for progress] in addition to her emphasis on reading for pleasure, as well as how highly regarded she is for her work on developing both. This made Alice the obvious choice for the keynote, and I am delighted that she agreed.
Alice introduces herself in the Staff/Common Room here.
I am also delighted that Alice has agreed to think through the keynote with me in the Forum, because an important function of the Forum is to make the thought behind what we do explicit to the benefit of the community – as Doug Engelbart said, the better we get at getting better, the faster we will get better. So please join us in the discussion.
To get things going I share the following from Reading nonfiction : notice & note stances, signposts, and strategies (2016, Beers & Probst, p. 4):
A stance is required for the attentive, productive reading of nonfiction. It’s a mindset that is open and receptive but not gullible. It encourages questioning the text but also one’s own assumptions, preconceptions, and possibly misconceptions. This mindset urges the reader both to draw upon what they do know and to acknowledge what they don’t know. And it asks the reader to make a responsible decision about whether a text has helped them confirm prior beliefs and thoughts or had enabled them to modify and sharpen them, or perhaps to abandon them and change their mind entirely.
This is so much more than getting children to read and/or like reading, and strikes me as more even than just developing their ability to read. Where to begin?
Thank you to Darryl for inviting me to speak at the SLG conference. I very much look forward to exploring the development of the reading mind with Darryl and anyone else on the forum.
I am delighted that Darryl’s first volley was Reading Nonfiction by Beers & Probst; the book that first got me thinking about the reading mind, especially in the context of struggling readers, is called When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do and it is by Kylene Beers (2002). This book has been a metaphorical bible for me as a teacher and intervention specialist looking for ways to improve the academic and life chances of students.
Beers and Probst have another book, Disrupted Thinking: Why How We Read Matters (2017). In it, they talk about reading as more than retrieval and extraction; they advocate interaction with text – teaching students how to read with curiosity, how to ask questions and how to let what they read change them. They conclude by stating (p. 162):
Perhaps, therefore, the most important thing we do with children is to ask them to consider how they might have revised their thinking as a result of reading. ‘How has this book or story touched you, made you think again about who you are or what you value? How has this text changed your thinking?’
As educators, we need to teach students how to develop the ability to allow text to ‘disrupt’ thinking – and we need to provide a multitude of opportunities for them to engage with challenging fiction and non-fiction from a variety of viewpoints. In our keynote, I am hoping that we can provide practical strategies that librarians, leaders and teachers can use to develop the reading mind.
So much has happened in 2 months, including the already-postponed SLG National Conference being postponed until 2021.
Unfortunately Disrupted Thinking: Why How We Read Matters is in lockdown, but I have Reading Nonfiction. In it Beers & Probst share the following haunting bit of a lesson they heard from a teacher (pp. 5-6):
This teacher, burdened by constraints he felt from his district, had set aside what he told us were best practices to instead use “test practices that I know will show the administration I did all I could to get kids ready for the almighty test.” So, his lesson on a topic (any topic will do) basically followed this pattern:
Show students an interest-building clip on the topic from the web.
Tell kids what they need to know about the topic. They take notes.
Have some discussion on the topic.
Give kids a test on the topic.
Show. Tell. Discuss. Do you notice what is missing? Where’s the reading kids do to learn about the topic? When we asked the teacher that question, he pointed out that when he begins his series of lectures about the topic (lectures lasting from one day to several weeks), he often has short articles from the web up on the whiteboard for all to read. We asked him if that was enough reading to help students become savvy readers of nonfiction. He stared at us for a moment and then responded that “the textbook is worthless, and frankly I don’t have time for kids to read in class. And they don’t want to read. They don’t care about the topics we discuss, so if I gave them something to read, if they did anything it would be just a surface-level reading.” We asked if he assigned reading for home. “Are you kidding?” he replied. “They wouldn’t do it.” Then he asked us, “So, if you were trying to get kids into reading some nonfiction, how would you do it?“
Beers & Probst then go on to write a book about this. However, their context is, arguably, different. So, if you were trying to get kids into reading some nonfiction, how would you do it, given that I’m guessing many teachers here would consider themselves to be in a similar situation to the teacher Beers & Probst describe?
I have been reading through this discussion with interest due to a couple of planned webinars I am running on the 2nd and 9th of June around Literacy and Reading Promotion. I have found it very useful to read that ‘reading for information’ is equally important as ‘reading for pleasure’ as this is where I want to focus my session. I feel that school librarians need to understand that literacy comes in all forms and not just fiction and as I begin to bring my ideas together for these webinars I look forward to discussing my thoughts with you both.
I just wanted to share my thought process so far. Literacy and Reading Promotion within the IFLA School Library Guidelines does very much follow the traditional pattern within the ‘normal’ school of thought. With the librarian’s role in creating good diverse library collections, book talks, library displays, special events, book awards and book events and I will start my webinar talking about this.
However, I have found both of these within the guidelines:-
“A school library operates as a…literacy centre where the school community nurtures reading and interact development in all its forms,” which I feel gives me justification to move onto ‘reading for learning’ and…
Reading and literacy capabilities: “abilities and dispositions related to the enjoyment of reading, reading for pleasure, reading for learning across multiple platforms, and the transformation, communication and dissemination of text in its multiple forms and modes to enable the development of meaning and understanding.”
Both of these quotes gives me the opportunity to talk about the school librarian’s role in reading within subjects… Alex Quigley’s book Closing the Reading Gap has a chapter on it which I was going to use.
Do you think this is a good connection and how much time should I send on the first part? I am open to any ideas 🙂
There are two things that I think are worth highlighting in relation to the IFLA School Library Guidelines in this regard.
Firstly literacy and reading promotion needs to be approached from the definition of a school library, which is “a school’s physical and digital learning space where reading, inquiry, research, thinking, imagination, and creativity are central to students’ information-to-knowledge journey and to their personal, social, and cultural growth” (p. 16). There are 3 elements to this definition:
The school library is a physical and digital learning space, in which …
… reading, inquiry, research, thinking, imagination, and creativity are all means to an end …
… which is the information-to-knowledge journey and personal, social, and cultural growth of students.
It is important to root the discussion about reading for pleasure and reading for learning in this definition, I think, because the information-to-knowledge journey is simply not possible without reading, and this reading must be what you are calling reading for learning (although reading for pleasure can contribute to this journey). It is also worth noting that the definition lists reading along with inquiry, research, thinking, imagination, and creativity, but in reality it is difficult to imagine those activities separated from reading, even if only indirectly.
Secondly, “school library services include … [a] vibrant literature/reading program for academic achievement and personal enjoyment and enrichment” (p. 19). This states explicitly that the librarian’s role includes both reading for learning and reading for pleasure.
If by first part you mean establishing a case for reading for pleasure and reading for learning, then I don’t think that you can afford to rush this.
Also, what might a vibrant literature/reading program for academic achievement, rather than personal enjoyment and enrichment (which we, as librarians, are very comfortable with), look like?
I’m very interested to see where this part of the discussion leads.
Thanks for this Darryl. I will put some thought to your ideas and ask again when I am stuck…
Alice I wonder if you can point me in the right direction
I am looking for national standards in literacy and reading. Is there something that I can link within the Education government department that talks about expected standards in both pleasure and learning. Or does such a thing not exist?
I don’t know if Alice, Darryl, Elizabeth or anyone else in the Forum can help. I’ve been thinking about the aspects of literacy pupils require to be able to successfully ‘decode’ a question in my subject (science). It seems to me that as questions in UK science examinations become increasingly wordy, the gap between those pupils who can quickly understand what a question is asking and those who can’t is widening.
This skill of decoding an exam question is subtly different to disciplinary literacy or content area literacy, I think. Is there a particular pedagogical term for it, or a body of knowledge that might help?
(Shanahan and Shanahan make the distinction between disciplinary literacy and content area literacy thus: Content area literacy focuses on study skills that can be used to help students learn from subject matter specific texts. Disciplinary literacy, in contrast, is an emphasis on the knowledge and abilities possessed by those who create, communicate, and use knowledge within the disciplines. (Shanahan, T. & Shanahan, C. (2012). What Is Disciplinary Literacy and Why Does It Matter? Topics in Language Disorders, 32 (1), pp. 7–18).
A really interesting question Chris… I shared it on twitter and had this response and thought I would share it with you…
“Not only understanding the context of what’s being asked of you, but understanding the context of what’s being expected from your answer, which is often subject-specific. Often the answer needs to conform to standards unique to the discipline within which you’re being tested”
Chris, I came across the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, a UK based children’s literacy charity working with primary schools, although their Reading and Writing Scales, which are available as PDF downloads for free, support “progression for 3-16 year olds in a 21st Century Classroom. … The CLPE Reading and Writing Scales describe the journey that children make in order to become literate. … The pedagogy underpinning the scales and the Next Steps is grounded in a coherent theory of children’s language and literacy development, exemplified by the research element of this document, a review of current relevant research.”
Having not yet had a chance to look at the Reading Scale (24 pages) carefully, it appears to describe “the observable behaviours of pupils at different stages” – from Beginning Reader to Mature Independent Reader – as well as describing “the provision, practice and pedagogy a teacher would want to plan for in order to help the child move forward in their literacy.”
My initial thoughts in relation to your post are:
The language of the descriptors, especially towards the upper end of the scale, seems to address your concern to some extent and, perhaps, lays a foundation for content area literacy and/ or disciplinary literacy.
The focus of the scale seems only to be on identifying where on the scale individual students fall and the next steps in moving them on. Like with our discussion about the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) ATL (Approaches to Learning) skills, which we need to return to, there doesn’t appear to be any sense of how these skills ought to be developed progressively and systematically from year to year. However, and as with the MYP ATL skills, the FOSIL inquiry skills continuum above – and the Empire State Information Fluency Continuum (ESIFC) more broadly that this is based on – includes these skills to a greater or lesser extent. This potentially means that we could view the scale through the lens of FOSIL, which would add a layer of value to our integration of FOSIL with the MYP ATL skill categories/ clusters (which we also need to return to). As I am in the process of mapping the 2019 ESIFC, I will see if I can find some good examples to illustrate this.
The “review of current relevant research” might be particularly useful to you.
Hopefully this goes some way towards answering your questions.