Reading fluently is something we take for granted. When you read something, you may not even be conscious of the myriad micro-cognitive activities you put into practice when reading any kind of text, from posts on your social media feed to blog posts such as this one. The cognition is invisible, but integral.
Strategic and engaged readers fluidly extract and construct meaning naturally (RAND, 2002) like a seasoned chef incorporating foreign ingredients and making a tasty dish, or an accomplished musician sight reading a new composition as if she’s rehearsed it before—or even a competent gamer starting at “noob” level in an unfamiliar game, but quickly leveling up like a pro.
But the problem is that these self-regulating, metacognitive behaviors that fluent readers do without effort don’t develop without effort among emergent readers.
The readings to date offer some potential solutions and raise more questions regarding the challenge of developing our current students into strategic and engaged readers today.
P is for Purpose
Yes, emergent readers can learn to become strategic and engaged (Duke and Pearson, 2002) through strategic yet personalized, feedback-rich instruction that is also highly dependent on transparency of purpose (both on the part of the reader, and on the part of the teacher).
When it comes to purpose, it’s usually framed as the author’s purpose for writing, rather than the reader’s purpose for reading; in this sense, the purpose should not just be about what to read, or how to read it, but WHY to read it to begin with. It starts with why…really, starting with why we need to learn anything and what its relevance is to us as human beings, which is a core idea behind developing agency in learning.
I is for Interest
While being more transparent with the why behind reading and humanizing the reader-teacher partnership through personalization, there’s also the “I” factor: Interest.
The more interest plays a factor in reading comprehension, the better for the reader.
If a reader is interested in a text, then the reader is more likely to persevere and productively struggle (Hammond, 2020) to “read harder texts when those texts are of interest to them”; Interest “can make up for a student’s lack of reading skills when reading particularly difficult texts” (Springer, Harris & Dole, 2017). So in a sense, interest can be a key pathway to activating the seven elements of learner agency (Bray and McClaskey, 2019).
It reminds me of the picture book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…
If you engage a learner [and in this case, a reader] with something she’s interested in [or interested in reading about], she will be open to learning more.
If she’s open to learning more, then you can share an authentic purpose for the learning.
If she understands the purpose and its relevance, then she may become motivated if you offer her choices in her learning.
If she has real choices to self-direct her learning, then she may also want to voice her opinions.
If she feels like her voice is valued and heard, she may develop ownership for her learning.
If she feels like she owns her learning process, she moves closer to developing qualities that demonstrate self-efficacy.
Reader front and center
Although the RAND model (2002) of reader-text-activity places the reader within that dynamic, in a library setting, the reader is the center of everything that happens in that space. In a middle school library, the seven elements of learner agency in tandem with equity should be the underlying framework of that library’s mission. Moving forward, I want to maintain the momentum through specific structures already in place, such as through our Learning Commons Student Advisory Team’s (L-CAT) feedback along with student reader reviews and online book recommendation forms, to name just a few examples.
Literacy instruction redux
As a librarian, I am all about multiple literacies—visual, digital, information, media, news, along with foundational literacy. I routinely integrate these into any collaborative teaching opportunity I have. I’ve also curated more “inherently interesting texts” (Springer, Harris & Dole, 2017) for teachers to use with students as well as introductory hooks (and other media) to engage student interest for an activity or project.
What honestly I have not done as intentionally is integrate reading comprehension strategies outside of teaching effective note taking through a self-designed “Pair-a-Phrase” strategy (Version 1 / Version 2)—partly due to the design flow of instruction, and also in part to what’s seen as the librarian’s role versus classroom teacher’s role based on expertise and curricular “territory.” But now as I rethink my own shifting role as a teacher-librarian, especially within the context of my current school’s challenges, the borders are wide open.
A reader’s disposition
I’d like to share a new approach with teachers for reframing reading through reader dispositions based on specific purposes, especially considering the new “Use and Apply” purpose added to the 2026 NAEP Reading Framework.
Buehl (2014) shares that we “read” different situations, people, objects, media, depending on the context in which we encounter them; the more we can transparently connect the purpose for reading a particular text with what kinds of reader personas to enact to approach the reading of it—such as a scientist, investigator, researcher, fact checker, historian, anthropologist, artist, even “word wrangler”—the better prepared the reader is for real-world reading experiences:
“The best teachers of discipline-based literacy practices are themselves able to read, write, and think like scientists, historians, mathematicians, or other specialists in other fields.” (Heller and Greenleaf, 2007)
Fresh take on making
What would a reader’s makerspace look like? And how can I facilitate that in the library? Moving from STEM, to STEAM, to STREAM…to READ? Hughes et al (2019)’s research studies maker lab microcycles and design challenges, which leads me to wonder: How could a microcycle or design challenge model be leveraged together with inquiry-based learning to shape meaningful reading comprehension instruction within the library context? Genius Hour, Innovation Time and Passion Projects lend themselves to the reader’s makerspace realm, so what might I do to make this happen within the current constraints we face to close the “COVID learning gaps” from the past 18+ months?
Implications and Questions
In reference to embodied learning, “cognition doesn’t happen once information comes into our brains. Rather, cognition happens as we interact with the world. Understanding is generated in activity” (Shira Hagerman and Cotnam-Kappel, 2018).
In this same vein, to read well is a form of active learning.
Upon my own reading about the inherent cognitive, individualized nature of reading through this course to date, what’s really astonishing is how much the importance of reading is touted but not actually given the weight it demands like other educational trends (like STEM/STEAM), or reduced to data points connected to specific skills on a standardized test.
If understanding is fundamental to reading, and understanding is a key component of learning, why is teaching reading comprehension effectively an ongoing issue?
Reader’s Note: This reflective post is part of the required coursework for EDU 532 ~ Seminar in Digital Literacy and Learning
Bray, B. & McClaskey, K. (2019) Seven elements that contribute to learner agency: Voice, Choice, Engagement, Motivation, Ownership, Purpose, and Self-Efficacy. Retrieved from http://kathleenmcclaskey.com/continuums/
Buehl, D. (2014). “Fostering Comprehension of Complex Texts” (Chapter 1 pages 3-11) in Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning (4th Edition). Retrieved from https://www.literacyworldwide.org/docs/default-source/bonus-materials/002-chapter-1
Duke, N.K. & Pearson, P. D. (2002). Effective practices for developing reading comprehension. In What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction, 3rd edition. International Reading Association.
Emerich-France, P. E. (2021). Putting the PERSON back in Personalized Learning. Educational Leadership, 79(1), 44-49. Retrieved from https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/putting-the-person-back-in-personalized-learning
Gallagher (2010). “Reversing Readicide.” ASCD. Retrieved from https://www.ascd.org/el/articles/reversing-readicide
Hagerman, M.S. & Cotnam-Kappel, M. (in press). Making as embodied learning: Rethinking the importance of movement for learning with digital and physical tools. Education Review. Retrieved from http://mschirahagerman.com/2019/02/27/making-as-embodied-learning/
Hammond, Z. (2020). A Conversation about Instructional Equity with Zaretta Hammond. Collaborative Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.collaborativeclassroom.com/blog/a-conversation-about-instructional-equity-with-zaretta-hammond/
Heller, R. and Greenleaf, C. (2007). Literacy Instruction in the Content Areas: Getting to the Core of Middle and High School Improvement. Retrieved from https://all4ed.org/reports-factsheets/literacy-instruction-in-the-content-areas-getting-to-the-core-of-middle-and-high-school-improvement/
Hughes, J. M., Morrison, L. J., Kajamaa, A. & Kumpulainen, K. (2019). Makerspaces promoting students’ design thinking and collective knowledge creation: Examples from Canada and Finland. In A. Brooks, E. Brooks & C. Sylla (Eds.), Interactivity, Game Creation, Design, Learning, and Innovation (pp. 343-352). 7th EAI International Conference, ArtsIT 2018, and 3rd EAI International Conference, DLI 2018, ICTCC 2018, Braga, Portugal, October 24–26, 2018, Proceedings. Springer International Publishing: Cham, Switzerland.
National Assessment Governing Board (2021). Reading Framework for the 2026 National Assessment of Educational Progress. Retrieved from https://www.nagb.gov/naep-frameworks/reading/2026-reading-framework.html
RAND [Snow, C.] (2002). Reading for Understanding: Toward an R&D Program in Reading Comprehension. Retrieved from https://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR1465.html
Springer, Harris, & Dole (2017): From Surviving to Thriving: Four Research-Based Principles to Build Students’ Reading Interest. The Reading Teacher, March 2017. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/315596391_From_Surviving_to_Thriving_Four_Research-Based_Principles_to_Build_Students’_Reading_Interest
Wen, W. & Castek, Jill (2020). Equity, literacies, and learning in technology-rich makerspaces. Handbook of Research on Integrating Digital Technology with Literacy Pedagogies. Retrieved from https://www.igi-global.com/chapter/equity-literacies-and-learning-in-technology-rich-makerspaces/238426