READING RECOVERY: A SOCIAL JUSTICE INTERVENTION A presentation at the Canadian Institute of Reading Recovery January 24 2011 Sheraton Parkway Hotel, Richmond Hill, Ontario Dr Jerry Diakiw York University [email_address]
MY name is Jerry Diakiw and I am a reading recovery addict. Let me tell you how I became an addict.
I am a high school geography teacher at heart but as a school superintendent I applied my passion for social justice and equity issues and an emerging passion for literacy across all grades and subjects. Each of you know more about Reading Recovery than I will ever know, but I bring to you my passion and proof, for the long term benefits Reading Recovery can bring to our society through narrowing the gap further between the children from the well to do, and those who struggle in our society. I commend and salute you for the work you do. There is not a more important role in education at the moment for me than the reading recovery teacher. Bravo!
This 10 year old Egyptian boy discovers how to write his name and he is anxious to share it with his family after his day’s work delivering propane tanks around the city .This is book celebrating the act of breaking the code but condemned by the Egyptian government. . .. Why use it then?
Unlocking the literary code is like magic. It opens us up to the whole world, over all of written time. Whether through J.K. Rowling, Eric Carle or Aristotle.
While this book is a powerful reminder of the act , or magic of unlocking the code, it is a controversial book as it portrays a 10 year old child delivering propane gas bottles around Cairo to support his family in a Cairo that appears positively mediaeval. The book portrays Cairo in the 1990’s. As luscious is the depiction of the colorful caravan, and poetic language, there hasn’t been a camel caravan in the city for over a hundred years. Egypt is proud of the fact they have compulsory schooling till the age of 15. Yet the American author and illustrator portray a romanticized and exoticized picture of this young 10 year boy and his city. Despite these failings, it does portray a happy Islamic family and a positive image of a friendly city. A nice contrast to the Islamophobic portrayal of the Middle East and its people in the media. We can celebrate its strength, and interrogate and learn from its failings with an appropriate age group.
Cairo in the 1990 compared to Ahmed’s authors depiction. Egypt’s compulsory schooling till 15 compared to Ahmed’s 10 year old life on the street
Apart for celebrating the act of literacy in Ahmed’s secret with its beautiful writing, and exquisite watercolors, it provides an opportunity to interrogate the text and create a rich discussion around social justice issues, values, and personal concerns
As Katherine Patterson writes:
“ It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations--something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own. ”
Early childhood as an ELL-absence of any literacy in the home illiterate parents–43 and 44 out of 44 students in grade 6 on reading and writing
As a high school geography teacher I had a number of epiphanies
-Grade 10 geography class stunned watching one student reading with finger one word at a time. I had no idea what to do! (I wish I could do it over again now)
-Geography textbooks –Gave up textbooks and moved to novels
E.g.. Nectar in the Sieve, for India, Caravans for Middle east
-Roberts plan– general level credits introduced and the credit system – The big boom! -colleges– suddenly more lower achieving students in schools than ever before and they needed a different kind of teaching.
15 Language development concerns across the Board a prioity for 5 years. 1988 to 1993
Lucy McCormick Caulkins, Marie Clay, James Britton, Nancy Atwell, Donald Graves came to town ,as we implemented language across the curriculum--My war cries! Reading and writing float on a sea of talk( James Britton), How do I know what I think until I see what I write. (E.M.Forster): Understanding is at the point of utterance ; it takes two to read a book( Atwell); the writer only writes half the book.
Children of all classes with mics turned on randomly from age two till primary school and their conversations transcribed. One startling conclusion was there was no difference in the oral development between high and low SES, BUT when they entered school, high SES children sped ahead. In homes with books and read aloud and travel and museums high SES kids had picked up story codes:
Once upon a time . . . Far away in ancient Rome
Long ago in oriental Japan
“ Storying” in the home gave them the advantage of book culture in school. They came to school with literary capital to spend, and went to bank with it.
How did we get here? TDSB: A CASE STUDY This most powerful preceding chart shows the huge discrepancies between children from high income families and low ones 20-30% diff. and the correlation is precise over the 5 categories of income and , the numbers get wider moving from grade 3- 6. A 30% difference on average! Unacceptable in our society! WHY?
Children living in poverty are at higher risk of a variety of health problems, developmental delays, and behaviour disorders. They clearly attain lower levels of education, and studies show they will likely live in poverty as adults.
“ The biggest discrepancies are among different racial groups, followed by income groups. one should be cautioned against generalizing about groups of students, as there are high achieving students in all groups”
E.g. single parents are not the problem, many Latino and Black students at university. . . .but
This pattern of low income, coupled with all the other hurdles, applied layer upon layer, upon layer of difficulties to overcome provides a population of students who have the greatest possibility of being lagging grade one readers. We must meet the needs of these children through reading recovery
Conversely who goes to College and University?
HS School marks, attitude, literacy,
(Ross Finnie study)
POST SECONDARY EDUCATION BY PROVINCE ( AND URBAN /RURAL)
The above charts show the power of parental education and parental income on who goes to college and Finnie proves parental education is a greater factor than family income for Post secondary participation, but when other variable are introduced. . . PISA reading scores are the best predictor
READING SCORE BEST PREDICTOR OF WHO WILL GO TO UNVERSITY
“ The largest determinant of university participation however, is the score on the reading portion of the PISA.” Finnie and Mueller 2009
For example, data on the reading attainment of 15-year olds in almost 30 countries showed that “the level of a student’s reading engagement is a better predictor of literacy performance than his or her socioeconomic background, indicating that cultivating a student’s interest in reading can help overcome home disadvantages” (OECD, 2004, p. 8)
A need to have Reading recovery teachers to play a larger role
Our most expert, our best trained teachers on staff need to have a wider impact.
RR teachers as principal consiglieris-- partners in distributive leadership.
Training parent volunteers in running records, guided observation and programming ; facilitating booster programs ; active on school improvement committees.
working and training K_6 teachers
As David Moriarty puts it: “ Reading Recovery steps into a child’s life at a critical time – before the cycle of failure begins. It remains world wide as an example of the most powerful, effective staff development program available, yielding the best trained teachers of reading in their districts, and compared to other programs that go on for years and never get children reading on grade level, Reading Recovery is a bargain.”(North American Reading Recovery Institute website)
While we are doing better in literacy than anyone else in the world on many criteria we have a long way to go and Reading Recovery can and will better meet the needs of disadvantaged children. Those skills, that expertise of the RR teacher needs to spread throughout the school.
I commend you for the important work you have done and are doing