Through the Eyes of the Preservice Teacher: Using a Reflective Reading Journey to Inform Teaching and Learning

Article excerpt

Introduction

Many factors affect attitudes toward reading, including parent and other caretaker support, sibling attitudes, school and library programs, curriculum and instruction, and, of course, teachers. While working with preservice teachers pursuing licensure in pre-kindergarten through adolescent education, it became evident that the students had many preconceived notions about reading, based on their own experiences as children, youth, and young adults, and that an examination of these experiences could be a powerful tool in developing a better understanding of their future students' needs during the various stages of reading development.

In an effort to enable my students to better understand their personal relationship to reading and to create an opportunity for them to think about how their past experiences might affect their future students, I required them to complete a reflective paper. It was my hope that, in reflecting upon their own reading journeys, there was the potential to make these future teachers more empathic, more aware of warning signs, and more attuned to the need to be positive role models and teacher leaders in reading instruction.

Background

In 1997, in an effort to assess the current status of reading development instruction for overall effectiveness and to make recommendations regarding additional research in the field, Congress assigned a committee to assess the effectiveness of various approaches to teaching reading. The establishment of the National Reading Panel (NRP) resulted in a body of literature released by the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development (2000) focused on the importance of quality reading instruction. Not surprisingly, a section of this evidence-based assessment pointed to the direct impact of teacher education and reading instruction. The importance of the classroom teacher in the reading development process should not be underestimated. This is especially true for struggling adolescent readers who need teachers who understand reading instruction, adolescent development, and concepts of motivation (Fisher & Frey, 2008).

The significant drop in test scores and motivation to read at this stage of schooling is an area of great concern for good reason. "The story the data tell is simple, consistent, and alarming. Although there has been measurable progress in recent years in reading ability at the elementary school level, all progress appears to halt as children enter their teenage years" (Gioia, 2007, p. 5). In the preface to the Executive Summary of the National Endowment for the Arts' (2007) report, To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence, Chairperson Gioia paints a bleak picture of this continued decline in reading: a lack of reading experience and ability leads to lack of employment, lower wages, and few opportunities for advancement. While this single view of "measurable progress" may be overstated, what is not overstated is that reading for pleasure declines in the late elementary/early middle school stage of schooling.

Early reading experiences are vital to the development of reading readiness skills. Developmentally appropriate experiences are outlined in such documents as "Learning to Read and Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children" (International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998). There is clearly a strong focus on and push for appropriate experiences for early childhood/pre-kindergarten populations. Additionally, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 places a strong emphasis on the necessity of establishing reading programs for "students in kindergarten through grade 3 that are based on scientifically based reading research" to ensure a greater level of success in developing reading skill (Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 2001). There is no lack of research on reading readiness, research-based programs, and the importance of teacher education programs in producing candidates who can teach reading. …