Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Early Childhood Educators and Literacy Leaders: Powerful Partners

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

Early Childhood Educators and Literacy Leaders: Powerful Partners

Article excerpt

Learning to read is one of the most critical and powerful achievements in life. Ensuring that all young children reach their potential in literacy development is the shared responsibility of many, though as emphasis is placed on establishing literacy leaders in many schools, literacy coaches and classroom teachers are being looked upon as having the primary responsibility. As a result, there is an unprecedented opportunity for literacy coaches and early childhood educators to become powerful partners who work collaboratively to meet the needs of academically diverse young children.

From the onset, literacy coaches and classroom teachers must share a common belief system regarding developmentally appropriate practice. As this belief system is established, early childhood educators must be aware of the roles and responsibilities of literacy coaches so they can effectively communicate their instructional needs to their literacy coach. Additionally, literacy coaches must make themselves accessible to early childhood educators, with emphasis on flexibility in regard to meeting the needs of the teachers with whom they work. Ultimately, there are endless opportunities for powerful partnerships between literacy coaches and early childhood educators when the focus is on improving student achievement in developmentally appropriate ways.

Necessity of Partnering

Expansion of literacy coaches in elementary schools throughout America has occurred through the revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 2000 (Dole 2004). As this expansion has taken place, communication between the classroom teacher and the literacy coach remains the cornerstone for professional collaboration and success. However, often times early childhood educators are unsure about how they can obtain the help and support of their literacy coach to facilitate classroom instruction, especially as current resources have shifted from providing additional instruction to students struggling in reading to providing building-level support to classroom teachers. For the teacher of young children, a strong partnership with the literacy coach can be powerful for the teachers and children.

Communicating Developmentally Appropriate Teaching

To begin with, the literacy coach and classroom teacher must share the same belief system regarding how young children best learn. With this in mind, the International Reading Association and the National Association for the Education of Young Children partnered to determine guiding principles when considering young children's literacy development (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998). These principles should be embraced by both the coach and classroom teacher as they develop a developmentally appropriate approach to their partnership: (1) capitalizing on what is known about children's development and learning to set achievable but challenging goals for literacy learning and to plan learning experiences and teaching strategies that vary with the age and experience of the learners; (2) using results of ongoing assessment of individual children's progress in reading and writing to plan next steps or to adapt instruction when children fail to make expected progress or are at advanced levels; and, (3) to consider social and cultural contexts in which children live so as to help them make sense of their learning experiences in relation to what they already know and are able to do. Ultimately, to teach in developmentally appropriate ways, coaches and teachers must understand both the continuum of reading and writing development and children's individual and cultural variations.

Further, as these guiding principles form the foundation of the partnership, there are eight research-based strategies identified as effective early literacy instruction that encourage early forms of reading and writing to develop into conventional literacy (Roskos, Christie, & Richgels, 2003). …

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