There are many unanswered questions about the “achievement gap”. the issue that prompted this sequence on early literacy success? I’m going to move on to an emphasis on learning to read/reading to learn. I propose that the adults taking a role in early literacy success will need to focus on four areas:

*The Whole Child: The whole child and the child’s strengths and challenges as a learner and as a reader

*The Learning Context: The learning context (at all of its relevant levels: home, classroom(s), school, community).

*Assessment: How we assess reading: “placement’ and progress; formative and summative

*A Model of the Learning Process: For the purposes of this blog the fourth areas of consideration will focus on the role and relationship between dialogue and reading success. school success, and life success.

I’m going to begin with assessment, briefly, and then return to it periodically as I move though the other topics. Here I will just mention the topics I believe are relevant to supporting and assessing reading success. I will make brief comments on the “whole child” consideration; then the “learning context” consideration; and then the relationship between dialogue and reading success as it impacts school success and life success. Often I will be integrating these 4 considerations, depending on the point of departure—a reference, a link, my own perspective and integration.


5 important points:

1 The status of reading achievement at the local, state, and national levels. We have seen increasing reference online and in the educational (and business) literature about the status of learners reading achievement…from K assessments to local/state testing to NAEP reports for 4th, 8th and 12th graders. Particularly striking are reports that indicate that there have been minimal changes in reading scores as reported on national tests, including NAEP assessments.


A particularly powerful treatment of this topic by Reid Lyon at a Stern Center for Language and Learning (Vermont) Conference on “closing the achievement” gap:

2 Continuity across contexts. There is increasing interest, at least in Vermont, in developing a process whereby Preschool teachers can “pass forward” what they have learning about their preschool students that will impact learning to read and school success.

Teachers at the state and local level discuss preschool education and communicating with the K-3 community.

I am in the process of gather information of what systems or procedures there are for “passing forward” a child’s reading strengths and challenges as s/he moves from K to grades 1, 2, and 3 and beyond.

3 Kinds of Assessment. We need to clearly understand and put into practice the relationship between formative and summative assessments. This must include giving credence to the value of teacher observation and “informal” assessment. We need to find ways to relate formative assessment to subsequent “instruction.”

4 Task Assessment. When we ask a child to perform a reading/dialogue task, we need to be able to assess how close the child has come to the target. There are three relevant assessment concepts here: diagnostic teaching, gradual release or responsibility, and zone of proximal development (Vygotsky). All three of these suggest that we need to work within a frame work of where the child has come from, where s/he is headed, and what comes next. We know that feedback places a critical role in learning. Task assessment demands feedback at critical points.

5 Learner as evaluator. We need to have input form the learner. Children have a sense very early on whether or not they are “readers.” Some children as young as K will tell you whether or not they think they are “good” readers (with more or less accuracy). Some children can also tell you what “reading” is about for them: what kind of books/genre, authors, illustrators, themes, or topics they prefer to read, what strategies they use to read a challenging text and how well those strategies work; how they are begin “taught” to read (and whether or not the approach is working; what they think “reading” is for—its purpose inside and outside of school. In their book on Speaking and Listening for Preschool Through Third Grade, Resnick and Snow discuss goals for this age group, including Talking to Oneself. They say: “This “private speech” is a key way for children to practice language and guide themselves through their actions…Talking out loud indicates that they are working hard ton a task; indeed it helps them stay focused on a challenge. By second or third grades, children also use self-monitoring strategies—thinking silently or muttering quietly to themselves to…check their understanding of words and leaning as they read, rehearse steps to solve a problem, recite information they have learned or memorized.” That is, they are evaluating their learning. They are metacognitive!


The Whole Child.

 Children come to us in our teacher role with a whole self, with a family, a personality, with strengths and challenges, with a background of experiences inside and outside of school, and with a learning history.  For them, school and learning have personal, social, cultural, physical and cognitive dimensions.  Knowing the whole child means tuning into those dimensions of the child as s/he is achieving and not achieving his goals, the family’s goals, and the teacher’s and school’s goals.

More and more teachers and parents are interested in understanding the affective dimensions of learning.  Popular concepts include engagement, a growth perspective, stamina, grit, perseverance, challenge.

The Learning Context

The Learning Context is what happens/has happened before the child reaches the school door, what happens in the classroom(s) and school, and what happens in the context beyond school and over time. Certainly we expect children to carry learning from home as well as into the community as they venture forth into the larger world. There are approaches to learning that reflect this contextual perspective: “Authentic Learning”, “Cognitive Apprenticeship,” “Situated Learning.” “Whole Game Learning“ all of which reflect application of what is learned across contexts.

A Model for Early Language and Literacy Learning and Success: The Reading Pyramid and Talk-Text-Task

The Reading Pyramid is a tentative model I am working on to try to pull together all of these dimensions of learning to read and reading to learn.

It starts with the concept of 1-2-3 GO! (and I might add—keep on going.)

1 is the learner

2 is the learning time frame (2/3 months to 2/3 years to grade 2/3+) for learning to read and reading to learn.

3 the dimensions of the learning process with specific emphasis on the talk-text-task relationships: all embedded in the contexts in which the child operates (the base of the pyramid) both in and beyond school.  This approach will offer information and insights into a range of talk-text-task approaches to learning to read and reading to learn, including “dialogic reading”, “Rich Talk About Text” by David Pearson, Allington’s work on the 6 T’s, Collaborative Conversations, “instructional conversations,” Reciprocal Teaching, and “accountable” talk.

In the next blog, I will share some of the details of the work of Allington, Pearson, and Whitehurst.