Kicking off National Literacy Month

This guest post is written by Rachael Alexander, National Manager of Literacy Initiatives at City Year Headquarters

HERE IS YOUR MISSION:  Tomorrow, starting from the moment you open your eyes to the time you put your head down to sleep, take an inventory of every single thing that you read.  Everything.  Bonus points for recording it: write it down, type it up, enter it into your smart phone…Don’t skip signs on doors, directions, train schedules, newspapers—anything you read regularly should be in there.  For that matter, anything you read for enjoyment should be highlighted as well.  Personal emails, a favorite magazine, a book, a blog. (Are you picking up on the fact that you read a LOT for a variety of reasons?)

At this point, your mind is probably racing thinking through all of the possible things you are going to record. That’s the point; reading is an essential and fundamental part of not just existing in a society, but truly thriving in it.  It enables you to interact with the world, to get from place to place, to vote, to experience new ideas.  It allows you to be informed.  Your ability to read with automaticity—meaning words come to you automatically—might be something that you have taken for granted thus far in life, or it might be something that is constantly in the forefront of your mind.

I ask you to consider your experience with reading because it is different for every single person.  Your literacy identity (who you are as a reader, writer, speaker and listener) has the power to influence the way you think about reading, but more importantly it has the power to impact the way you think about yourself as a learner and as a citizen.  For many people in this country reading is a privilege.  It should be a right.  Reading is a matter of social justice.  It means access…access that many in the communities we serve might not have.

City Year corps members learn early in their corps year about the components of reading in order to make impact on students who struggle as readers in school.  We focus on 3 key components of reading that are absolutely essential to reading mastery in order to guide the literacy supports we provide to students:

  • Fluency: Connected to the shift between “learning to read” and “reading to learn”—it allows you to read and gain information
  • Vocabulary: An increased vocabulary not only enhances fluency, but also allows the reader access to new information
  • Reading Comprehension: This is the ultimate goal of reading; to truly understand a text is to be able to take the information provided and internalize it

September is National Literacy Month.  Each week this month I will revisit one of these 3 key components by sharing more–tips on how to work with a student struggling in these areas, a literacy story from a corps member and student that I’ve witnessed at a site, links to additional information–to guide the idea that literacy support and awareness are paramount for not only ourselves, but for the students we serve.

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