Every Child, Every Day


When I taught biology at Lock Haven High School and at Central Mountain High School, I would ask students to make a list of what the human body needed to survive. Their lists did include the correct essentials – water, food and air containing oxygen, but being teenagers, they would also fervently argue the need for friends/companionship as well as technology in the forms of television, music and yes, cell phones.

So, what is required for literacy to not just survive, but prosper? In their article, “Every Child Every Day,” Richard Allington and Rachael Gabriel argue that there are 6 practices that educators must incorporate in their daily work with K-12 children in order to help them become successful readers:

·  Every child reads something he or she chooses

· Every child listens to an adult read aloud

· Every child talks with peers about reading and writing*

· Every child reads accurately (meaning reading material at the “just right” level of difficulty, or to put it in a Goldilocks perspective, not too easy, not to hard)

· Every child reads something he or she understands (think of something that may be at your reading level, but on a topic you have trouble making sense of)

· Every child writes about something personally meaningful*

*More about writing in a future column.

Your response to this list might understandably be that this is fine for teachers to do, but these aren’t things that you as a community member can do. If this is your response, you are mistaken.

Just as I had to share the facts with my students as to what their bodies needed and didn’t need, we as community members need to think about the fact that we have many opportunities to not only support but also actively promote the above list.

Let’s start with those of you who are not around children on a regular basis, and remember that the word children here includes babies as well as seniors in high school. Perhaps you are in a waiting room and there are parents with children there as well. What are you doing or more importantly, what do they see you doing? If you are reading, you are modeling reading. If you are writing, you are modeling writing. We all learn and base our actions on what we see. If children see most adults smoking, they are likely to think that smoking is a normal (and infer appropriate) thing to do. If children see most adults reading, they are likely to think that reading is a normal and appropriate thing to do.

I recently was in a waiting room with several adults as well as a mother who was reading to her two small children. She began by asking the older child to pick from one of the books she had brought with her. It was a joy to watch them as she read and talked about what was happening in the story. She asked questions that kept the very distractible 3 year old participating in the activity. As they prepared to leave, I told her how much I enjoyed listening to her read to her children. She smiled gratefully and seemed relieved. She said that she was worried that she might be bothering us with the “noise.” I assured her that I loved every minute of it, and I noticed others nodding as well.

Is supporting and growing literacy in our community as simple as modeling reading and offering encouragement to a young mother? It can be. The mission of Stone Soup Literacy is to make literacy a priority by sharing things both big and small that we all can do. In each column, you will read the what and the why (the facts) and the how. There are so many things that we can do for every child, every day. More information is available at stonesoupliteracy.com and on Facebook.

Next time we’ll talk about the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. Until then, think about this – What can you do to support and grow literacy in your community? Share your ideas at stonesoupliteracy.com. One more thing… How many from the list of 6 recommended activities were the mom and her children in the waiting room doing? See my answer on the website as well.