Recently, I have acquired a job as a reading tutor in an elementary school that draws from a population of a lower socio-economic background. It’s the lowest performing elementary school in its district and it is one of the lower ones in the state. As a reading tutor, I’m going to be working with students in the third and fourth grades that are on the cusp of being proficient on the standardized tests and only missed being proficient by a few questions last year. In this way, the school is hoping to boost its scores in order to make AYP and hopefully gain some more funding and credibility in the eyes of the community.
As I looked at the materials that the students in the third and fourth grade have to work with, I couldn’t help but think that there was a reason that students from lower urban schools like this one don’t share a love for literature and learning. After a long day in a building with no air-conditioning, being drilled with phonic, boring anthologies and low level guided reading the students are ready to escape to the fresh air and engage in fun play with their friends. It seems to me that some schools don’t realize that reading can be made fun and interesting by still working on skills such as phonic and comprehension strategies but with great literature. Why not teach students how to summarize, predict and form vocabulary but use great books such as “Matilda” by Roald Dahl or “The Giver” by Lois Lowry? There is a plethora of award winning literature that is accessible to students and can be used to teach many of the traits and skills necessary to pass standardized tests.
One of the greatest gifts that we can give our students is an unconditional love of literature that will be sure to turn them into life-long learners. I hope that this year in my reading groups I will be able to reach out to some students and foster this love of literature while also teaching them useful skills to use in their mandatory testing.