Reading Instruction - Best Practices

1. Finding Engaging Texts

It is imperative that schools are able to reach struggling and reluctant readers to first foster an appreciation for reading that will, in turn, increase reading comprehension skills. Best practice indicates that in order to do this, teachers must dramatically change teaching practices from Classic literature-driven, test-preparation to more authentic, relevant, and social reading activities (Beers, 2003; Ediger 2010; Gallagher, 2009; Reynolds, 2004; Tovani, 2004). One key to engaging reluctant readers resides in the choice of the texts themselves. When students can find direct relevance and meaning between their own lives and their text, they are more likely to engage in literacy-rich experiences with the text (Reynolds, 2004). 

3. Reading as a Social Activity

Effective reading instruction also places less focus on test-taking and more focus on social interaction (Beers, 2003; Ediger, 2010; Gallagher, 2009; Tovani, 2004). Activities that encourage discussion such as literature circles, informal conversations, and full-class discussions help students to reinforce the material they read and make connections between the text and the world around them (Beers, 2003; Ediger, 2010; Gallagher, 2009; Tovani, 2004).

 Lastly, it is more important for students to engage in reading strategies during the reading experience instead of after they are finished reading (Beers, 2003, 104). Writing activities such as placing post-it notes in the text not only helps to ensure that students are engaging with the text as they read, but also helps to internalize the strategy used and the concepts read (Beers, 2003; Ediger, 2010; Tovani, 2004). This also allows readers to begin to reflect on their thoughts before they are required to respond in class activities (Ediger, 2010, 108).

2. Explicit Instruction of Reading Strategies

Best practice indicates that many reluctant readers are also deficient in basic reading comprehension skills such as identifying main ideas, predicting, and making connections (Beers, 2003; Ediger 2010; Faggella-Luby and Wardwell, 2011; Gallagher, 2009). Because these readers may not have as many reading experiences as proficient readers do, they may not be aware of the ways that good readers think while they read. Therefore, reluctant readers need direct and explicit instruction in reading strategies both before, during, and after reading (Beers, 2003; Fagella-Luby and Wardwell, 2011). These strategies include: clarifying, predicting, inferencing, connecting, and questioning (Beers, 2003; Gallagher, 2009).

 Because many reluctant readers do not engage in reading strategies as they interact with texts, teacher modeling becomes an important component to effective instruction (Beers, 2003; Tovani, 2004, 26). Teacher-led activities such as think-alouds are important to help students understand how proficient readers engage in active reading. According to Beers “…some of the most effective mini-lessons are think-alouds from the teacher-direct modeling of a certain reading strategy that students should use that day as they are reading independently or meeting in literature circles” (Beers, 2003, 58). Without an example to work from, many reluctant readers remain confused about how to implement comprehension strategies as they read.