Current Trends in Literacy Instruction
Recently the pedagogical battles have been complicated by the passing of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 (NCLB, 2002). According to Section 1001 of the 670-page document, the purpose of NCLB is “to ensure that all children have a fair, equal, and significant opportunity to obtain a high-quality education and reach, at a minimum, proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards and state academic assessments” (Section 1001). The goal of high-quality education for all children is sound. But we agree with those who argue that this latest increase in bureaucratic requirements gets in the way of effective teaching (e.g., Washor & Mojkowski, 2006). Teachers feel that the federal mandates severely constrain their teaching vision and innovation. Teachers who understand how children learn and how emergent literacy develops are incensed at being forced to do what they know is wrong for young children. We want to help you figure out how to do what is right for children while meeting mandated literacy goals.
To do what is right for children, you have to understand the limitations of the federal mandates. Reading First is a provision of NCLB specifically targeted at improving primary-grade reading instruction (Graves, Juel, & Graves, 2007; Roskos & Vukelich, 2006). Its preschool counterpart, called Early Reading First, is designed to prepare children to enter kindergarten with language and literacy skills necessary for school success. To that end, the federal government supports a five-component model of reading, reported in the federally sponsored report of the National Reading Panel (2000). This model emphasizes phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension strategies instruction. This is a skills-based instructional model. NCLB has impacted public education in elementary schools across the United States, significantly changing children’s educational experience. Teachers from Virginia to California report that this focus on skills has become exclusive, leaving little time for engaging in meaningful activities or simply focusing on the enjoyment of literature.
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