Need a quick way to inspire and educate staff about the importance of supporting the development of language and literacy in after school programs? Try sharing this article at a staff meeting, and then debriefing as a group!
Language is immersed in every aspect of human life. The ability to communicate is what often distinguishes humans from other life forms. The moment an infant babbles his/her first word is usually a time of joy and celebration for parents. The development of speech is a sign of thriving among infants and toddlers. (Moats 2002) So why it is important to support students’ language skills?
For students, the ability to read and write words is an academic milestone. It marks the transition from listening and speaking to the written word. Simply stated, reading is the gateway to learning. Through reading and writing, we can explore all disciplines, build background knowledge and vocabulary, and seek to learn more through print and electronic media. Being literate means being able to speak, read, and write well enough to understand and to be understood. Highly literate individuals often stand our for their command of language. Most importantly, reading opens the door to imagination, learning, and a higher quality of life. Not being able to read may mean just the opposite in contemporary society.
Students who experience reading difficulties may struggle throughout school and later in life. They usually find traditional learning challenging. Without early intervention, struggling readers are at a higher risk of dropping out of school. In today’s global economy, being illiterate means difficulty filling out a job application, reading streets signs, restaurant menus, and other simple, everyday messages. Being unable to read is comparable to having an invisible impairment. The good news is that after school programs offer an avenue for students to improve their literacy skills. (Torgensen 1998)
Many publicly-funded after school programs serve students who need reading support. The extended learning time offers opportunity for them to practice reading outside of their regular classroom. After school programs may also offer reading options that suit their needs, such as independent reading or a variety of reading level books. Reading for pleasure is important, as is obtaining the explicit reading instruction necessary to build foundational literacy skills. (Alliance for a Better Community 2009)
Help students appreciate the importance of literacy at a young age. This site is designed to assist after school educators foster literacy every day.
Alliance for a Better Community. 2009. Maximimizing After School Opportunities for English Learners. Los Angeles, CA: Zarate, Cynthia V.
Moats, L.C. Speech to Print: Language Essentials for Teachers. Baltimore, MD: Paul Brookes Publishing Co., 2002.
Torgensen, J.K. “Catch Them Before They Fall: Identification and Assessment to Prevent Reading Failure in Young Children.” American Educator: 22 (1998): 32–39.