PULLMAN— Stephen B Krucer, associate professor of language and literacy education at WSU, is a co-author in the new book, What Research REALLY Says about Teaching and Learning to Read, published by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).
Krucer contributed a chapter on the nature of the reading process and also edited the book, which is set for release in October. Kucer is a College of Education faculty member at WSU Vancouver.
The premise of a new book is how learning to read means mastering letters and sounds and a whole lot more.
The “lot more” part includes such things as understanding the relationship of one word to the next, how texts are organized, and the willingness of readers to use their background knowledge to monitor and evaluate what they’ve read. This expanded view of reading is so important to national education policy that the book’s authors have been invited to share their findings with members of Congress.
A Congressional briefing on the book for lawmakers and their aides is scheduled for Feb. 3 in Washington, D.C. Kucer is delighted to have such an important audience during the first few weeks of the new administration, when members of Congress will debate reauthorization of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act.
“We’re hoping what we present will serve as a basis for Congressional members to reconsider what national policy needs to look at when it comes to supporting the teaching of reading,” he said. “To build good reading instruction, to build good assessment, we need to know what good readers actually do when reading. How do we teach young kids, adolescents, bilingual/bicultural students? How do we work with readers who have been taught to read, but are still struggling?”
Kucer said he won’t be drawn into a debate about the value of phonics—the book does not reject “sounding out” as one of many strategies good readers use. Instead, the authors focus on what else students need to learn, such as reading in context.
“We all bring our background knowledge to bear on what we’re reading. We see the words around the words; we look at words within words, we focus on beginning and ending letters,” he said. “Students need to know they can read on and go back if something doesn’t make sense.”
The Congressional briefing has been arranged thanks to the efforts of a contributing author, Brenda Hawkins of the Jamestown Education Foundation. Her discussion of the Commission on Reading’s forthcoming book with George Zainyeh, past-president of the foundation and aide to Congressman Patrick Kennedy, D-Rhode Island, led to his suggestion that the research be released at a meeting in Washington D.C.
The authors will hone their presentation at the annual convention of NCTE in November, when an entire session will be devoted to the book. They will be able to end their talks, as they have their book, on a high note: reading success stories that happen despite time-consuming federal testing requirements.
“Some school districts do what they have to do with No Child Left Behind, and then go on and do wonderful things. There are always ways to work within the system. There’s always wriggle room,” Kucer said. “I think we’ll be able to inspire people.”