Reading is at the Core - Renaissance Australia
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Reading is at the Core

By: Zora Zaric

Reading and literacy are at the core of how we learn. Reading enhances a student’s understanding of the world around them as well as building comprehension and writing skills. When the student questions their world, they find answers through either research and reading or inquiring and asking. This growth and discovery comes as a result of continued exposure to new words, ideas and literary conventions that are gained through the practice of reading. Using the Star Reading and Accelerated Reader program gives educators clear insights and allows teachers to guide students along their path to literacy mastery, equipping the student with the confidence to read any book or text they wish. While a student will need to read some Accelerated Reader ‘quizzed’ books to provide teachers with data on their performance, they are by no means pigeonholed into reading these texts. Allowing them to read non-quizzed books will further encourage their love of reading and this is always welcomed! It will only have a further positive effect on their literacy, and this is in turn reflected in their formative Star Reading assessment.

Understanding the Renaissance suite of literacy solutions and how they work in conjunction with existing teaching practices is essential to recognising what part they can play in developing students’ literacy skills. Star Reading assessments are used for screening, progress monitoring and diagnostic assessment. Ideally taken under test conditions, the students are encouraged to take their time and work through a computer adaptive reading assessment which assess 41 skills essential to mastering key literacy domains. A number of differentiations can be made to suit a range of ability levels and will lead to more reliable and reflective results. Star Reading providing teachers with reliable and actionable data, giving insights into what students already know and what they are ready to learn next, monitoring growth and determining which students may need support. Star Reading assessments are heavily researched and are scientifically proven to help teachers guide each student on their path to mastery. Rather than teaching reading skills, Star Reading provides teachers with powerful reports that will assist in the differentiation of teaching practice and support of students who really need it. The reports reduce the burden on teachers to provide data and combine with a teacher’s professional judgement when designing teaching activities or developing strategies for intervention. The skills outlined are focused on developing competency stages, not dissimilar to building a house. More struggling students will need to go ‘back to basics’, working on foundational skills like word recognition and vocabulary. Whilst more capable students will need to be challenged with targeted questions on the deconstruction of texts for instance. When the report outlines these skills, for example “make more complex inferences from non-narrative texts by recognising implicit meanings at sentence and whole text level”, they can be taught with any range of texts and certainly not limited to ‘quizzed’ Accelerated Reader books.

Accelerated Reader will provide information on the culture of reading in the class. It allows for the monitoring of independent reading where teachers can motivate and guide as needed. Completing the Reading Practice quizzes answers queries the teacher may have about the students reading habits. Are they reading books that are too hard or too easy? How regularly are they reading? How many minutes a day are they engaged and are they comprehending what they reading? It allows teachers to ensure students are reading with fidelity. This data can be used to give students agency and continue to foster a  growth mindset as they are empowered to make their own book selections, track their quiz progress and attain individualised reading goals.

It goes without saying, students should read. Contemporary research outlines extensive benefits such as mental stimulation, stress reduction, vocabulary and knowledge expansion, increased analytical thinking and improved focus, concentration and memory (Winter, 2019). Stanovich writes “even students who have limited comprehension skills will build vocabulary and thinking skills through reading. So it follows that we need to get students engaged in reading practice and ensure that they are reading with fidelity, that is, they understand what they are reading and reading well.”

Star Reading and Accelerated Reader gives students agency with direction and equips teachers with insight and data to have targeted conversations with their students about their progress. It is able to encourage a culture of reading across the school and foster a love of reading in each individual student regardless of age or ability, and that is the most important aspect of all.