Twenty-first-century life requires strong reading comprehension skills. As students grow into their roles as adult citizens, this need will become more and more apparent. In fact, regardless of whether a school has adopted a specific set of educational standards, a teacher’s greatest goal is to help all their students develop these literacy skills.
We commonly hear that reading opens the door to all other content and discipline areas in learning. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Definition of 21st Century Literacies (2013) states that literacy is dynamic and is the collection of practices that are cultural and communicative. Consequently, literacy demands evolve and change in response to environmental needs. As society and technology change, so does literacy. Currently, the 21st century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies in reading, writing and literacy (to learn more, click here).
The Information Age has created an even greater demand on reading. All students, whether career- or college-bound, are going to need sophisticated reading skills to comprehend the overwhelming amount of written material that is expected to come their way. Evidence indicates that more information will be presented as written text in the twenty-first century than at any time in the past. It may be transmitted digitally rather than printed on paper, but tomorrow’s citizens can expect to be bombarded by a great deal of text and this demands advanced reading skills.
It is not just the volume of text that students are exposed to that warrants well-developed reading skills. It is also valuable to remember that reading must be contextualized and encouraged in all content areas. Reading is not just the English teacher or primary teacher’s responsibility. Comprehensive reading means students learn to recognize spoken and written words, interpret subtext, analyze story plotlines, increase vocabulary, and support text-based arguments—all at the same time, in all content areas/disciplines. Reading is the foundation and vehicle for deep subject matter study.
These demands are also recognized in today’s educational standards and the skills that are articulated within represent a path toward integrated literacy. This path goes through every classroom—not just the reading class or literature class. From a literacy standpoint, a middle school student’s reading of the ITTF Official Table Tennis Rules and Regulations in physical education class, Anne of Green Gables in literature class, and primary source material like voting instruction posters in history class, all serve the same purpose. They’re practice. Reading in all subject areas and disciplines is essential for students in becoming more proficient readers. The more pages read, the more skillful the reader becomes. And when all students read robust quantities of level-appropriate material every day, they become the kind of reader that can thrive in today’s text and information rich environment.
Anders, P. L., & Guzzetti, B. J. (2020). Literacy instruction in the content areas. Routledge.
“The NCTE Definition of 21st Century Literacies.” NCTE Comprehensive News. National Council of Teachers of English, 15 February 2003. Web. 28 September 2015. Updated February 2013.
Ruder, Debra Bradley. “The Teen Brain.” Harvard Magazine. Harvard Magazine Inc., 1 September 2008. Web. 28 September 2015[r7] .
McKnight, K. S. (Ed.). (2016). Addressing the Needs of All Learners in the Era of Changing Standards: Helping Our Most Vulnerable Students Succeed Through Teaching Flexibility, Innovation, and Creativity. Rowman & Littlefield.