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What Techniques Should the Public Schools Use to Strengthen Literacy at All Grade Levels?

by Lori Garrett-Hatfield

While the literacy rate in the United States is higher than in many countries, it is still troubling. According to Statistic Brain, 14 percent of adults in the U.S. cannot read at all -- this means that 32 million adults do not have the basic skills to read signs, menus or web content. Schools may be able to combat the literacy levels, with programs available at the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Literacy Programs Prior to Elementary School

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, children who are exposed to language and literacy techniques at an early age have a much easier time reading once they enter elementary school. Children who attend preschool programs learn sounds and letters, have a larger oral language vocabulary and a greater sense of social and emotional well being. They also experience fewer retentions, which is important for the well-being of the child, since numerous studies show that a child who is retained has a poor chance of graduating from high school. Also, preschool programs that offer literacy and parenting activities for parents to use at home with their children may address two needs: those of the child and the parent, who may need assistance teaching their children early reading skills.

Literacy Programs in Elementary School

Like many preschool programs, elementary school programs also offer literacy skills for children and their parents. However, according to Reading Rockets, the focus of elementary literacy begins to shift towards the students, although parents may still play a fairly large role. According to Reading Rockets, effective literacy programs in elementary school spend a lot of class time reading and writing, and they employ lots of different kinds of reading materials, teachers who model good reading behaviors, good questioning strategies about the books read in class, longer assignments in reading and writing that take more than one period to complete, and effective evaluations.

Literacy Programs in Middle School

As GreatSchools.org points out, literacy problems in middle school are more complicated than in elementary school because the student has been struggling with reading for some time and usually has negative feelings about reading. Good middle school teachers will create a partnership with the student, set realistic goals, use reading materials that are interesting to the student and directly engage the student in reading and writing at the level he is currently on.

Literacy Programs in High School

In high school, as in middle school, in order to move the student further along in the quest for literacy, good teachers will involve the student, as well as the parents, in literacy activities. GreatSchools.org suggests that teachers may find reading implements and techniques to aid a high school student in his literacy development. For example, a rectangle cut into a file folder may help a student isolate a word, sentence or paragraph in order to read the passage more easily.

About the Author

Lori Garrett-Hatfield has a B.J. in Journalism from the University of Missouri. She has a Ph.D. in Adult Education from the University of Georgia. She has been working in the Education field since 1994, and has taught every grade level in the K-12 system, specializing in English education, and English as a Second Language education.

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