How Leaders Can Support the Implementation of Effective Literacy Practices

Literacy is the most important skill that a student can acquire. With the ability to read, students can access and learn the material in other subjects, such as math, science, social studies, etc. Without it, many will be relegated to a life of crime and possibly incarceration. Why? Because the ability to read is a prerequisite for 95% of the jobs today. If you cannot read, how will you provide for yourself and possibly a family? Without viable job options, many people end up living a life of crime; not because they want to but because they feel that they have no other choice.

That’s why literacy instruction is so important. Educators must be able to teach all students to read on grade level. This involves being a wizard at helping students cultivate foundational reading skills and then build more advanced skills such as reading proficiency, reading fluency and reading comprehension. We often expect teachers to become literacy specialists on their own, but the truth is that the development of literacy practices depends a lot on the support of their building principals. In this article, we will discuss how leaders can support the implementation of effective literacy practices.

Model best practices. The head principal should be an instructional leader. I have been saying this for almost 20 years, and for many, the thought is finally settling in. Whether its elementary school or middle school, they should be able to visit classrooms where reading instruction is taking place and assess the teacher’s effectiveness. If the teacher needs to sharpen some of their instructional skills, the principal should be able to help by modeling the skills that the teacher is lacking. Although I know that in many situations the literacy coach or an assistant principal will be delegated the responsibility of providing literacy coaching to teachers, the principal needs to oversee the process. Why, because the buck stops with you, and most of your subordinates won’t have a wealth of experience in the area. Literacy development is too essential for you to delegate.

Provide effective professional development. If you want your reading teachers to be as effective as they can be, then you need to provide them with a robust system of professional development. This means providing meaningful in-service workshops and training, online professional development options, and opportunities to attend reading education conferences. If you think you can’t afford it, think again. The truth is, you can’t afford not to do it. Affluent districts usually have large professional learning budgets, and even schools that serve poor neighborhoods receive supplemental funds via Title I. You have no excuses.

Get parents involved. If you want to ensure that the literacy practices that you are implementing reach their maximum effectiveness, you must involve parents. Parents are their children’s first teachers, and during a child’s literacy development phase they can serve as excellent teaching partners. The skills students are working on at school, can be reinforced and taught by parents at home. Sure, it will take a lot of work on the parent’s part, but hey, it’s worth it. As an educational leader, you need to make sure that parents are up for the task. Develop a Parent’s Academy that provides parents with the expertise to teach the literacy development skills that kids are learning at school, at home. All you must do is come up with a plan, a curriculum, and then get to work. Of course, you won’t expect them to be able to do everything that a teacher can do, but you would be surprised what you can do with a little innovation.

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