On Wednesday night Dr. Timothy Shanahan, UIC Distinguished Professor Emeritus and literacy research expert, presented The E3 Group’s inaugural Expert Lecture. Approximately 30 residents attended, with about an equal number from Oak Park and River Forest. The presentation was engaging and relevant. Dr. Shanahan addressed questions from the audience throughout. The number and quality of questions indicated the interest, relevancy, and concern of residents about how literacy is taught in our school districts.
The first part of his presentation characterized the importance of literacy in overall academic achievement, economic well-being, civic involvement, health, and social participation. He described how an increasing demand for literacy in today’s society has not been met by increasing rates of literacy among young people. He said that to reach proficiency, students on average would need to achieve 1½ to 2 grades ahead of what they accomplish by the time they’re 18 years old.
The second part of the presentation discussed the research on how best to meet the goals of moving students forward. He gave examples how “all research isn’t created equal,” but noted that there is a consensus based on the most rigorous (often experimental) research on teaching literacy. However, he noted that, despite this, some districts still adopt curriculum and instructional practices that don’t conform to best practices.
He noted that basically three things affect the development of literacy in children:
1. More instructional time
2. Focusing on the right strategies
3. Using high-quality instruction
For the second point—the right strategies, Dr. Shanahan demonstrated how there was a clear causal relationship between reading achievement and the teaching of these subjects:
- Phonological awareness (awareness of sound structure of words)
- Phonics (teaching reading by correlating sounds with letters or groups – including sight words))
- Oral reading fluency
- Reading comprehension strategies
Find Dr. Shanahan’s slides at the E3 Expert Lecture.
You can learn more about Dr. Tim Shanahan, follow his literacy education blog, or view past publications at www.Shanahanonliteracy.com.
Many thanks to Dr. Shanahan and to River Forest Community Center for providing a great venue.
Do you have ideas for other topics that should receive special attention from E3? Send them to email@example.com.