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Leading Edge Blog

Reading and Relationships

Reading is the skill that lays the foundation for success in school. And relationships in teaching reading and helping learners stay engaged are equally important.

The Ohio Department of Education has been scaling up the state’s plan to raise literacy achievement. When looking at Ohio's plan to raise literacy, certainly it is about teachers and developing their knowledge, skills, and abilities to teach reading effectively. The plan also addresses what to do from a systems perspective. Research and best practices demonstrate the need for supportive leadership. Leaders must be on board and they must be given the knowledge that they need to implement these practices and align resources, materials, and staffing.

But, really what it all comes down to is a knowledge of the simple view of reading.

"As educators, we all have that one student that we wish we could go back and talk to and teach all the things that we didn't know then, but we know now," shares Carolyn Turner, Literacy Lead, Ohio Department of Education. "And so it really is all about relationship building and how we teach them to read and build this relationship through literacy."

Building relationships between children and families is also essential. Mary Heather Munger explains her journey as a parent of a son with dyslexia and as a professor of reading at the University of Findlay:

"It became so obvious to me that teachers don't always know what they need to know and don't know what they don't know, which can be frustrating. But, if you look at our literacy rates and numbers of students in special education and why they're in special education, it's largely due to reading. We really need to turn that situation around. Once I became aware of the lack of confidence that teachers have in helping students who are struggling learn to read' better, I pursued a PhD in order to put myself in a position where I can help train teachers."

Mary also suggests the importance of connecting with students and hearing from their perspectives and experiences. Over the years, her son, Max, who has dyslexia, greatly influenced how she supported him, and his reading and other learning efforts. Max credits his parents’ support and encourages others parents "to always be patient with your kids."

He also shares some advice for teachers who are supporting students with different learning abilities.

"I hated when I was called out to leave the room—to leave for a test to go get extra time, or when I had to go to the tutor or something. If you have a student who has different abilities and needs to leave the class, just go up to them quietly when everybody else is working. Tap them on the shoulder and let them know. That way, the other students don't see and make a big deal about the fact that you're leaving because I always got a little self-conscious with that. I really want teachers to know that if you have a student or a kid that has a different ability, do all you can do to learn what those differences are and how you can help out your child because that's going to help them in the future."

Hear more from Carolyn, Mary, and Max in the complete podcast episode, Reading and Relationships, as they share specific tips and ideas on how to develop strong relationships between learners, teachers, parents/families, and others supporting students.