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How Do I Read This, Coach?

Jordan Catapano

Most teachers would admit to being good readers. So how do they get their students to possess the same strong reading skills?

One of the first things to remember is that it’s imperative teachers understand that no matter what subjects they focus on or courses they instruct, reading skills must serve as a centerpiece of their instruction.

So how do all teachers teach reading? Aren’t English and Language Arts teachers responsible for that skill, and science, history, and math teachers responsible for other content?

Fortunately, there’s a new role developing in schools of all level designed to target literacy and supplement ordinary classroom instruction: the Reading Coach.

Coaches are notorious for reminding us to “Get your head in the game!” and “Take another lap!” But they also provide valuable assistance towards mastering skills on the field. Coaches don’t play in the sport competitions themselves, but must train their players to win the game on their own. The same is true with the reading coaches, or literacy coaches, in classrooms: They don’t do the reading for the student or the reading instruction for the teacher, but they empower them to perform these things skillfully on their own.

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A literacy coach may serve in a variety of roles in a school depending on that school’s needs and abilities. Some coaches will be full-time coaches, others will teach their own classes in addition to assisting others’ classes, and others may be fulltime teachers with a special certification useful for curriculum and instruction consulting. No matter how schools utilize reading coaches, here are some of the unique services they may offer in their goal to enhance the reading skills and instruction of their school.

So how do reading coaches support other instructors? They:

  1. Train teachers of any level or subject how to better incorporate reading methods into their instruction.
  2. Observe and give feedback to teachers about their reading instruction.
  3. Design and help implement curriculum that centers instruction around reading.
  4. Provide age and content-specific texts to teachers for their classrooms.
  5. Support classroom instruction by serving as an aid, small group leader, or co-teacher.
  6. Get a school’s faculty speaking the same literacy language and pursuing the same literacy goals.

And in regards to directly assisting students, reading coaches:

  1. Work with at-risk students who need direct tutoring support.
  2. Provide a small group setting to target and personalize reading instruction.
  3. Supplement normal classroom instruction with one-on-one “workout” reading sessions.
  4. Offer feedback on specific reading skill and strategy performance.
  5. Share texts of interest and value to readers of all levels and preferences.
  6. Set goals and strategies for achieving them for readers.

A literacy coach is like a highly trained CIA operative dropped into the danger zone and charged with a mission of utmost importance. Schools are equipping themselves with reading specialists to ensure that students are equipped with the essential literacy skills they need to become successful.

When we consider it, literacy coaches may provide a service that far surpasses what any other coach may offer: while a football coach may teach players how to catch a pass, that skill is only valuable for a short time in a limited range of settings. A reading coach, however, supports students in enlarging an essential skill that will serve them for their entire lives.

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