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VIEWPOINT: Empowering futures through literacy
Guest column by Dr. Katie Anderson, Dakota State University College of Education
No matter their chosen career path, the ability to read is the backbone of a child’s future success. Literacy forms the foundation upon which we construct all other skills. It is the gateway to learning, critical thinking, and effective communication. Children who read proficiently are better equipped to excel in various subjects and solve complex problems. In a world driven by technology and innovation, literacy is the key that unlocks a world of knowledge, opportunities, and personal growth.
South Dakota universities are critical in equipping future educators in our state to impart this invaluable skill to the next generation. Dakota State University is taking significant steps to prepare future educators to be effective reading teachers, equipping teacher candidates with evidence-based strategies and a deep knowledge of the science of reading. This approach emphasizes phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary development, fluency, and comprehension – all critical literacy components. It is imperative that all teachers, including our newest teachers, understand the science of reading. The science of reading helps to bridge the gap between research and practice in literacy instruction, ensuring that teachers have access to the most effective methods for teaching reading.
Learning to read has historically been a challenge for many children; however, one of the major underpinnings of the science of reading, as documented by research, is that reading difficulties, including difficulties caused by learning disabilities like dyslexia, are rooted in neurological differences. Research has shown that almost all children, even those with a neurological tendency to struggle, can learn to read when they receive evidence-based instruction This instruction must include explicit and systematic instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics, ideally in the earliest years of school. I am thrilled that this understanding is at the heart of the South Dakota Literacy Framework. It will lead both teacher preparation programs and SD schools to adopt compassionate, evidence-based approaches to support struggling readers. Ultimately, the Literacy Framework ensures that all students get the type of instruction that is most likely to help them develop the foundational skills required to become skilled readers.
Moreover, the science of reading emphasizes early intervention, based on the understanding that the earlier children receive effective reading instruction, the more likely they will be to succeed. It is critical that SD teacher preparation programs incorporate this knowledge into their programs to equip future teachers with the skills to identify and address reading difficulties in their students as early as possible.
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The impact of effective reading instruction extends beyond the classroom walls. Whether a child aspires to be a scientist, artist, nurse, or entrepreneur, the ability to read well is a fundamental tool that opens the doors to a world of possibilities. By investing in literacy education, we are not only shaping our children, but also building a society that is more informed, empathetic, and capable of facing the challenges of our world today.
Dr. Katie Anderson is an Assistant Professor at Dakota State University within the College of Education and instructs masters-level students in research methods as part of DSU's Master of Science in Educational Technology (MSET) Program. She has a decade of middle school teaching experience, holds advanced degrees, including an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction and a doctorate in Reading and Literacy Leadership, and was recognized as the 2013 South Dakota Teacher of the Year.