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February 1, 2020
Vol. 77
No. 5

Whole Child Spotlight: On Reading

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Curriculum
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For the past 12 months during presentations on the ASCD Whole Child approach, ASCD leaders have asked audiences to describe what attitudes, aptitudes, skills, and behaviors they want their students to have developed by the time they graduate. Words such as happy, healthy, resourceful, citizen, collaborator, and independent show up consistently—but so too do terms like resilient, compassionate, and empathetic. Empathy is the act of stepping into someone else's shoes or, as Atticus Finch described it in To Kill a Mockingbird, it is "to climb into someone's skin and walk around in it."
Reading by its very nature allows the reader to step into someone's skin and to experience their perspectives for a while. It allows the reader to better understand the circumstances and actions of someone else, maybe from another time, place, or culture. Reading allows students to connect with another—perhaps varying—view of the world and often enables them to develop compassion, and to better appreciate the similarities and differences that make us all who we are. It broadens their world.
In The Learning Compact Renewed: Whole Child for the Whole World, our forthcoming call-to-action on whole child education, we state that
a fundamental part of educating the whole child asks education systems and communities to ensure that each child is an active maker and shaper of the world they will inherit. This stage is about helping each and every child recognize that they are part of, and inextricably connected to, the rest of the world and empowering them to make our world a better place for themselves, one another, and the planet. To do anything less is to shortchange our youth and their futures.
Fostering student proficiency in reading and giving them opportunities to read widely and deeply are key parts of this vision.

Key Whole Child Tenets for Reading

  • Supported 5: Our school staff understands and makes curricular, instructional, and school improvement decisions based on child and adolescent development and student performance information.
  • Engaged 6: Our curriculum and instruction promote students' understanding of the real world, global relevance, and application of learned content.
  • Engaged 7: Our teachers use a range of inquiry-based, experiential learning tasks and activities to help all students deepen their understanding of what they are learning and why they are learning it.
  • Challenged 2: Our curriculum and instruction provide opportunities for students to develop critical-thinking and reasoning skills, problem-solving competencies, and technology proficiency.
  • Challenged 8: Our curriculum and instruction develop students' global awareness and competencies, including understanding of language and culture.

School Stories

For our "Whole Child Network Pilot Study" (2012–2015), 10 schools used the ASCD Whole Child approach and tools to determine their areas of need and plan steps to implementation. While some schools focused on initiatives that stem from the Healthy and Safe school tenets, the faculty of Finegayan Elementary School in Guam determined that their needs required introducing more developmentally appropriate strategies in early elementary grades, particularly in reading. Focusing on student-centered instruction, expanding reading options, and using Wendy Ostroff's book Understanding How Young Children Learn (ASCD, 2012), they were able to create more cohesive learning experiences, better engage their students, increase academic achievement, and reduce behavioral issues.

Get more information on ASCD's Whole Child approach and the new ASCD Whole Child Network at www.ascd.org/whole-child.

Sean Slade is an education leader, speaker, and author, with nearly three decades of experience in education in the U.S. and globally. He serves as Head of BTS Spark, North America, the social impact arm of BTS focusing on educational leadership development. Prior to BTS Spark, Sean was senior director of global outreach at ASCD, where he launched and grew the ASCD Whole Child Network across 56 countries and led the development of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model (WSCC) with the CDC. His latest book is The Power of the Whole: What is Lost by Focusing on Individual Things. 

Learn More

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