February, 2020 update from Jennifer Joyce, director of national program at Reading Partners.

At Reading Partners, we continuously examine and update our curriculum on a regular basis based on the most up-to-date research and scientific evidence in early literacy instruction. Recently, many of you (our volunteers) completed a survey asking a variety of questions related to getting started/continuing to tutor with us, some of which included your experience with our curriculum. Thank you for your thoughtful responses and questions regarding curriculum development and implementation!

Given the response to this survey, I wanted to make sure you have the answers you were seeking. At Reading Partners, we are in a continuous cycle of reviewing our student data and evaluating our curriculum to ensure that students’ are getting everything they need during their time in the program. Along with that, it is important that you as a tutor have resources that set you up for success with your students. We know that you are here because you know how important reading is and want to share that passion with our students and help them grow as readers.  

Our curriculum strives to be responsive to student needs, clear for tutors to be effective, and impactful for student growth. In order to do so, we need to ensure that we are constantly keeping abreast of research findings in the field and aligning our curriculum with the evidence about what is best when it comes to teaching kids to read. Most recently we have been examining our Advancing Readers (AR) curriculum, designed for students reading at a second to fourth grade level. Some of you may even be working this year in our new second grade curriculum, Advancing Readers 2.

So what is our process?

The evidence from the best scientific studies of early literacy and reading skills tells us that students learn more and retain more when literacy instruction is systematic and explicit. If you have ever worked in our Emerging Readers or Beginning Readers curricula you’ve seen that Reading Partners’ approach is to use detailed lesson plans with language for explicit instruction of the daily skill. In examining results for our older students and looking at our curriculum materials for these students it was clear we needed to do better! 

Our Advancing Readers curriculum had not been updated since 2013 and was no longer aligned to what the research and science now tells us. Most notably, we did not have lesson plans with explicit instruction. In 2019, we embarked on the large task of bringing this curriculum up to date to ensure all students have access to better quality materials and all tutors have what they need to be systematic and explicit in their instruction. 

Now, tutors in the Advancing Readers 2 curriculum have lesson plans just like our Emerging and Beginning Readers tutors, which ensures they have the language needed to teach comprehension skills and advance phonics that align with state standards and classroom instruction. Tutors now also have discussion guides that support students with reading grade appropriate books. These discussion guides ensure tutors can ask skill-aligned questions at the critical moments in the book. 

Finally, we reviewed how we introduce texts and aligned lessons to best practices from the classroom for teaching a new book and skill as well as improving the structure of the lesson for language learners. Now, tutors preview the book with students so that they can hear the story once, be exposed to vocabulary, and set students up for greater success when reading independently. Through this process, our new lessons are aligned to best practices from their classroom and better structured for language learners.  

We are excited about these changes, and we are in the process of developing further updates to our curricula for older students.

What’s next?

In 2020, we will share new, updated lessons and books with students and tutors working in our Advancing Readers 3 and 4 curricula. Like with the AR2 updates, we started with the science and coupled that information with goals. Next year, you can look forward to these two new curricula aligning with many of the goals we had for our AR2 updates. 

Our goals for AR3 and AR4 updates are:

  1. to update lesson plans with language for tutors to support explicit scaffolded instruction of comprehension skills
  2. to introduce comprehension strategies that can be used across skills and texts 
  3. to update booklist with books that have diverse characters and content

How can you learn more?

If you are interested in learning more about the new curricula or why we made updates to specific components, please view this video on the Resource Hub.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to our students. Without you we could not realize our mission and support students, and make a difference for schools and communities. In return, our commitment to you is that we will always make sure you have the resources necessary to be effective in your role. If you are ever interested in learning more about our curricula or gaining tips for curriculum instruction, please visit the curriculum section of the Resource Hub.