1997 NCTE Annual Business Meeting in Detroit, Michigan
There is general agreement among English language arts educators that a rich literate environment is foundational to literacy development. Children need many opportunities to be read to, to read with others, and to read by themselves materials that have content that is relevant to their lives and language that is predictable and familiar. Children should be encouraged to explore print through their reading and writing. When children have opportunities to write their own stories, to read their own and others’ stories, and to write in response to reading, they are able to employ much of their knowledge of reading in meaningful ways.
And yet, curricular guides from state departments of education suggest narrowing the scope of reading materials used for beginning reading instruction. Writing instruction for children in these guides focuses on the forms of writing (correct spelling and letter formation) rather than on composing meaningful messages.
These documents stipulate that materials purchased with state funds must include a strong emphasis on skills; spelling; and systematic, explicit phonics instruction. They indicate that the materials should provide practice in accurate and fluent reading in decodable stories and that such texts include only words that contain the letter-sound relationships that children have been explicitly taught. Some teachers and administrators are translating these statements into mandates that decodable texts are the only materials that can be read by young children until they have achieved a certain level of proficiency.
It is necessary to make a clear statement to those involved in the development of language arts instruction and curriculum that NCTE believes that in all types of instructional programs teachers must involve all students, from the beginning of their schooling, in daily writing and daily reading of a wide variety of literature and other print materials. Be it therefore
Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English urge professionals developing language arts instruction and curriculum for young children to assert the necessity of a print-rich classroom environment that includes a variety of children’s literature, such as information books, stories, nursery rhymes, song charts, poems, and books with predictable language and themes familiar to children;
that NCTE advocate that such texts be a major component of literacy instruction and that children be permitted and encouraged to read and write such texts by themselves and with their peers and teachers and to have such materials read to them daily;
that NCTE recommend sufficient time be allocated daily to engage children in a range of purposeful writing experiences in early childhood programs; and
that NCTE distribute this resolution to appropriate members of state education agencies, curriculum directors, language arts and reading specialists, classroom teachers, and editors of publications for teachers and for parents.
This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.