The International Reading Association states that there is no single method or single combination of methods that can successfully teach all children to read. Therefore, teachers must be familiar with a wide range of methods for teaching reading and have a strong knowledge of the children in their care so they can create the appropriate balance of methods needed for each child. Further, these professionals must have the flexibility to modify those methods when they determine that particular children are not learning.
Children's and Young Adult Literature
Through numerous programs, the International Reading Association strives to celebrate that excellence and to highlight ways that quality literature can be used to help children grow into lifelong readers.
Notions of how texts relate to meanings lie at the heart of literacy instruction at every level. Among the various ways of approaching the question, a critical perspective on literacy "involves an understanding of the way ideology and textual practices shape the representation of realities in texts" (Cervetti et al., 2001). Because all texts are created and situated within particular social and ideological contexts, "students of critical literacy are generally encouraged to take a critical attitude toward texts, asking what view of the world they advance and whether these views should be accepted." Recognizing the profound social and ideological dimensions of texts allows readers to "question, resist, or revise" their representations of the world.
Language and Cultural Diversity
Major demographic changes brought about by increasingly mobile populations mean that educators must provide quality instruction to increasingly diverse groups of students. Today's classrooms are likely to contain a sizeable proportion of students whose first language is not the primary language of instruction and whose culture and values differ from those of the larger community. As this trend continues, issues of language and cultural diversity will become increasingly important in any discussion of educational reform.
No Child Left Behind
The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), signed into law by President George W. Bush in January 2002, is the centerpiece of U.S. federal education policy. A major revision of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), this legislation redefines the federal role in K-12 education by requiring all states to set high standards of achievement and create a system of accountability to measure results.
The International Reading Association believes that assessment should be more than a means of labeling or categorizing students. Authentic reading assessments can provide a basis for making decisions about the needs of individual learners. Properly designed and used, they can inform instruction that not only addresses students' weaknesses but also builds on their strengths.
Teaching children to read involves more than helping them to recognize the combinations of sounds and letters that make up individual words. Helping them to understand the meaning of words, alone and in combination, is a no less critical part of the process.
Struggling Readers and Writers
The reasons that some children struggle with learning to read and write are as varied as the children themselves, and no single approach or program will meet the needs of all who have difficulty. For that reason, the International Reading Association believes that children at risk of falling behind their peers should be taught by professionals specifically prepared to deliver instruction that meets their individual needs. In keeping with its efforts to improve literacy instruction for all, the International Reading Association is committed to providing excellent instruction for those who need it most.
The International Reading Association believes that every child has a right to excellent reading instruction, delivered by highly qualified and prepared teachers. That’s why the Association provides numerous resources to support college and university faculty working in teacher education at undergraduate and graduate levels.
In its position statement Integrating Literacy and Technology in the Curriculum (2001), the International Reading Association asserts that students must become proficient in the new literacies of information and communication technology (ICT) in order to become fully literate in today's world. The Association believes that it is the responsibility of literacy educators to prepare students for a future that will require these new literacies.
Urban Education Initiatives
High poverty rates, a highly diverse student population, and a high turnover rate among classroom teachers all contribute to the unique set of challenges facing America's urban schools. According to Richard Long, IRA Director of Government Relations, “Children in urban areas need teachers with different skills related to language, the impact of poverty, and a wide array of social issues.” The International Reading Association and its partners in urban education initiatives are committed to helping teachers, schools, and communities address those needs.