Literacy is like a superpower. It allows students to fly through space or travel through time in any book they read. It allows students to create entire worlds or communicate their deepest thoughts to another person anytime they engage in writing or storytelling.
It even gives students super brain power, as they learn to ask questions and think critically in order to comprehend new ideas or concepts they encounter.
Literacy is amazing. But developing these powers isn’t always a piece of cake. Many children face a lot of the same challenges when it comes to emerging as a strong reader, writer, or communicator.
Whether it’s the depth of their vocabulary knowledge or an inability to dive deeper into the underlying meanings of texts, children are often faced with many obstacles on their journey to literacy success.
And if literacy is a superpower, these problems are the arch enemies of young readers and writers.
The best way to stop these enemies is to help students identify and understand how to defeat them.
To make that simpler, we’ve turned these challenges in actual supervillains – ones you’re your students can identify when they see them and be inspired to overcome.
When you notice any of these three “Enemies of Literacy” lurking in your classroom, be sure to point them out to children in your classroom and help your students use the necessary skills overcome their literacy woes and continue their journey towards reading, writing, and oral language success.
Literacy Enemy 1: The Mundane Mumbler
The Mundane Mumbler is a quiet villain, whose vocabulary knowledge only consists of dull, simple words. His evil mission is to rob children of robust vocabulary so that they only use plain, everyday words just like him.
Having a less-developed vocabulary can cause young children to suffer academically, both now and later in life. This is because their limited vocabularies often hold them back from fully comprehending what they read, and thus from learning what they read.
Students afflicted by the “Mundane Mumbler” are the students who can only read, write, and communicate their thoughts with basic vocabulary – words like “happy,” “sad,” “cold” or “tired.”
Only having a knowledge of these words, instead of more robust, sophisticated vocabulary, can cause students real problems, even if they encounter words with similar contexts like “ecstatic,” “depressed,” “frigid,” or “exhausted.”
The best way to beat this villain is to provide students with robust vocabulary instruction of Tier 2 words. This means introducing rich words to students in multiple contexts and giving them practice using those words in a variety of interactive and memorable encounters.
Literacy Enemy 2: The Reading Robot
The Reading Robot is a machinelike villain, that doesn’t have the processing power necessary for deep critical thinking. Its nefarious plot is to create an army or robotic readers by robbing students of the ability to make connections and compute the deeper meanings of text.
Analyzing a word – considering how its meanings connect to other words and how the word allows you to understand information – helps students retain information for longer and allows them to comprehend larger, more robust texts.
Students affected by the “Reading Robot” don’t have this ability however. Their inability to analyze and create those critical mental connections hinders them from ever moving past basic surface level understanding.
This prevents students from answering many open-ended or text-based questions, and makes them less confident to share their thoughts.
The best way to beat this villain is by modeling the traits of a good reader for your students.
Select a student reader -- or read-aloud text for young children -- and practice close examination of a particular word or passage to model the process of asking questions, making connections, and building deep comprehension.
Literacy Enemy 3: The Tick Tock Clock
The Tick Tock Clock is a time-based villain that is obsessed with speed (after all, doesn’t the clock always seem to fly by during class time!)This villain causes students to rush through a reading, without developing a true understanding of the material.
Time can be a dangerous foe for students’ journey toward literacy success.
Students who read for speed, instead of reading for comprehension, are often unable to recall what they’ve read when asked to.
Even when meaning has been lost, students affected by the “Tick Tock Clock” don’t stop to ask questions or make mental connections, even if they know how.
The best way to beat this villain is with a heavy dose of interspersed reading.
Interspersed reading is the process of reading a text little by little, stopping at regular intervals to identify unknown words or concepts, ask questions, and build meaning.
This slower pace can even be modeled using group read-alouds for young students who are not yet reading independently.
No matter when it is implemented, a stop-and-think style of reading is crucial to helping children to read for comprehension and to overcome the Tick Tock Clock once and for all.
Overcoming the Enemies of Literacy
Giving children the powers of literacy is what can turn an ordinary student into an extraordinary Word Hero!
But this process isn't something that happens overnight.
Helping students create an extensive reservoir of robust vocabulary words and develop good reading, writing, and oral language habits takes time and a lot of practice.
This process is much smoother when unnecessary obstacles like the “Enemies of Literacy” aren’t standing in your – or your students’ – way.
That's why we gave them a face; to inspire children to defeat their enemies and become the Word Heroes they're capable of becoming!
To help you give your class even more inspiration in defeating these literacy foes, we’ve also created a new downloadable poster the features each of the “Enemies of Literacy” along with the warning signs to be on lookout for, should they invade your classroom.