Improving Open Court Reading
SRA's Open Court Reading is a research-based literacy program that has been adopted in schools across the nation. The program exhibits a number of strengths, including effectiveness in raising reading test scores and providing instructional support for teachers. However, the design of the program may limit its capacity to develop lifelong readers. The program displays areas of weakness that potentially limit its effectiveness as a comprehensive literacy program. For instance, students learn to read primarily through decoding individual words and sounds, rather than focusing on a wider range of strategies that fluent readers use. Instruction does not include adequate authentic reading and writing experiences, and there is little emphasis on meeting individual needs. While Open Court focuses primarily on explicit and systematic instruction in phonics and decoding skills, a balanced literacy approach encompasses a wider range of instructional strategies. Balanced literacy advocates strive to meet individual students' needs by providing a broad selection of curricula materials and instructional methods. Because many of the best practices that are fundamental to a balanced literacy approach are not included in the Open Court Reading program, some modifications are necessary. This paper examines both the Open Court Reading program and a balanced literacy approach to reading instruction in order to determine how Open Court can be modified to meet a wider range of students' literacy needs. General recommendations to extend and modify the program provide options for teachers to incorporate as needed in their own classrooms.
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