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"The Formula of Love" (CC BY-ND 2.0) by Capture Of Dreams

1 Introduction

Dear educators, as classroom practitioners, literacy specialists or school leaders, are you happy with the way reading is being taught and assessed? Are you pleased with the results of your reading program? Are you confident that every student is making remarkable progress in all aspects of their reading? Are your students really enjoying their reading? Or are these matters the cause of consternation? Are you caught up in convoluted conflicts between the science of reading standardised basals and the art of reading real books? Are you perhaps a pre-service or graduate teacher perplexed at the prospect of raising good readers?

If you are feeling apprehensive about the reading demands of the Australian Curriculum: English, as Shanahan and Binny’s (2017) ever-eager children’s book character Ruby Lee decrees, “Fear not! I am the bearer of good news”. I bring a very special message that will help to fathom, familiarise and facilitate the curriculum reading components from Foundation to Year Six. In this article, I outline different facets of classroom reading instruction. I describe some of the impediments to pedagogic practice. Importantly, I emphasise the vitalness of student engagement in reading for enjoyment (RfE) and the need for a dedicated RfE program. I situate RfE as one of three different but concurrent approaches to the teaching of reading. I position rich literature at the heart reading instruction. Drawing playfully on a treasured children’s book, I weave literary techniques for your reading enjoyment.

1.1 Hark!

I am really hoping that the old English intransitive verb Hark! meaning “to pay close attention” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.) has piqued your interest here. It is such a striking yet underutilised word, demanding a wide-open vocal proclamation and urgent summons to take heed. You may have admired its plucky use in Shanahan and Binny’s (2017) award-winning children’s book Hark. It’s me, Ruby Lee! in which the eponymous schoolgirl displays a fearless, playful, fertile imagination as well as thoughtful, ecological guardianship. For classroom teachers, it really is a glorious read-aloud. It’s literally one of my all-time favourite picture books. My own harken hitherto dear readers similarly concerns children’s imaginative ingenuity and educators’ environmental responsibilities. The “spockled frocklewockle” (Shanahan & Binny, 2017, n. p.), however, in my mind’s eye is the current state of reading instruction. Even more explicitly, one particular AC:E pronouncement and its pedagogic presentiment.

The Australian Curriculum (Version 8.4) has been reviewed. Version 9.0 is scheduled for imminent release and the wait is worrisome. The update has been conducted “to ensure it continues to meet the needs of students now and into the future” (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority [ACARA], 2021). The aim of the review is to refine, realign and reduce the existing content. Like many inspired and passionate educators, I care very deeply about this matter. I contributed to the consultation process. My input was a professional petition for one special inclusion to remain intact. This short statement is arguably the most crucial and consequential prerogative in the entire national programme of study. It is a demand that holds immense consequences for the potential success of every student—in all aspects of the curriculum. But, you may ask, what is this indispensable assertion? You will find it in the first line of the third paragraph of the AC:E Year Level Description across all year levels from Foundation to Year Ten;

“Students engage with a variety of texts for enjoyment.”

Many decades of empirical research demonstrate significant academic, personal and social benefits of reading for enjoyment (RfE). In the UK context, the reading for pleasure (RfP) research and movement, spear-headed by Professor Teresa Cremin (Cremin et al., 2008), has been gaining great traction over the last decade. In this article, I draw on recent research and American education reformer John Dewey’s (1934) seminal text Art as experience to describe the educative vitalness of RfE. With reference to Maxwell (1974) and Kalantzis et al. (2016), I position student engagement in RfE as an explicit part of well-structured English teaching blocks. This article comes from my PhD study (Green, 2022), which explores a RfE pedagogy in the Australian primary school context. This essential curriculum entitlement needs to be understood in the broader context of all AC:E reading requirements and policy directives.

1.2 Reading enjoyment: an endorsed entitlement

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)—an international agreement on childhood, contains a clear affirmation of children’s right to read for enjoyment. Article 17 identifies the importance of mass media material created to promote “social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health” (UNCRC, 1989, 17), which specially comprises “the production and dissemination of children’s books” (UNCRC, 1989, 17c). Article 17 clarifies students’ right to read children’s books for their personal and social prosperity.

The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration (Council of Australian Governments Education Council [CAGEC], 2019) reaffirms the significant Right of the Child to broad and balanced learning in its decree, “Education plays a vital role in promoting the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, moral, spiritual and aesthetic development and wellbeing of young Australians” (p. 3). The emphasis here on students’ aesthetic growth in relation to wellbeing is particularly important.

The Australian Curriculum: English (ACARA, AC:E, Version 8.4, , 2018a) recognises aesthetic appreciation of literature as one of six key overarching ideas (ACARA, AC:E Key ideas, , 2018b). As we have seen, from Foundation to Year Ten, the AC:E stipulates “Students engage with a variety of texts for enjoyment” (ACARA, AC:E, , 2018a). Furthermore, from Year Three upwards, the AC:E Year level description (para. 3) subsequently stipulates student engagement:

“ texts in which the primary purpose is aesthetic.”

This statement is brilliant and whoever originally crafted it is a genius. It does not distinguish between the text primarily having aesthetic qualities or the reader’s purpose being emphatically aesthetic. Propitiously, we can assume both. Professor Bence Nanay (2019) writes about aesthetics as “one of the most important aspects of our life” (p. 10)—it comprises our deepest-seated cares and concerns. Nanay cautions, “If we take the importance of aesthetics in our life seriously, we need to shift the emphasis away from aesthetic judgements to forms of aesthetic engagement that are more enjoyable, more rewarding, and happen to us more often” (p. 38). Enjoyment of high-quality literature, then, holds vital aesthetic importance for our students.

1.3 The bad news

In the Australian education context, the first report on performance against the goals set out in the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Declaration (Lamb et al., 2020) paints a perturbing picture. By Year Seven, nearly 25% of students are reported below the expected level of literacy. By senior years, a reported 27.8% of students do not meet the international benchmark for reading. A recent report on Australia’s performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) (Thomson et al., 2019) found only 59% students attained the National proficiency standard in reading. Between 2000 and 2018, reading literacy performance in Australia declined by 26 percentage points. Research findings indicate a concerning trend of decline in reading for enjoyment (e.g. OECD, 2011; Twenge, 2018), with potentially dire consequences as the many benefits of RfE, described in the following section, are diminished.

1.4 The good news

As young Ruby Lee would say, “Fear not! I am the bearer of good news” (Shanahan & Binny, 2017). Many decades of research on children’s reading unequivocally validate and verify the vast benefits of RfE. So very many studies have found that reading enjoyment is an influential factor in improved reading attainment (e.g. Sullivan & Brown, 2013). The reciprocal relationship between reading enjoyment and reading achievement has been described as the Matthew Effect (Stanovich, 1986), by which children exposed to positive experiences of reading from a young age enjoy greater reading habits and achievement. The connection between reading attainment and enjoyment is so strong that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) PISA tests include measurement of both and state that “students who read daily for enjoyment score the equivalent of one-and-a-half years of schooling better than those who do not” (OECD, 2011, p. 2).

Research has also demonstrated that enjoyment of reading is a major contributory factor in wider academic success (e.g. Clark & Teravainen, 2017; Cremin et al., 2014; Sullivan & Brown, 2013). Significantly, research findings show that students’ reading for enjoyment is a foremost predictor of academic attainment at age 16 (Sullivan & Brown, 2013). Reading for enjoyment (RfE) contributes to personal and social development (e.g. Clark & Teravainen-Goff, 2018; Manuel & Carter, 2015). Studies have also recognised the significant power of reading engagement to enhance emotional literacy and empathy (e.g. Koopman & Hakemulder, 2015; Nikolajeva, 2013). Research supports a strong connection between children’s reading enjoyment and their wellbeing (e.g. Clark & Teravainen-Goff, 2018). In the Australian context, research (e.g. Barton et al., 2019; Merga & Gardiner, 2018) demonstrates that engaging students in RfE supports development of the Australian Curriculum General Capabilities (ACARA, 2018c). RfE is a significant factor in social and economic mobility, narrowing the attainment gap between disadvantaged and privileged students (e.g. Sammons et al., 2018) and leveraging social change (Kirsch et al., 2002).

Forming the life-long habit of reading for enjoyment has been associated with broad societal benefits—providing a remedy for rising problems. Studies have found that recreational reading helps defend against loneliness (e.g. Renaisi, 2018; Toepoel, 2013). Reading fiction has been positively correlated with social ability and support. This is particularly noteworthy as the increasing loneliness epidemic is predicted to increase to catastrophic figures by 2030 in terms of population and costs (Hilhorst et al., 2018). Recreational reading has been shown to improve dementia and mental health (e.g. Billington et al., 2013). Collectively, these studies unanimously support students’ classroom entitlement to RfE.

For further comprehensive reviews of the research literature on the significance of student engagement in reading for enjoyment, please refer to Clark and Rumbold’s (2006) Reading for pleasure: A research overview, or the Literature Review: The impact of reading for pleasure and empowerment (BOP Consulting, 2015), or the CLPE Reading for pleasure 2021 (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, 2021). Both reviews report the positive potentiality and power in students’ reading for enjoyment. The ongoing research findings justify the need for a dedicated RfE program in which students are engaged in reading for enjoyment, particularly in texts in which the primary purpose is aesthetic.

1.5 Readicidal raze

Despite decades of overwhelming empirical support for students’ aesthetic reading enjoyment, there appears to be a questionable gap between academic research and classroom practice. In the worst cases, schools are being accused of destroying the joy of reading through a process of readicide, “the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in school” (Gallagher, 2009, p. 2). It is a disturbing problem many scholars seek to address (e.g. Marlatt, 2020; Ziegler & Solebello, 2017). The research literature on possible obstacles to students’ engagement in reading for enjoyment connotes a conglomeration of contrary conflicts. I have compiled the key documented encumbrances into four conspicuous categories of conceivable: complexities, constraints, challenges and contentions.

1.6 Conceptual complexities

The concept of reading itself is extremely problematic, with widely divergent definitions of the dynamic and multifaceted process (e.g. Downing, 1972; Maxwell, 1974). Each encompasses varying emphases on the technical processes, textual deconstruction and readerly meaning-making. The concept of enjoyment is also problematic (e.g. Csikszentmihalyi, 1997; Tomkins, 1962). Reading enjoyment specifically is complicated in its dependency on countless subjective factors (e.g. Barthes, 1975; Bruns, 2011). In terms of reading, enjoyment is often used interchangeably with pleasure, despite distinctive educative differences (Barthes, 1975; Dewey, 1934). The concept of engagement—specifically reading engagement—is problematic too. Reading engagement is a multi-dimensional construct encompassing cognitive, behavioural and affective processes (e.g. Guthrie et al., 2012).

The concept of literature is problematic (Caracciolo & Van Duuren, 2015), particularly in the context of the AC:E, which refers most commonly to the term text (Gardner, 2017). Notions of high-quality literary texts, traditional canons, contemporary book trends, representative media, and historically or culturally significant stories are ambiguous. The AC:E Foundation to Year Six provides no helpful recommendations (Spurr, 2014), and teachers’ knowledge base, preparedness and competency in relevant literature selection and literary instruction are often insufficient (e.g. Clark & Teravainen, 2015; Cremin et al., 2014; Paatsch et al., 2019). The concept of aesthetic purpose is problematic in terms of both theory (e.g. Dewey, 1934; Nanay, 2019) and educational practice (e.g. Belas, 2019; Smith, 1971). There is an indisputable lack of clarification regarding its vital educative value in connection with children’s reading.

1.7 Contextual constraints

The current neoliberal political-economic processes of globalisation, particularly in the promotion of prescriptive literacy programs (e.g. Powell et al., 2017), heavily impact school policy and practices (e.g. Bousfield & Ragusa, 2014; Jackson, 2016). The pressures of performative standards and accountability impact on teachers’ professional knowledge, agency and identities (e.g. Holloway & Brass, 2018), reducing capacity for creativity (e.g. Knight, 2020). High-stakes tests such as the National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) have a detrimental impact on teaching and learning (e.g. Cumming et al., 2018; Queensland Teachers Union, 2018), often leading to a narrow view of test-oriented reading instruction (Hardy, 2019) and dulled reading experience (e.g. Davies & Sawyer, 2018). Despite intense emphasis on improving reading skills, reports have identified a downward trend in students’ reading attainment (e.g. Gonski et al., 2018; McGaw et al., 2020). The NAPLAN results for Year Nine students’ reading show little statistical improvement between 2008 and 2021 (NAP, 2021). Responsibility for student engagement in RfE is sometimes controversial and misconstrued, orphaned from parents, teachers and librarians (Merga, 2017).

1.8 Curriculum challenges

At 429 pages, the Australian Curriculum: English is considerably lengthier and wordier than comparative international curriculum documents (Mueller, 2014; Spurr, 2014). It has had over 22 reiterations since its outset in 2010. This raises concerns about curriculum overcrowding (Australian Primary Principals Association, 2014; Davies & Sawyer, 2018), accessibility and coverage (Mueller, 2014), and teacher fatigue (Willis & Exley, 2016). Of the three AC:E organisational strands, Literature has the least content (Spurr, 2014). Of the 238 content descriptions for Foundation to Year Six, 111 are in Language, 78 in Literacy and only 49 in Literature; across which, there is a technical emphasis on skilled word reading and textual analysis (Gardner, 2017; Sawyer, 2015). Prominence is given to how language is used rather than aesthetic experience as a way of knowing (Davies & Sawyer, 2018). The associated predicates of reading for aesthetic purpose, such as enjoy, expected in the response sub-strand of literature appreciation are misplaced (Sawyer, 2015) by learning verbs such as analyse and evaluate, identify and explain (ACARA, 2018a; Year Six ACELT1614, ACELT1615). Response to reading is largely restricted to discussion (Gardner, 2017; ACARA, 2018a, ACELT1584/1591/1599/1605, 2018) with little reference to opportunity for creative and aesthetic acts of expression. Despite upper primary years being well-documented as a drop-off point in reading engagement (e.g. Merga, 2014), there is no mention of book(s) in the AC:E for Year Five or Six. There are no literature recommendations for Foundation to Year Six. The rigour of a well-scoped and sequenced program for the enjoyment of significant and varied forms of literature seems absent (Spurr, 2014), with only one reference to literature across all Achievement Standards from Foundation to Year 10, in Year One (Davies & Sawyer, 2018), which debatably further diminishes literature’s aesthetic purpose and value (Spurr, 2014).

1.9 Communicative contentions

The Australian Curriculum: English contains an extensive coverage of reading behaviours in the content descriptions. The privileging of reading as a mechanical process is, however, a major concern for literacy teachers in Australia (e.g. Ewing, 2018a, 2018b). The AC:E Glossary (ACARA, 2018d) definition of the term “read” begins with this synonymous procedural learning verb:

To process words, symbols or actions to derive and/or construct meaning.

The AC:E Glossary definition then continues with a broader statement of meaning; “Reading includes interpreting, critically analysing and reflecting upon the meaning of a wide range of written and visual, print and non-print texts” (ACARA, 2018d, AC:E, Glossary, Letter R,). This determination does not offer much clarity to early career teachers faced with the task of planning reading instruction—especially one that includes RfE. Research demonstrates emerging issues surrounding rates of pre-service teacher aliteracy and post-literacy teachers (e.g. Chong, 2016), as well as scant knowledge of contemporary children’s literature (e.g. Yates et al., 2019). We might be more than a little concerned about this lack of role models for future generations of readers.

1.10 Fear not! Intrepid decipherment of reading demands in the Australian Curriculum: English

As our intrepid Ruby Lee would reassure, “Fear not! I am the bearer of good news” (Shanahan & Binny, 2017). Herewith, I offer a special message: a ternary way of thinking about curriculum reading behaviours. I aim to clarify what is too often confused and situate the need for a RfE program in the wider context of classroom AC:E enactment.

The AC:E content is organised into the three inter-related strands of Language, Literature and Literacy. Each statement of content has a signifier(s) of mode—W for writing, L for listening, S for speaking and R for reading. As an example, Prep students’ understanding of the language used to explore ways of expressing needs, likes and dislikes (ACELA1429), needs to be learned in all four modes W, L, S, R (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1
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The Australian Curriculum: English Content Description ACELA1429

As a measure of the quantity of AC:E reading demands, I will hereby provide a couple of statistical facts. For Foundation (Prep) students, of the total 37 English Curriculum content description statements, 25 indicate R for reading. For Year Six, 25 of the total 31 content descriptions indicate R for reading (ACARA, AC:E, version 8.4, , 2018a). Reading indisputably accounts for a considerable proportion of AC:E content. This prevalence, however, is unsurprising given the importance of reading attainment to long-term academic success (e.g. Clark & Teravainen, 2017; Cremin et al., 2014; Sullivan & Brown, 2013). Enactment of the curriculum becomes problematic when teachers need to navigate the obstacles described previously and do not allocate sufficient time and resources and pedagogic practice to this sizeable prerogative.

Appropriate pedagogic knowledge is particularly important in the current milieu of Intentional and targeted teaching (Fisher et al., 2016), and “planning with purpose” (p. 83) to maximise the impact on learning and effect size in student progress. For pre-service and graduate teachers especially, the work of reading instruction may seem overwhelmingly awash with widespread scholarly wisdom on rigorous literacy (Lemov et al., 2016), empowering engagement (Ng et al., 2018), motivational interventions (Karabenick & Urdan, 2014), culturally responsive (Kourea et al., 2018) and deep roots learning (Rupley et al., 2020). I contend here that in the face of so many credible claims and complications, betterment of teacher understanding around curriculum reading behaviours may be more conducive to improved classroom practice.

1.11 Maxwell’s motion

I would like to initiate a closer examination and explication of the AC:E reading requirements by drawing on James Maxwell’s (1974) work Towards a definition of reading. Maxwell proposed that the disparity and difficulties in definitions of reading may actually lie in the lack of adequate vocabulary. In trying to define and explain the act of reading, authors tend to provide variations on two essential endeavours. The first is the linguistic decoding of symbols (e.g. Goodman, 1970) and the second pinpoints comprehension skills (e.g. Tinker & McCullough, 1962). Maxwell makes mention of disagreements between scholars on matters of reading but concludes that their dispute is redundant because, actually, they are “talking about different things but each is calling it reading” (p. 5).

Maxwell advances the longstanding decoding|comprehension bifurcation by defining three different but interrelated components of reading. For Maxwell, Reading P (Process) describes the technical mechanics of decoding: phonic and sight word recognition methods, fluency and accuracy. Reading C (Content) describes the reading of material with a focus on the intention of the author. Reading R (Reader) concerns the characteristics and interests of the reader: their sentient response, understanding and personal development achieved through reading. The three distinguishable definitions of reading, process (P), content (C) and response (R) provide a useful way of thinking about pedagogic purpose and practice in the contemporary classroom context.

In Table 1, I have provided examples of how the copious and various AC:E reading content descriptions might be designated to align with Maxwell’s three components. Curriculum content pertaining to Reading (P)—decoding skills—is shown in blue. Curriculum content pertaining to Reading (C)—authorial intent—is shown in red, and content pertaining to Reading (R)—reader response—is shown in green. The colours are respectively chosen to replicate those of the Learning by design model (Kalantzis et al., 2016).

Table 1 Australian Curriculum: English—reading skills, knowledge and understanding

1.12 Taking a purposive stance

Professor Louise Rosenblatt (1978, 1995) is widely recognised as a leading authority on reading instruction and the teaching of literature in particular. In communicating the different events of reading, Rosenblatt (1978) references the reading “stance” (p. 29), which she maintains is “vital not only to the solution of various persistent problems… but, to put it bluntly, essential to the survival of the reading of literature” (1995, p. 293). The reading stance refers to the reader’s concerns and purpose in attending to the text and the nature of engagement in “calling forth the meaning from the coded symbols” (Rosenblatt, 1978, p. 22). In the educative context, the teacher ordinarily selects and adopts the appropriate reading stance. Rosenblatt specifies two opposing stances. The first is “efferent” (Rosenblatt, 1978, p. 22), in which the reader’s focus is on information to be carried away. It is “nonaesthetic activity” (p. 24). The second is “aesthetic” (p. 24), with attention centred on a reader’s lived experience of a text. Rosenblatt makes a pivotal point about reading instruction; to engage students effectively with a text, teachers must primarily direct their instructional focus to one purposive stance or another. Without this explicit clarification “teaching and testing methods often confuse the student” (Booth, 1995, p. xvii)—through the implicit implementation of an erroneous or uncertain stance.

1.13 Kalantzis’ key to knowledge progression

I would like hereto advocate the practice of taking a very explicit stance in teaching the AC:E reading content to advance students’ reading development. Maxwell’s (1974) three components of Reading (P), (C) and (R) require significantly different stances and pedagogic practices commensurate with their developmental purpose. These three different stances invite careful deliberation of objectives and outcomes in terms of teaching strategies, textual engagement and classroom activities. I draw on Kalantzis’ et al. (Kalantzis et al., 2016) Learning by design model (LbD) to drill down into and put forward specific pedagogic approaches for each purposive stance.

In contemporary curriculum terms, the theory presented in Maxwell’s (1974) Reading (P), (C) and (R) can be applied to three of the four orientations to literacies learning as described by Kalantzis et al. (2016) in their LbD model. Of particular relevance to our consideration of classroom reading behaviours is the LbD calibration of teaching approaches to knowledge processes—that is, the “different ways of knowing and learning” (p. 119).

The four LbD orientations to learning are:

  • Experiencing (the known or the new)

  • Conceptualising (by naming or with theory)

  • Analysing (functionally or critically)

  • Applying (appropriately or creatively)

(Kalantzis et al., 2016, p. 73).

1.14 Perspicuous pedagogic approaches

Matching the appropriate knowledge process to curriculum learning intentions supports classroom teachers’ work in making meticulous and consequential “epistemic moves” (Kalantzis et al., 2016, p. 75). The four epistemic orientations are not constructed as sequential or balanced. They are, rather, well-defined classifications of learning, which support precise curriculum planning, recording and reporting. They comprise a strong foundation for a more exact three-pronged approach to reading instruction that obviates the detrimental risks of: enacting readicidal practices (Gallagher, 2009), or operating redundant and abstruse procedures (Maxwell, 1974), or pursuing discordant objectives and outcomes (Rosenblatt, 1978). In the alignment of knowledge process to reading purpose (P), (C) and (R), students’ trains of thought, knowledge, skills and understanding can be more tightly tailored to curriculum reading learning intentions and likely achieve greater outcomes.

1.15 Conceptualising for decoding processes

Using the knowledge process of conceptualising (Kalantzis et al., 2016), students come to recognise the symbols—or “metarepresentations” (p. 78)—of texts. Typically, a technical metalanguage is taught and used to name, classify and generalise. Specific examples of this epistemic orientation are as follows: phonics learning, grammar conventions and spelling rules. Kalantzis et al. (2016) explain how and why the teaching strategy most appropriate to the knowledge process of conceptualisation is explicit or direct teaching. This approach aligns with Maxwell’s (1974) Reading (P)—decoding processes. In classroom practice, we might expect the relevant reading curriculum content to be enacted in the form of highly structured and sequential phonics, grammar and spelling programs/lessons.

1.16 Analysing for content critique

Analysing functionally or critically (Kalantzis et al., 2016) comprises “processes of reasoning, drawing inferential and deductive conclusions” (p. 79). Students deduce, analyse and evaluate connections made in texts. Typically, students might consider the contextual purposes of texts and evaluate their degree of success. They regard “communicative intentions and reasons for producing the text” (p. 148). The teaching approach most appropriate to this type of critical thinking is described by Kalantzis et al. as functional. Students learn to investigate and interpret how a text’s social and cultural purpose shapes the text structure as well as other authorial choices. This approach draws on Halliday’s (1975) systemic-functional linguistics and develops critical literacy skills through appraisal of how texts work to convey meaning. This approach aligns with Maxwell’s (1974) Reading (C) with the focus on content and “the intention of the writer” (p. 7). In classroom practice, we might expect the relevant curriculum content to be enacted through the deconstruction or deep read of texts, to analyse how language and image choices convey ideas, dynamics and evidence (e.g. Derewianka & Jones, 2012).

1.17 Experiencing evocative encounters

The knowledge process of experiencing the known and the new (Kalantzis et al., 2016) encompasses engagement with texts that appeal to students’ interests and developing identities. Reading experiences are designed to be enjoyable and personally meaningful. Typically, students are immersed in literary texts that evoke social sharing of the perceived meanings, responses and connections made. The teaching strategy most appropriate to experiential reading is recognised as “authentic” (Kalantzis et al., 2016, p. 120). Students are motivated to read, and then share personal responses to the texts. This approach draws on Dewey’s philosophy of experiential education, which satisfies students’ social, emotional and aesthetic desires. This approach aligns with Maxwell’s (1974) Reading (R), with the pedagogic focus on sensitivity to students’ developing reading interests and identities and opportunity for aesthetic expression.

1.18 Applying reading engagement to writing activities

The fourth orientation of the LbD model (Kalantzis et al., 2016)—applying—is also conducive to understanding the reading requirements and student entitlements of the AC:E. In all three AC:E StrandsLanguage, Literature and Literacy, the majority of content descriptions for writing also contain a reading R instructional focus. Long-standing scholarly research on the connection between reading and writing (e.g. Alves et al., 2020) supports this receptive-productive reciprocity. As international award-winning, best-selling fiction author and distinguished masterclass guru William Bernhardt (2017) asserts, “The way to become a good writer is to read voraciously” (p. 17). In fact, most of the AC:E Language Strand content descriptions comprise both reading and writing instruction. The Literature strand content descriptions include a sub-strand of Creating literature. From Foundation to Year Six, the two content descriptions in this sub-strand, although demanding the productive mode of writing , also signify an instructional focus on reading R. Similarly, in the Literacy strand, in the Expressing and developing ideas sub-strand, there is both a productive writing and reading R demand in nearly all of the content descriptions across the year levels. The LbD model (Kalantzis et al., 2016) recognises that, in the act of creative application, students work innovatively to express themselves and transfer “one’s knowledge of text to a different context” (p. 345). This is particularly important to a RfE pedagogy as aesthetic engagement in literary texts naturally impels an imaginative, expressive response (Dewey, 1934). The AC:E content descriptions that prompt a creative application of reading to writing are shown in yellow in Table 2.

Table 2 Australian Curriculum English: categories of reading skills, knowledge and understanding
figure e

1.19 Classroom classification of reading content

In Table 2, I have attempted to classify the AC:E reading content descriptions into the three components of reading (P), (C) and (R) and their accordant knowledge processes. At the time of writing this article, some of the content descriptions are not displayed on the Australian Curriculum website with the reading symbol even though they directly indicate a reading requirement. Examples include ACELA1458, ACELY1648 and ACELT1575 (ACARA, 2018a). I propose that all reading content shown in blue relates to decoding skills, to be explicitly or directly taught from a conceptual stance. All reading content shown in red relates to critical literacy, to be taught from a functional|analytical stance. All reading content shown in green relates to experiential encounters of reading, to be taught from an aesthetic stance. These classifications are not set in stone, but rather provide a starting point for school discussions about classroom reading instruction, reading programs, appropriate resources, and the most effective and impactful pedagogic approaches.

1.20 Special texts for special reading purpose

For greatest reading outcomes, there really needs to be a cohesive alignment of curriculum learning intention(s), knowledge process, pedagogic approach, textual engagement and classroom activity. A teacher’s capacity to design and structure teaching and learning sequences is a highly significant professional responsibility (AITSL, 2017). In the current climate of targeted, precision, powerful and empowering pedagogic practice, teachers need well-designed, impactful teaching plans. When it comes to making decisions about curriculum enactment, the choice of texts in which students are to be engaged is critical. Like Shanahan and Binny’s (2017) ratiocinative teacher Mrs Majestic-Jones, we need special people, such as teachers and children’s authors, to do special jobs, such as reading role-modelling and crafting writing practices.

When we consider the proposal of a three-pronged Reading (P), (C) and (R) program, the oppositional determination of prescriptive schemes versus real books can be curtailed. The resources needed to explicitly teach conceptual Reading (P) decoding skills can come from a prescriptive purchased program, if needs be. A list of these programs can be found here. Of course, they can also be taught in context of/with children’s books (e.g. Exley et al., 2015; Hornsby & Wilson, 2010) and real-world texts. However, it cannot and must not be presumed that this activity constitutes educative reading enjoyment. It does not. Even if the lessons begin with a jaunty read-aloud.

The analytical and critical skills of Reading (C) are arguably best taught through immersion in the genuine works and expertise of published authors and real-world texts using a critical literacy lens (e.g. Fisher et al., 2020; Hartsfield & Kimmel, 2019). Again, this cannot and must not be presumed to constitute student engagement in reading enjoyment—no matter how enjoyable the investigative activities are.

The experiential encounters of Reading (R) are undisputedly best taught through immersion in the authentic works and expertise of published authors—preferably using high-quality high-interest children’s literature. The curriculum, in fact, quite rightly demands student engagement “in texts in which the primary purpose is aesthetic” (ACARA, AC:E, 2018). I must acknowledge here that non-fiction texts can be read for enjoyment (Alexander & Jarman, 2018; Cremin et al., 2019). This article, however, is focused on children’s books created primarily for aesthetic purpose. For many wonderful aesthetically engaging, literature-based activities, see Professor Jeffrey D. Wilhelm’s (2016) wonderful body of work and Ewing and Saunders’ (2016) sensational School drama book.

1.21 Perceptive and poetic personal preferences

We want children to love reading, do not we? We want to see students engage volitionally and habitually and enduringly in beautiful books. A key point of the proposed three-pronged approach to classroom reading is that reading for enjoyment (RfE) requires its own, separate and distinct program of instruction. Just to be absolutely clear on this point, reading enjoyment—as aesthetic experience—should not be enacted as an examination of authorial word choices. That is the business of Reading (C) instruction. Nor should student engagement in a text for the development of comprehension skills be classed as reading for enjoyment. Even if it entails a wonderful read. That is also the business of Reading (C) (or possibly, perhaps, sometimes Reading (P) instruction). Student engagement in reading for enjoyment should not be limited to an oral, written or digital presentation of an imposed response to required reading. That is the business of learning to write and create texts. As a particular and vital way of knowing, RfE requires dedicated time and space as well as more communicable terms of reference for Reading (R) instruction. The educative, transformative power of a RfE pedagogy involves aesthetic perception and sense-meaning. Unfortunately, research literature on students’ aesthetic development, despite its essentiality, is scant. Fortunately, John Dewey’s (1934) Art as experience remains a seminal text in this endeavour. Despite its vintage, it is recognised as an “extremely influential” masterpiece (Shusterman, 2010, p. 26).

In Art as experience (1934), Dewey explains both what aesthetic experience is and is not. In its application to classroom reading instruction, it is helpful here to consider Dewey’s ideas on aesthetic perception and sense-meaning in relation to Maxwell’s (1974) later work on the three components of reading. In terms of the mechanics of decoding Reading (P), Dewey contends that aesthetic experience is not about the following: automatic activity or procedure, pedantic definitions nor technical recognition and response to conventional symbols. These activities are not part of a RfE pedagogy. In the matter of authorial choices Reading (C), Dewey contends that aesthetic experience is not about the following: observation of rules, convention or stereotype, nor imposed order or classifications, nor intellectual justification. These activities are not part of a RfE pedagogy. In consideration of the characteristics and interests of the reader Reading (R), Dewey contends that aesthetic experience is not about the following: excessive emotional outburst, nor forcing sensory qualities, nor coercing evocative occasion. This sentimental activity holds little-to-no educational value.

According to Dewey, aesthetic experience is transformative, emotionalised and imaginative thinking. The human desire for interactive relations impels, serves and is satisfied by aesthetic engagement with literature. In reading from an aesthetic stance, students’ prior experiences are stirred. Through receptivity and extraction, understanding is renewed, recreated and refined. Dewey describes aesthetic engagement as being moved to action by an art-object—such as literature. There is a searching out of meaning and pressing forth of response. This involves perceptive attention being drawn to the sense qualities of texts and their consequential bio-mediated affect—that is responsive activity of both body and mind. There is an undergoing of feeling and an outgoing in which the emphasis is on expressiveness of meaning. He describes aesthetic purpose as working emotions evoked into artistic expression. The desire to respond prompts and satisfies creative and inspired urges. As teachers, we must guide and support the acts of engagement and expression. These are the activities of a RfE pedagogy. A wonderful place to begin planning for RfE is the Open University (UK), RfP website here, and its four key strategies: social reading environments, reading loud, independent reading and informal book talk.

1.22 A call to action

Like Ruby Lee, I offer this trilateral message as a “special emergency officer” (Shanahan & Binny, 2017, n. p.). The problems identified previously in reading instruction and student outcomes justify the need for educators to unite in the urgent need for more defined and effective, as well as affective, reading programs. The curriculum content that describes the knowledge, skills and understanding of reading can be better understood in terms of a three-pronged approach to reading instruction. In this way, students potentially develop better accuracy in their decoding skills, greater analytical understanding of the texts they engage with and deeper aesthetic appreciation for literary reading experiences. They develop a wider reading repertoire and different ways of knowing the texts, books and world around them. They engage in a wide variety of high-quality, rich literature for enjoyment.

The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration (CAGEC, 2019), as we have seen, acknowledges the vital role that education plays in promoting students’ aesthetic development. The AC:E demand for students to engage in a variety of texts for enjoyment is an evidence-based curricular entitlement. In light of the vast benefits of increased academic attainment as well as greater personal and social capabilities, I wonder what feelings you might have about joining a movement towards an avid RfE pedagogy. We will definitely see improvement in learning outcomes. A sensitively engendered love of reading holds lifelong potential too—meeting the needs of students now and well into the future.

And so dear classroom practitioners, school leaders and literacy educators, as Mrs. Majestic-Jones (Shanahan & Binny, 2017) might say, please allocate special time and choose especially rich resources for special reading purpose! And please, for the sake of all our very special young students,

“Do not dawdle!”

(Shanahan & Binny, 2017, n. p.).