History of Reading Social and Cultural Influences and Effects (1990-2016)

Historyof Reading: Social and Cultural Influences and Effects (1990-2016)

Historyof Reading: Social and Cultural Influences and Effects (1990-2016)

Thehistory of reading in the United States means different things todifferent people. This subject is highly elastic from a socialperspective and because reading entails literacy, it becomes anaspect of the history of education. The American education system hasexperienced many changes at various times since its inception in the15thcentury. This paper explores the history of reading in Americabetween 1990 and 2016, reflecting the social and cultural influencesand effects. A range of social, political and religious influencesthat have influenced the education system leaving lifelongtransformations characterize the history of reading from 1990-2016.The 20thcentury was marked by international wars and conflicts based onsocial, racial and ideologies, which profoundly affected theeducation system. Some of the changes in the history of educationhave had far-reaching outcomes such as spreading prosperity whileincreasing the disparities between the rich and the poor as witnessedtoday.

Socialand Cultural Influences and Effects (1990-2016)

Mostof the 20th-centuryschooling practices have emerged into a system that fits the moderneconomic and social systems. This has been a sophisticated,interesting, and frequently painful process. The most notable eventsthat have shaped the history of reading in America from 1990 to 2016are as follows:

First,Teach for America was formed in 1992. It was a non-profitorganization meant to pool talent to grow future leaders. Itsformation re-established the notion of a national union of teachersto recruit and enlist new educators (Spring,2016).This saw the penetration of teachers in more schools in both urbanand rural setups to promote education. Second, the opening of CityAcademy high school marked the first charter school in Minnesota.This influenced education greatly in that more students could accesseducation and work through their high school diplomas compared to theera before.

Third,the state of California passed Proposition 187 seeking to excludepublic benefits such as education to aliens in 1994. This wasoverturned over time because the denial of public education seemedunconstitutional. This was followed by the State of Georgia becomingthe first to provide universal preschool to four-year-old children.This increased access to quality preschool to all families, through apublicly funded program to promote education. Between 1996 and 1999,there was a controversy in California as school district proposedEbonics be recognized as the official language for African-Americansand two Columbine high school students engage in shootings thatkilled 15 and injured 23 people (Spring,2016).The shooting had far-reaching consequences on the education system asschools became more vigilant with improving safety and raising theseriousness in tolerance policies. This has gone as far as policingin schools to help in dealing with disciplinary cases.

Otherkey events in the history of education include the 9/11 terroristattacks in 2001, the change of American Association on MentalRetardation (AAMR) to the American Association on IntellectualDisabilities (AAIDD) in 2007 and the student shooting Virginia highschool in 2007 Silver,H. (2013).Moreover, Barack Obama’s administration took power in 2008 andexpectations on the No child left behind Act fail Adam Lanza killedhis mother and 26 people in Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012, andChicago Board of Education votes to close 50 schools in 2013 due todwindling school enrolment (Spring,2016).This was followed by the enrolment of the largest number ofminorities in K-12 public schools in 2014, and the recent directiveto allow transgender students use bathrooms of their choice in May2016.

Byrecounting the key events that have taken place between 1990 and 2016in education, it is clear that they have resulted in numerouschanges, improvements, and transformations to the education system.Starting with the later 20thcentury, events that took place such as the opening of the firstcharter school in Georgia, the introduction of universal pre-schooland injunction against implementing Proposition 187 in California isa clear indication that education was highly valued. It alsoreinforces the fact that there were public efforts to increase accessto education.

Lessonsfrom the era

Keyconcepts that reflect approaches to reading instruction in the period

Readingforms the main foundational skill in advancing school-based learning.Limited reading abilities lead to limited occupational and academicsuccess. Guaranteeing equal access to education requires that schoolsand teachers ensure that students acquire basic reading skills topromote equal access to the relevant curriculum (Street, 2014).Impressive reading skills lead to better knowledge acquisition andwriting abilities among learners. Considering the important role thatreading plays in educational advancement among learners, the periodunder review 1990-2016, witnessed great advancements in new readingapproaches characterized by technological innovations (Street, 2014).Primarily, computer-based technologies involving programs, software,and portable computer devices led to significant improvements in notonly the approaches to reading but also improved the outcomes. Thenew approaches in reading have focused on increasing studentinteractions with the teachers and assistive technology. Thefollowing concepts reflect the approaches in reading instructionduring the period:

  1. The development of specific skills software

Duringthis period, education stakeholders and technological companiesspearheaded the development of computer software programs withassistive properties regarding needed reading skills (Tracey &ampMorrow, 2012). These programs play a significant role in advancingthe acquisition of reading skills in specific areas such asalphabets, vocabulary, phonemic, fluency and comprehension. Theself-spaced programs provide unique interactive learning experiencesfor young students.

  1. The development of reading programs with wide skill focus

Theseprograms are sequenced carefully to enable students to build specificskills in reading with extensive tracking capabilities. The objectiveof these programs is to build a range of interrelated skills whilefollowing the growth of student during their reading skilldevelopment process (Tracey&amp Morrow, 2012).These programs have management systems that track the level ofreading skill developments among the users. The most impressiveachievement of these programs is that they offer trade books andeBooks that incorporate child-friendly interactive features such asfriendly avatars, text animation, graphics, music and multimedia withbuilt-in student monitoring capacities (Street,2014).

  1. The provision of texts at alternative levels

Newreading approaches have led to the development of alternative leveltexts to address the differences in learning abilities among youngstudents. Students who have trouble developing basic reading skillshave trouble in elementary, middle as well as high school grades(Street,2014).The biggest contributor towards this problem is the combination oflack of practice, inadequate decoding skills, and difficult readingmaterials. Text alternative levels advance the provision of readingcontent depending on the student’s interests on their cognitivelevels rather than reading levels. These programs combine featuressuch as electronic references, dynamic highlighting, TTS as well asannotation capabilities (Tracey&amp Morrow, 2012).

Theother key reading concepts that were relevant during this periodinclude:

  • The use Audiobooks

  • The conversion of text to speech

  • The use of Strategic instruction models

  • The advancement of Collaborative Strategic Reading

Lessonsfrom the history of reading

Lookingback at the history of education in America, it is evident thatefforts to improve educational opportunities rested on the notion ofequity. Local collaboration and community bonds played significantroles actualizing efforts aimed at expanding educational services tothe public. The history of education is intertwined with an intricatesystem of cultural, social and political influences whose effects arefelt today. The level of school reforms witnessed in history may beattributed to the communities’ need for inclusive and equalopportunities in education based on the social, economic andpolitical developments of the time.

Mostof the events noted have had numerous effects on school policies.Through them, the efforts of the national government to promoteequality and fairness in the education system are evident. Forinstance, the 2016 directive to allow transgender students usebathrooms of their choice is enough to prove that the government aimsat creating a balanced learning environment that does not favorcertain students over others. Similarly, some of these eventsreinforce the government`s bid to improve access to qualityeducation, which is often regarded as the bridge to success,particularly in the 21stcentury. Besides, there is enough prove that students` safety andsecurity in schools is a priority concern for the United Statesgovernment.

The1980s Reaganomics proposed tax cuts on higher income levels with anexpected supply-side, trickle-down effect. The reasoning behind thisidea was that tax cuts for the wealthy people would increase theirspending and investment, thus stimulating the economy through thecreation of new opportunities. This idea was believed to yield morerevenue for the federal government, buts its outcomes were mixed(Rousseas,2015).Among the most notable outcomes of Reaganomics was inequality thatstimulated underinvestment in education. The expected trickle-downeffects were not felt in education because cutting taxes for the richshrunk the economy, contrary to the expected outcome.


Studyingthe history of reading provides a unique understanding of thetransformations that have taken place in the education industry.Moreover, it demonstrates the increased role of technologicalinnovation in promoting reading and comprehension. Assistivetechnologies and accessible mainstream technologies have defined thechanges in reading approaches during this technological age. Theyhave assisted teachers and learners to create successful readingexperiences, thus increasing their independence in finding solutions.However, the success of utilizing the new approaches depends on howstakeholders combine them with modern teaching strategies.

Thenew reading approaches during the period have achieved significantmilestones in promoting inclusion among learners by allowing slow andfast learners to move at the same pace. The most important thing withthe new approaches is that learners have developed independenceregarding the development of reading skills. The interactiveapproaches have not only enhanced the reading capabilities amonglearners but also provided motivation to learners and teachersbecause of the interesting technological inclusions in the classroom.Moreover, the new reading approaches have addressed the difficultiesfaced by students with disabilities. In the contemporary educationsector, every child has an equal chance of accessing qualityeducation because of numerous assistive technologies. Technology willcontinue to spearhead and account for the major transformations andinnovations in global reading approaches.


Rousseas,S. (2015).&nbspThepolitical economy of Reaganomics: a critique.Routledge.

Silver,H. (2013).&nbspEducationas History&nbsp(Vol.36). Routledge.

Spring,J. (2016).&nbspDeculturalizationand the struggle for equality: A brief history of the education ofdominated cultures in the United States.Routledge.

Street,B. V. (2014).&nbspSocialliteracies: Critical approaches to literacy in development,ethnography and education.Routledge.

Tracey,D. H., &amp Morrow, L. M. (2012).&nbspLenseson reading: An introduction to theories and models.Guilford Press.