Blog Posts

29 February, 2008

Reference List for Improving Reading

I often make presentations about the key elements for improving reading achievement. For those of you who want to dip into the original research that I used, I have provides some citations below. This is just a partial list -- there are many more studies available on each of these topics supporting these basic ideas. AMOUNT OF INSTRUCTION/TIME American College Testing. (2006). Reading between the lines. Iowa City: American College Testing. Carroll, J.B. (1963). A model of school learning. Teachers College Record, 723–733. Cooper, H. (2001). Summer school: Research-based recommendations for policy makers. Washington, DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, ...

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27 January, 2008

Differentiation in the Teaching of Reading

Differentiation, a great concept, has become a buzz word these days. It seems to mean many different things to many different people. Reading supervisors and coordinators frequently tell me about their dissatisfaction with the huge amount of whole-class teaching going on. I’ve even seen principals who have tried to increase differentiation by forbidding the use of reading textbooks (you can’t follow something lock-step with all of the kids if you don’t have anything to follow).   I certainly agree that a steady diet of whole-class instruction is almost certain to lose somebody. Kids learn at different speeds; they get confused or phase ...

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18 January, 2008

Can Scripted Lessons Really Improve Achievement? I Support the Use of Textbooks

In the December 10 issue of the New Yorker magazine Atul Gawande published a fascinating article about the improvement of medical practice. Although he is a physician writing about medical care, I found his insights to be surprisingly relevant to instructional issues in the field of reading.   In this article, “The Checklist,” Dr. Gawande describes the incredible complexity of Intensive Care Medicine, and the brilliance and courage of the doctors who practice it. But this was not a piece about heroic doctors, but instead explained the need to standardize and regiment such practice in order to maintain quality.   I know…. I know…. the sentences in the ...

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08 January, 2008

In Defense of Textbooks, Core Programs, and Basal Readers

I am often asked why I support the use of textbooks for teaching reading. It has been common in my field for those at the university to denounce the use of textbooks, and I have resisted that urge. The basic assumption seems to be that good teachers don't need textbooks, and that if you use a textbook (or core program or basal reader) you must not be a good teacher or even a very nice person.   Of course, some observers try to split the difference: "new teachers need textbooks, but experienced ones do not" is often their claim.   I think overall we ...

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31 December, 2007

Less Reading or Less Fiction Reading?

          The National Endowment for the Arts report on reading habits in the U.S. continues to reverberate. This is a report that American journalists are fascinated by. As one reporter explained to me today, he was writing for an audience of literary writers (poets, novelists, and the like), and he indicated that the NEA report was discouraging to that audience. “They wonder if it is even worth writing a novel, if no one is going to read it.”            My skepticism about the NEA report is two-fold: first, I doubt that we are ...

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24 December, 2007

Fluency--Not Hurrying

         Oral reading fluency has become a hot topic in the past few years. Of all aspects of reading, it still may be the most neglected, but we seem to be doing somewhat better in providing fluency instruction than we were when the National Reading Report concluded that fluency instruction improved reading achievement. That surprised many people; the idea that practicing oral reading could do more than improve the oral reading seemed strange. Usually we get better at what we practice: so, it would make sense to have kids doing a lot of silent reading rather than ...

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21 December, 2007

What Do I Do About My Reading Disabled Son?

I often receive letters from parents or teachers with instructional concerns about reading. I received the follow plaint from a concerned mother: I have a son who had a hard time in Kindergarten and 1st grade. He didn't know his alphabet when he left Kindergarten he went to summer school for 6 weeks in the summer. When he started 1st grade this year he only knew a few of his letters and numbers. In the past few months with extra help from his teachers, at home, I hired a private tutor and bought a computer online program Head Sprout he now knows all of his letters and their sounds so, he now can put ...

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13 December, 2007

Why Do We Still Read Books?

Blast from the Past: This entry was first published on December 13, 2007, and was reposted on March 15, 2018. Recently, the publishing industry revealed a big plunge in e-book sales accompanied by steady gains in the sales of traditional books. Much has changed since 2007 when this blog entry was first posted: tablets and larger phones have caught on, batteries have improved, more books are available in digital form and they are easier to buy and access--and, yet, the book hangs in there. I now regularly read both ebooks and paper ones myself, but ebooks are not likely to ...

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07 December, 2007

More on the Changing Face of Literacy

The Chicago Sun-Times editorial of December 6, 2007 is a thoughtful and helpful response to the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) recent report on reading. The Sun-Times “informal survey” reveals much that NEA missed. The NEA report claims reading has disappeared from the lives of young people and that this loss limits educational attainment as well as the economic, social, and physical health of the nation. The Sun-Times shows that the picture is more complicated than that. Reading hasn’t necessarily disappeared, but it certainly has changed, and technology is the culprit in either scenario. One image of this is the ...

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21 November, 2007

Reading Hard Books to Kids

Blast from the Past: First posted November 21, 2007; re-posted July 26, 2018. Advice on reading books with kids. I means this advice mainly for parents, but it is relevant to teachers in terms of how and what they should read to kids. Since Common Core such advice has become more common, but this was first issued years before CCSS.         I'm frequently asked about reading to children. Obviously reading to kids is a good idea, though this is one of those satisfying times when the research literature actually supports the good idea. Research clearly shows that reading ...

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One of the world’s premier literacy educators.

He studies reading and writing across all ages and abilities. Feel free to contact him.