Blog Posts

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 ...

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13 December, 2007

Why Do We Still Read Books?

          I’m amazed at the persistence of the book in spite of dramatic advances in information technology over the past fifty years. The book—a 1500-year-old invention—not only survives, but thrives. The computer revolution has changed how we buy books (thanks, Amazon), but the fact is we still buy books, rather than disks, tapes, MP3 downloads or whatever this flavor-of-the-month’s info format may be.            Tech companies hope to lure readers away from paper-paged books in favor of their sleek electronic readers (reminiscent of the old Marlene Dietrich films in which she’d try 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

        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 to children improves their oral language development (at this stage the evidence that it contributes directly to the improvement of reading skills is pretty sparse).         Turn on the news and there is a PSA encouraging parents to read to their kids. You take your child in for a check up and the pediatrician gifts you with ...

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19 November, 2007

Why Aren't Young People Reading?

          The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has done a great service by trying to monitor how much young people and adults are reading. http:Although I certainly agree with NEA on the importance of reading--especially extended reading of challenging and worthwhile text, and I suspect that NEA is right students and adults are doing less of such reading these days, I do have some disagreements with them.           One concern is that I think their measurement of amount of reading is likely flawed. People are notoriously bad at reporting how they spend their ...

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12 November, 2007

The Chicago Reading Framework

For several years, I have used a basic framework for guiding my action in the public schools. I have used this framework as a consultant when guiding others to improve achievement, and I used it myself as director of reading of the Chicago Public Schools. The description below lays out some of the basics. This is a piece I wrote for my teachers and principals in Chicago awhile back, to give them a sense of the essential direction that instruction needs to take.             The Chicago Reading Framework emerged from work that I have done in schools ...

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07 November, 2007

Does He Really Think Kids Shouldn't Read

          Here is one of my most controversial columns as President of the International Reading Association. It upset a lot of people, but it is important that everyone understands that encouraging kids to read effectively isn't as easy as first thought. Does he really think kids shouldn’t read?           I’m a new president. And some might wonder about my ability to represent IRA. So, let me begin this first column of my presidency with an appraisal of the IRA mission.           IRA has three purposes: (1) to improve the quality of ...

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One of the world’s premier literacy educators.

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