Blog Posts

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