With that confession off my mind and just in time for Halloween, I want to share some insights I gained from reading Kelly Gallagher's latest book with the freaky title, Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It. I first "met" Kelly via his book Reading Reasons: Motivational Mini-Lessons for Middle and High School - a must for your professional library - and have followed him ever since. (Not "followed" as in stalking, but as in Googling for updates about his work.)
Kelly Gallagher is a practitioner with more than 22 years experience in teaching and inspiring students and teachers alike. While some may challenge his credentials as lacking research experience, that does not mean Mr. G. doesn't do his homework. He backs up his opinions by quoting the research of education heavy weights as well as sharing teacher research from his own classes. Additionally, he is not hesitant to challenge poor programs or ill-advised ideas, be they from the US Department of Education or best-selling practitioners like himself. Because of these reasons, I value his insights.
While Readicide is a bit unnerving, the pages substantiate what many educators believe but no longer practice in light of the pressure of student performance - aka NCLB and standardized testing. Kelly's book maintains that schools are killing off the love of reading, often through the "mind-numbing practices" found inside classrooms. While we may be driving up test scores, we're lynching life-long reading, which is defeating the purpose of teaching and supporting reading in school.
The author reiterates the importance of reading through graphs, charts, and quotations from reported research. The strongest argument in my mind, however, is his concern over the lack of "knowledge capital" in the lives of so many of our students. "Knowledge capital" is what readers bring to the page - schema, background knowledge, prior knowledge are possible synonyms for the term. Kelly reminds us of "the large wealth of knowledge capital that comes from the voluminous reading of books, newspapers, blogs, and magazines" (p. 38). If the systematic annihilation of the love of reading continues, so will knowledge capital dwindle.
What then are the factors contributing to the state of affairs? Kelly lists six:
- There is a dearth of interesting materials in our schools.
- Many schools have removed novels and other longer challenging works to provide teachers and students with more test preparation time.
- Students are not doing enough reading in school.
- The overteaching of books prevents our students from experiencing the place where all serious readers want to be - the reading flow (when a reader is so engrossed, he is oblivious of anything else going on around him.)
- The overanalysis of books creates instruction that values the trivial at the expense of the meaningful.
- The overteaching of academic texts is spilling over and damaging our students' chances of becoming lifelong readers.
If you're interested in some of Kelly's suggestions for ending readicide, check out Literacy Link Up!
What are your thoughts about the way educators teach reading? What do you think we can do to restore the love of reading AND teach students what they need to KNOW and DO to become proficient readers?
Please respond; you have my attention!