March 25, 2009

Readicide

I love professional books that you can read in a weekend (and still enjoy your weekend) as Richard Allington points out in the Foreword. Readicide is a scant 160 some pages with lots of white space. If you don't mind reading online you can see it here, but you'll want to be buying a physical copy to share and mark up, I promise.

First: a definition.

"Read-i-cide: noun, the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools."

So he's not exactly going into this as a wallflower. This is a manifesto, and a good one. I won't go into the facts and figures he lays out so clearly, but if you liked things like Krashen's The Power of Reading or Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook, then you'll love this.

After reading the Smith book, I needed to know what to do and Gallagher gives some good ideas. But first he has to lay out what we're doing wrong. He makes for points.
  • Schools value the the development of test-takers more than they value the development of readers
  • Schools are limiting authentic reading experiences
  • Teachers are overteaching books
  • Teachers are underteaching books
(Gallagher, 2009)

So what can we do? He advocates taking a stand and engaging in "hard talk" with all of the players in this issue--he even has a checklist of questions! He advocates being the "discussion director" on your campus for this most important issue. He also recommends creating a "book flood" of interesting titles in classrooms so there is plenty of engaging materials for young readers and that every student has a book to take home every night.

Gallagher also has solid instructional recommendations, but I won't take up more of your time. I think you get the idea that as soon as you finish the Frank Smith book and feel that queasy feeling of not knowing what to do, you should grab a copy of this and get fired up with more of a righteous indignation and a plan of attack.

Gallagher is a high school teacher and most of his instructional ideas are geared that way, but they are all easily adapted to any learner. For more on his other books and research, check out his own site.

Let's do whatever it takes to end readicide for our students.

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