March 27, 2009

The Reading Zone

Since Kelly Gallagher referred to Nancie Atwell's The Reading Zone so often and because every time I read about it I groused out loud about not having it, My Lovely Wife picked me up a copy.  Here again is an amazing professional book you can read in a weekend and still enjoy your weekend! (I think when I'm a Media Specialist I'll make a list like that for the staff).

It's another awesome manifesto supporting the main ideas in Krashen's The Power of Reading just like Gallagher's Readicide.  The main difference is that Gallagher's is a call to action politically and it also gives some lesson ideas and teaching strategies.  Atwell's is a call to action in the classroom and it also gives some political ideas (most notably in the Appendix, "How to Create a National Reading Zone").

It's a fantastic book, grounded in the theories of Krashen and Frank Smith and hits some of the same points as Gallagher.  They both even describe many of our current practices as "mind-numbing."  They also both repudiate what Atwell dubs "the comprehension-strategy bandwagon," the evidence for which she says are based on "short-term studies, some of questionable design."  Ironically, the interrupting nature of this style of teaching can actually hurt comprehension.

There is only one way to create better readers at all levels (and psst! it's actually fun).  The "single activity that consistently correlates with high levels of performance on standardized tests of reading __________________."

A) Teaching comprehension strategies
B)  More Post-It notes
C) Grammar and Spelling work

or D) None of the above.

The answer is obviously D) None of the above.

The only thing that works--that has ever worked--and is a pleasure for students and teachers alike, is "frequent, voluminous reading."

There's a bandwagon worth jumping on.