Saturday, September 12, 2015

Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher

We all know and love Kelly Gallagher (if you don't you soon will!), but this book make be my favorite of all. Instead of Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, I'd name it Readicide: How Schools Kill Reading and Teachers' Hearts, but I'll Gain Them Back!

While the organization is a bit confusing, I do adore every single word of this book. And the appendix of "101 Books My Reluctant Readers Love to Read," (definitely a must-see). But my other favorites:

1. The dedication: 
"For those educators who resist the policitical in favor of the authentic." OK, swooning a little already.

2. New Word Dictionary Style:
"Read-i-cide: noun, the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools." (2) Ummm, yes! No word is more worthy of American Heritage entrance.

3. The Elephant in The Room
"We are developing test-takers at the expense of readers." (7)

4. Paige Paradox (a.ka., cycles of failure and low expectations)
He asks the must needed question, "Which of our students are paying the steepest price?" (14), and addresses what he calls the "Paige Paradox." This paradox is essentially how in order to help struggling readers, Rod Paige, secretary of education in the George W. Bush administration began an increase in testing readers more to see their progress level. Then, because schools feel pressure to drown readers in test prep and real reading disappears, scores on the tests end up being OK for those who already read, but for those who struggle, scores are poor since real curriculum has been sacrificed already. Lower scoring schools then have to increase test focus to increase scores, which drives deeper and deeper into the readicide cycle. As Gallagher explains: "Because the approach did not work the first time, the approach the second time around is to take the ineffective approach and intensify it. Return to step one... continue to the cycle until all reluctant readers are dead and all teachers are demoralized" (17).

5. "Book Flood"
Gallagher argues for the need of a book flood. It's so important for readers to be surrounded by materials, "students are in desperate need of large doses of authentic reading" (29). He asks important questions, that should be so obvious, for example, "Are we giving them every opportunity, via reading, to build vital knowledge capital? Are these questions even addressed during your faculty meetings?" Instead of a flood of "silver bullet" materials, new programs, what would it look like if we had a flood of books, magazines, and texts in every classroom?

6. Vygotsky
Throwback to grad school reading, but ever-relevant: "Children grow into the intellectual life of those around them" (1978, 88, qtd p. 44), don't let that just be a scantron.

7. Try, Try, And Try Again :) 
As teachers no one wants to beat a piece of reading to death (as he says, no one would go to a movie in the projector stopped 52 times in the middle of the film), but we want to make sure they understand and we use the teachable moments. There will be times we do too much, and times we do too little. And he addresses the need of finding that "sweet spot," between underteaching and overteaching. Go big chunk (first draft reads) to little chunk (Close reading) to embolden skills, stamina, and deeper thinking. But most importantly, READ.

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