Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Readicide -- by Kelly Gallagher

Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It
by Kelly Gallagher
Stenhouse, February 2009

Kelly Gallagher is a full-time high school teacher in Anaheim, CA. His message about how schools are killing reading is one that every teacher and administrator at EVERY level needs to read. After every teacher and administrator reads this book, they need to put his suggestions about what we can do to prevent or reverse this trend into action.

Gallagher defines readicide this way: "Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools." He outlines four factors that are primarily responsible for readicide:
  • schools value the development of test takers more than the development of readers
  • schools limit authentic reading experiences
  • teachers are overteaching books
  • teachers are underteaching books
On the first point: amen. We are lucky to teach in a district where it is still possible to focus on the development of readers. Teachers like us are not always popular for focusing more on the readers than on the tests, and teachers like us are not always in the majority in our buildings or our grade levels, but there have been no district mandates that make it impossible for us to stay true to our belief in the fact that, as Gallagher puts it,
"If students are taught to read and write well, they will do fine on the mandated reading tests. But if they are only taught to be test-takers, they will never learn to read and write well."
On the second point: we've made it our life work to surround children with the best books and give them big chunks of time in the school day to learn to become real readers: readers who choose books, read widely, talk and write about their reading, and belong to a community of readers. We believe, as Gallagher does:
"Children grow into the intellectual life of those around them." --Vygotsky
And again, we are lucky to teach in a district that supports these values.

His next two points, about teachers who either over- or underteach books takes a little more introspection. When does breaking into a read aloud for discussion or teaching become overteaching? What kind of support does that fourth grader need to read The Giver, or will she realize on her own that she's over her head and abandon it? When do we need to use role sheets for literature circles, and if we use them, how soon should we abandon them?

One of the things that makes this book so powerful is the amount of research that Gallagher weaves into the book. With every issue he discusses, he reminds of us several research studies that point to giving our kids more authentic reading experiences and providing time for their own personal reading. The research we need to back the argument is embedded throughout the book.

READICIDE is due out soon. In the meantime, Stenhouse has posted the entire book on its website for your enjoyment! We'd suggest you take a look.

And, Kelly will be doing a Blog Tour starting here next week. During his visit, he will do an interview with us and answer questions from blog readers. So, if you'd like to take a look at the book and ask Kelly a question, post it in the comment section of this post before 1/20/09 and the answer will be part of his stop here on the 22nd.

Throughout next week, Kelly will be stopping at some other blogs too!
Kelly's Blog Tour Schedule
1/20 - Here at A YEAR OF READING!
1/22 - THE TEMPERED RADICAL
1/23 - THE DREAM TEACHER
1/26 - THE READING ZONE
1/28 - THE BOOK WHISPERER

READICIDE gives us lots to think about. We think it is one of those books that can start a national conversation about how to give students the reading experiences they need and giving them the skills they need to do more than pass a test.

9 comments:

  1. Wow!

    Readicide was bad enough before the testing craze and I'm sure it's worse now. I'm glad to see a book like this come out.

    To me the ultimate example of Readicide is this:
    requiring students to read "Hard Times" by Charles Dickens.

    Can you imagine a kid surviving that horror and thinking, "I can't wait to read another Dickens novel?"

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  2. I have loved all of Kelly Gallagher's other books and can't wait to start (and sharing!) this information. Thanks so much for the heads up!

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  3. Oh my -- a must have for sure!!

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  4. This sounds fabulous. Gonna look for it and pass this post on to librarian and teacher friends. Thanks for the review.

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  5. Wow! That sounds like a great book and I can already tell that I will agree with his perspective. One of the reasons I just switched from my old district was that it was hard to be a reading specialist where there was such a huge focus on AR points and DIBELS rather than on comprehension and enjoyment. It is so nice to be at a school that shares my perspective on reading! I am excited for the Stenhouse link you mentioned.

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  6. I look forward to reading what Gallagher says about giving difficult texts to kids without adequate support. As an SLP in a district where even learning disabled students get almost no support for reading anything, it is no wonder less than 40% of our students graduate from high school. If Gallagher has concrete suggestions for preventing or minimizing "readicide" I'll give my principal a copy for Valentine's Day!

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  7. Gallagher's comments about the Accelerated Reader program made me feel validated as a parent. I have seen firsthand how it has negatively affected each of my kids' opinions of reading over the years. Although AR is strongly emphasized here, it isn't part of their grade so I finally gave my kids permission to forget about it. Three of them have a renewed passion for books, but I still have one daughter who has become a reluctant reader and I don't know if I can change that.

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  8. After reading Dani's comment above about Gallagher's feeling on AR (which as a library media specialist I HATE!) I can't wait to read his book.

    I do have a question for him, even though I have not read the book, I would love to know his opinion on a school having a well stocked (and that also means have a certified media specialist in there) media center and if he thinks that has an impact on students reading.

    Thanks!!

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  9. Wow, this looks great! I cannot wait to get a copy & read it.

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