Sunday, June 22, 2008

READING FOR REAL by Kathy Collins

I spent Thursday and Friday at the Lakota Literacy View Institute. The teachers there have been running this institute for several years and it is a great, intense four days. A great group of people running amazing staff development for teachers. That seems to be happening in lots of places and teachers left feeling energized and ready to think ahead to September.

As an added bonus, I was thrilled to see that they had copies of Kathy Collins' new book called READING FOR REAL. It wasn't due out for another week so I was thrilled to see copies there! Kathy Collins wrote another one of my favorite professional books called GROWING READERS. In both books, she is able to help us think through what is important to our youngest readers. This book is written for primary teachers and addresses primary literacy, especially with the use of "Reading Clubs". In her simple, "bare-bone" definition of reading clubs, Kathy says, " A reading club is a couple of kids reading and talking about a small collection of books that go together in some way." She goes on to describe what these might look like, how they might go, how the year might go, etc. There are many really thoughtful ways to use these types of reading clubs with primary kids.

A big thing I like about Kathy's writing (besides how funny she can be!) is the thoughtfulness behind her planning. It is obvious that she has layers of thinking when she teaches. For example, one of my favorite is one called "Getting to Know Our Characters Well to Better Understand Our Books and Ourselves". Kathy wants students to learn about characters and character development but she also talks about reading habits as goals--those things that bring joy to our reading lives. One of the things her students learn in this character study is that "Readers think about their character even when they aren't reading their books." What a huge thing for our young readers to learn and to value as readers.

With all of the leveled craze, Kathy is able to give us a way to bring talk and joy to our primary classrooms. The vignettes that she share remind us that young children are capable of very deep reading and very deep thinking. Kathy gives us a framework to make that happen. Even though this book is written for teachers of primary students, there are huge implications for teachers of all ages.

I will be a media specialist in one of our elementary schools next year. I decided it would be a fun challenge to really think about whole school literacy and reader identity from that role in the school. READING FOR REAL has helped me think through ways in which I might bring inquiry and book clubs into the library setting for my primary students. I am thinking about ways that I can collect books in baskets--books that "go together in some way" as Kathy tells us. I am hoping for a library filled with lots of talk around great books and having baskets of books with the same character, books on a topic, etc. may be just the invitation kids need to talk with each other in the library.Above is a photo from the Lakota Literacy VIEW Institute. Ralph Fletcher, one of the speakers, with Paulette, Susan, and Lin--members of the VIEW Planning Team!


  1. I love your thinking about primary book clubs! Great concept for the library! You're going to be great next year in your new position!

    One question -- is the Lakota workshop just for Lakota teachers?

  2. Anonymous9:35 AM


    First, I enjoyed listening to you and Karen at Lakota. I can't wait to get the books you mentioned. After teaching for 16 years in the intermediate grades, I ventured to first grade last year. What a learning experience that was! I was excited to get Kathy's new book too. I'm reading Growing Readers first and then moving on to Reading For Real. I love her thinking (and yours too). It goes along with everything I believed as an intermediate teacher. Good luck to you next year!
    Julie (from Hilliard)

  3. I am liking this book too. I loved Growing Readers and am happy to have a resource that supports more authentic reading in the classrom!

  4. Oh! I cant wait to read this new book! I heard Kathy Collins at the Reading Recovery Conference and love how real and down to earth she is! Thanks for this info!


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