Tuesday, May 22, 2012


I read the book WHAT READERS REALLY DO by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton a few weeks ago. It was a great read and one that I highly recommend as a summer professional read.  This is one of those books I wish I had written. The premise of the book is that we need to teach young readers the process of thinking deeply about a text--not teach them to think what we think about a book.

A big part of the book is that as teachers, we need to be readers ourselves. That being a reader is the biggest thing that will impact our teaching because it will allow us to make our process of meaning making visible for our students.  The authors say, "What's needed is a willingness to peer into the recesses of our own reader's mind, attending to the work we do internally that frequently goes unnoticed or happens so quickly that it feels automatic." The rest of the book really tries to make visible, the things we do as readers that help us make meaning along the way and to think about how to make that visible to children.

The beginning of the book focuses on the importance of helping students achieve agency and independence. There is a section I love on Reframing Strategies as Tools, Not Products.  And they talk about the importance and noticing and naming for students.

Here are some favorite ideas from the book:

"We Build the Lessons Around our Assessment of the Demands of the Text."

"We Enter Stories Knowing that the Particulars Will Yield Universal Understandings"

"What these students have taught us is that when they are assured that a teacher is not looking for a particular answer but rather looking for thinking--when they come to trust that we are not hoarding the answers, waiting to spring them on the students like a trap, but instead truly valuing their thinking--they will rise to the occasion. Teaching students the power of constructing something with what they notice teaches students to be strategic.  In turn, we, as teachers, need to be strategic, making sure that the reading opportunities we provide give students the time and space they need to develop and grow their thinking." (p. 132)

"We try to scaffold deep thinking rather than prompt it."  (p. 132)

"We know there is not a single way to build a final understanding."  (p. 150)

"Rather than teach students to identify literary elements, we help them see how writers and readers use those elements to apprehend meaning."  (p. 167)

The book shares student conversations, lesson ideas and other thinking about how to really empower students to make meaning. The authors show us tools to help students do that so it is a great combination of the thinking as well as the practice needed.

This book brought a lot of my thinking together--thinking that I hadn't quite been able to articulate.  It was the perfect book for me as I get ready to go back to the classroom--thinking about building agency and independence in readers.  I think this book also helped me think through the Common Core talk about close reading and text complexity. One of my favorite new books on literacy instruction!


  1. Thank you for the recommendation. I'm going to look for this one.

  2. Books are the best and most popular sources of knowledge that we have today. Although there are other popular sources such as Internet, videos, and images, books are still popular. We were born with just a little knowledge but through reading books and socializing with other people around us, we learn new things. Learning always begins with interest, so we really need to be interested to absorb new things and information easier. It is also good to know that there are electronic books today which can be read through the use of devices such as tablet computers, laptops, kindles and other. Thank you for this informative article, keep it up! (SHARED TO SOCIAL NETWORKING WEBSITES)

    Mark Cruz

  3. Franki,
    My professional reading list is so long. Now I think I need to add this to it. Summer just isn't long enough.



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