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Reading about teaching reading


favicon I’ve always felt comfortable about teaching writing. The credit there goes to Nick Ferentinos, my high school English and journalism teacher, who made sure I could put a sentence together.

But teaching reading? What’s that supposed to be about?

Maybe I had no clue because I was trained as a social studies teacher. But then I realized that even high school English teachers — who focus on writing and literature — didn’t always have the answers about teaching reading.

So a few years ago, when I finally admitted to myself that I had become an English teacher (after several years of denial), I decided to do some reading about reading.

After poring over 50+ titles, I’ve found a few favorites:

Readicide, by Kelly Gallagher
This book has it all. It argues that testing is killing our students’ interest in reading. Mr. Gallagher believes in a hybrid approach to reading instruction: part independent reading, part reading that the teacher leads. He also likes a combination of fiction and non-fiction, and his Article of the Week gets kids to know about their world. Start here first.


The Reading Zone, by Nancie Atwell

After getting inspired by reading Readicide, this book will help you think about how to build a reading culture in your classroom. Ms. Atwell, author of the famous In the Middle, is the expert of the workshop model. She believes strongly in the right of students to choose their books and to improve by reading voluminously.


Lifers: Learning from At-Risk Adolescent Readers, by Pamela M. Mueller
This book reminded me that “reluctant readers,” as most people call them, aren’t mean-spirited or ignorant about reading. Rather, most of them have felt failure and disappointment about reading for years. Ms. Mueller writes several case studies of students struggling with reading and offers an excellent intervention model to encourage kids not to give up.

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I hope I can inspire the teachers with whom I work to take the time to read about reading this year. It’s not easy during the school year, but sometimes, reading a good book is a great means of professional development.

What other books about reading do you suggest? What should I read next? favicon


  1. Trisha

    You know I love Jeffrey Wilhelm and his work with think alouds. I just got his book Reading is Seeing. I’ll let you know how it is. I’ve also been skimming Reading Don’t Fix no Chevys Literacy in the Lives of Young Men (almost all my RSP English classes are boys this year), but haven’t garnered a ton of new info yet.

  2. Mark Isero

    You’re great, Trisha — thank you. I haven’t yet read anything by Jeffrey Wilhelm, but now I will. “Reading is seeing” is a great motto. Do you suggest that I begin with
    Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies or “You Gotta BE the Book”?

    It sounds like we’ll be doing similar work this year. Iserotope can be our virtual Room 314. Maybe you’d like to be a contributor? 🙂

    • Trisha

      Hi Mark,

      Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies was foundational in how I taught reading when I was in Chicago (and continue to teach it). Wilhelm does a good job unmasking what readers do and outlining how to teach those “moves.” However, I’m not sure it would offer you enough that is new. I really like his book Action Strategies for Deepending Comprehension.

      I have also read You Gotta Be the Book. I have referred to it less in my teaching, but it offers a number of interesting ideas for helping students engage with a text (reader’s response, visualizing, drama). What I actually have used most is an appendix with questions and activities for the 10 dimensions of reader’s response that he describes. This book was recommended to me by my mentor teacher when I was observing/student teaching in an 8th grade classroom at a magnet school in Chicago (so, so long ago…).

Please share your brilliant insights!