Monday, August 29, 2011


This book is required reading for the children's literature course at my university, so I decided I'd better read it.  English teacher Kelly Gallagher packs a lot into 150 pages (including a thorough index and references).

Subtitled "How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It," the book covers exactly that in five chapters.

Gallagher spends the first part of the book talking about how high-stakes, shallow testing has led to "teaching to the test" and reading programs that dull the desire to read for many students.  While there's not a lot teachers can do to end these testing programs, Gallagher does offer some good advice on ways to end "the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools." (p. 2)

Gallagher has taught high school for 23 years, so most of his strategies are aimed at that age group, although many can be adopted for all ages.  Some of his recommendations include:
  • providing time for recreational reading in the school day;
  • "augment books with authentic, real-world text" (p. 46), such as assigning an "article of the week" for students to annotate;
  • surround kids with interesting books (I would add to do this in the library as well as in the classroom);
  • assign high-interest books and/or self-selected recreational reading for summer reading;
  • for self-selected books, have students do "one-pager" reflections (templates for a number of these are in Appendix C);
  • avoid over-teaching books with too much chopping up and analysis, or emphasis on the trivial (as the Accelerated Reader program does); but
  • avoid under-teaching books by providing too little framing for complex texts (assigning classics for summer reading is a good example of this).
This was an excellent, thought-provoking book, and I'm glad it's required reading at my university for future teachers.

© Amanda Pape - 2011

[This book was borrowed from and returned to my university library.]

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