Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do about It by Kelly Gallagher
The dedication of this book states: “For those educators who resist the political in favor of the authentic.” So this is a book for teachers, and teachers of language arts will find it especially useful. (This review is directed primarily to teachers.) However, if you are a student who is doing any sort of research project on high-stakes testing (like STAR/CST tests) or on why teens don’t read very much, you’ll find this book useful. You can check it out from the textbook room (rather than the circulation desk at the library).
In his introduction, Gallagher, an English teacher from Southern California, introduces the term ‘readicide’ “because it cuts to the central ironic thesis of this book: rather than helping students, many of the reading practices found in today’s classrooms are actually contributing to the death of reading.” I agree with this premise, as do many folks who want to nurture a love of reading in teens (such as librarians and English teachers). Gallagher discuss how we can turn the trend around.
Basically, Gallagher uses data to show that school are more interested in nurturing test-taking skills than in nurturing a love of reading. We limit positive reading experiences; we overteach pleasure reading books (which should just be read, not studied!); we underteach classic books (so that they are too confusing–and students hate them and give up).
Readicide quotes Marzano (so what Gallagher discusses lines up with what teachers here at COHS are working toward practicing); argues that testing data is something beyond damn lies (as Mark Twain so aptly put it); that current practice leads to word poverty and a deficit of knowledge capital (it doesn’t matter if you can read the words if you don’t know what the writing is about); that we spend so much time teaching to the test, we can no longer study long, challenging works–and thus, students don’t develop higher-level thinking skills; and that SSR is necessary to allow students to build their prior knowledge and background.
Gallagher offers many suggestions and examples lessons for helping teens read books for pleasure without ruining those books with long reports and worksheet interruptions. He also shows how to approach a difficult text that requires teaching so that teens can still enjoy the ‘deeper meaning’ without getting either bored or lost.
There’s an appendix of 101 books that Gallagher’s reluctant readers love–these are current titles (and happily, I’ve read many of them–several are reviewed in this blog).