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A Must-Read Book For Teachers: Readicide

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Posted on Apr, 22 2014

An article from the 2014 Summer Professional Development Catalog

About Funmi Amobi, Ed. D. 

Assistant Professor of Practice at the NDSU School of Education, Professional Development for Educators at NDSU Distance and Continuing Education

Funmi Amobi started her education career as a high school social studies teacher in Nigeria, West Africa, before proceeding to the United States for graduate studies at Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona where she obtained a Doctor of Education degree in Secondary Education with concentration in Curriculum and Instruction and Social Studies Education. Since graduating from Arizona State University, Funmi has had the privilege of contributing to the professional preparation of teachers in four universities namely Southern Arkansas, University, Magnolia Arkansas; University of Arizona South, Sierra Vista, Arizona; Northern Arizona University, Northeast Phoenix site, Arizona; and Arizona State University West campus, Glendale, Arizona.

Her current position as assistant professor of practice with dual responsibility to the School of Education (SOE) and Distance and Continuing Education (DCE) presents the opportunity to implement professional development opportunities for teachers in the state of North Dakota. Funmi develops and teaches online graduate degree-eligible professional development courses to inservice teachers wishing to update their teaching skills. Moreover, she serves as a reviewer of proposals submitted to DCE for professional development opportunities for teachers, and as a student teaching supervisor.

Professional Development

To date, she has developed five graduate level courses aimed at honing teachers’ skills to implement Common Core Standards strategies with particular emphasis on teaching 21st literacy skills for college and career readiness across the curriculum. In addition, she has developed an action research course based on the reflect-act-evaluate framework to engage educators in proactive inquiry using authentic data to implement classroom intervention aimed at continuing improvement of student learning.  Furthermore, the need to ensure the preparation of all students for college and career readiness, especially diverse student populations, precipitated the development of another course Reaching Diverse Learners.

Courses

  1. EDU 790 Direct Interactive Teaching and Authentic Literacy (3 credits)
  2. EDU 790 Common Core Literacy Strategies (3 credits)
  3. EDU 790 Classroom Inquiry through Action Research (3 credits)
  4. EDU 790 Reaching Diverse Students: Advice for Teachers from High School Students  (3 credits)
  5. EDU 790 Engaging Students with Informational Text (3 credits)
  6. Mastery Learning through Gradual Release of Responsibility (in progress)

Must-Read Book for Teachers

Gallagher, K. (2009). Readicide: How schools are killing reading and what you can do about it. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

ISBN: 978-1-57110-780-0

The Common Core State Standards delineate what it means to be a literate person in the twenty-first century. Students who meet the Standards are expected to perform the critical reading necessary to decode the staggering amount of information available today in print and digitally. They are also expected to seek wide, deep, and thoughtful engagement with high-quality literary and informational texts to build their knowledge, enlarge their experiences, and broaden their worldviews. However, it is evident that students do not habitually possess the knowledge capital needed to process and comprehend complex informational texts. To underscore this point, Gallagher points to the deleterious effect of a phenomenon he calls readicide in our schools. The definition of readicide is “the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.” (p. 2).

In the eye-opening book, Gallagher presents a convincing discussion of the contributing factors to the development of readicide and the deleterious effects of the phenomenon on the achievement of students, particularly low-income students and students of color. He identifies the following factors:

  • A lack of high-interest reading materials in our schools.
  • Schools put more emphasis on multiple-choice test preparation than the development of lifelong readers.
  • Students are not doing enough reading in schools.

To combat schoolwide readicide, Gallagher urges teachers to become proactive advocates for establishing a “book flood zone” in their schools, to surround students with authentic real-world reading materials. Next, he uses an anecdote based on an experience in his twelfth-grade English language arts classroom to drive home the point that students are in dire need of “large doses of authentic reading” to increase their knowledge capital and worldviews (p. 29). As part of a literature unit, he had assigned two editorials on the war in Iraq to his students. While circulating the room to provide guided instruction to the students, two of them needed assistance with the meaning of the phrase, ‘the lifeblood of al Qaeda’ in their reading material. Gallagher prompted the students to find the meaning of the phrase in the context of the reading. At this point, both students countered, “Who is the Al guy?” Needless to say, these twelfth graders thought that ‘Al Qaeda’ was a person. With this example and several others, Gallagher makes a compelling argument that our students need a broad knowledge base in order to become critical readers of the world; and the only way to build that wide knowledge base is by giving them access to a wide and deep reading experience.

Readicide occurs in the classroom when teachers implement teaching practices that prevent the reading flow of students through overteaching or underteaching complex academic texts. Overteaching or overanalysis of academic texts is predicated on teachers’ attempt to ‘cover’ all the nook and cranny of the curriculum guide by using worksheets, quizzes, and other mundane activities that focus student attention on the trivial at the expense of  deep meaning and values of books. Gallagher asserts, “When students read books solely through the lens of test-preparation, they miss out on the opportunity to read books through the lens of life preparation” (p. 72). Underteaching encompasses assigning difficult texts to students without giving them the scaffold for unpacking the meaning of the reading material. Both overteaching and underteaching of text kill students’ reading flow and are recipes for readicide.

Having laid out the causes and effects of readicide, Gallagher mines the treasure trove of his teaching experience to unveil practicable, tried and true strategies for preventing readicide and helping students find reading flow in complex academic texts. First, he recommends that teachers spend time teaching students the value that comes from reading complex academic texts citing philosopher Kenneth Burke’s assertion that “the reason why young people should read books is that it provides them with ‘imaginative rehearsals’ of the world” (p. 66). Second, he recommends that teachers begin each academic reading with a guided tour. This involves framing the text before students read it. Following the guided tour, Gallagher enjoins teachers to shift to a budget tour mode as they release cognitive responsibility gradually to students to read the text on their own. Third, he suggests that teachers augment academic books with real-world informational text to show students that the book they are reading provides valuable insights into living productive lives. Fourth, he describes strategies for creating topic floods to engage students in debates and writing persuasive essays on controversial issues encountered in their reading. In addition to the four strategies above which relate to teaching complex academic text, Gallagher recommends that teachers ‘adopt a 50/50 approach, that is, engage students in recreational reading to ‘to move kids from readicide and back toward lifelong reading” (p. 81). The description of each of the above-mentioned strategies is rich with enlightening and expressive examples depicting how Gallagher implemented the teaching practice in his own classroom.

Following the discussion of various strategies for helping students find the reading flow, Gallagher presents a step-by-step demonstration of the best practice for teaching demanding academic texts. This approach, which Gallagher calls the ‘sweet spot of instruction,’ represents a proper balance of overteaching and underteaching academic texts. It entails the following instructional sequence:

  • Establish purpose/Value: Frame the test
  • Use Big Chunk/Little Chunk approach
  • Second-draft reading
  • Conduct close reading--Revisit a little chunk of text with think-aloud and read aloud (Prompt students to annotate key words and phrases)
  • Lead class discussion of the text with carefully prepared critical thinking text-based questions.

 Gallagher demonstrates each phase of the approach with educative exemplars from actual teaching practice.

 

In Readicide, Gallagher speaks out against the practice of killing the love of reading among students. He addresses the drop off in reading as “one of the most serious social and economic problems in the United States” (Giaoi, cited in Gallagher, 2009, p. 115). However, rather than just focus on the problem, Gallagher delves into his teaching practice to unpack creditable best practices for helping students become critical readers. These best practices dovetail with the Common Core Standards’ requirement for teaching literacy skills across the K-12 curriculum. Although, the instructional examples in the book focus on reading and literacy skills at the secondary school level, the concern about readicide and the strategies for ending it should ring true for elementary and middle school teachers.

Join the discussion online at the NDSU Teacher Engagement Network. 

Readicide… is the required textbook for EDUC 790 Engaging Students with Informational Text (3 credits). The course will be offered in Summer and Fall 2014. Teachers who wish to advance their skills of helping students become critical readers of informational texts are encouraged to register to take the course. The textbook will be complemented with research and evidence-based readings from the November 2013 issue of ASCD journal, Educational Leadership, entitled, “Tackling Information Text.” 

Selections that will inform educators’ understanding and teaching practice in the journal include the following:

  • Brozo, W.G. (2013). From manga 2 math. Educational Leadership, 71(3), 58-61.
  • Duke, N.K. (2013). Starting out: Practices to use in K-3. Educational Leadership, 71(3),  40-44.
  •  Ehrenworth, M. (2013). Unlocking the secrets of complex text. Educational Leadership71(3), 16-21.
  • Fisher. P.J., Blachowicz, C.L.Z. (2013). A few words about math and science. Educational Leadership, 71(3), 46-51.
  • Frey, N., & Fisher, D. (2013). Points of entry. Educational Leadership, 71(3), 34-38.
  • Hirsch, E.D., (Jr.) & Hansel, L. (2013). Why content is king. Educational Leadership, 71(3), 28-33.
  • Miller, D. (2013). The dazzling world of nonfiction. Educational Leadership, (71(3), 22-27.
  • Norman, R. R., & Roberts, K.L. (2013). Not just pretty pictures. Educational Leadership71(3), 62-66.
  • Shanahan, T. (2013). You want me to read what? Educational Leadership, 71(3), 10-15.
  • Silva, J., Delleman, P., & Phesia, A. (2013). Preparing English language learners for complex reading. Educational Leadership, 71(3), 52-56.
  • Tomlinson, C.A. (2013). Invitations to read. Educational Leadership, 71(3), 88-89.