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Book Review: Reading Reconsidered
posted by: Melissa | April 11, 2016, 09:43 PM   


Doug Lemov, founder of Uncommon Schools, made national headlines with his book, Teach Like a Champion.  While many books on how to handle classrooms exist, Lemov did something that few had done before:  he watched the best teachers in the country and looked for the common characteristics they all shared.  By doing the research, his book was based neither on theoretical beliefs nor personal anecdotal evidence. Instead, the book was solidly based on research that gives practical advice on how to improve practice.


In his latest book (written with a team of colleagues from Uncommon Schools), Lemov brings that same rigor and practicality to language arts instruction, while directly addressing the new Common Core State Standards.  Like his previous books, Reading Reconsidered breaks down instruction into its component parts, highlights techniques, and gives several strategies that teachers can use to implement those best practices in their own classroom.


Designed as a book that is meant to be in dialogue with Common Core Standards, it neither condemns nor embraces them fully.  Instead, Lemov focuses on the parts of the standards that have been shown to most improve student performance: close reading, non-fiction, writing, complex texts, vocabulary instruction, etc.  Each topic is defined not only as to “what it is” and its component parts, but also as to “what it isn’t” and how teachers commonly fall short in their instruction of these techniques.  For example, the section on reading spends time discussing how sustained silent reading loses effectiveness when accountability is not built into the system. He then provides several techniques including accountability.


Perhaps most interesting and relevant to teachers as they navigate Common Core is the section on text selection.  Lemov rejects the common measures of text complexity used in the Common Core State Standards, such as Lexile scores or Fountas and Pinnell leveled readers, while also rejecting choosing texts for their “accessibility.” Instead, he encourages reading instructors to prepare students for college-level texts, by choosing texts that have certain characteristics such as an unpredictable narrator, an unconventional structure, and text that was written before recent times.  He argues that these characteristics are more predictive of text complexity than Lexile alone–and true to the practicality seen throughout the book– examples are offered for every grade level.


While focused on language arts instruction, Reading Reconsidered offers useful techniques for anyone who tackles text and vocabulary in their instruction and nearly every teacher will be able to pick up something new from its contents.

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