Background knowledge

September 17, 2019

This guest blog post was contributed by Kaitlin Very, Program Coordinator of the Early Start program of Jubilee Youth Services in Washington, DC.

Jubilee Youth Services is part of Jubilee Housing, a faith-based nonprofit organization founded in 1973 that provides affordable housing and supportive services to some 800...

September 30, 2019

Teacher question: What’s the best way to teach and have students master vocabulary?

Shanahan's response:

My original reaction to this question was not exactly what I’d label a model of helpfulness.

The question was asked by someone new to my blog and I started to send him a note telling him I’d written about that several times...

September 17, 2019

Teacher question: I saw you speak recently and in your definition of reading comprehension you used the term “affordance.” How would you define affordance as you use it concerning text?  

Shanahan's response:

Usually, I’d just shoot off a quick email explanation with a question like this.

However, in this case, the question...

August 22, 2019

Our road-tripping school librarian Rebecca Burton, is checking in from her a cross-country adventure that has taken a few (brilliant!) detours thanks to the young readers in her family.

Rebecca is the school librarian at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School in Washington, DC. See Rebecca's first post for Book Life, where she...

August 19, 2019

Last week, I posed 5 questions as the first half of the Great American Phonics Quiz. I hope you did well on those items that focused on whether students could learn to read without phonics, what kind of contribution it makes to learning, whether phonics instruction needs to be...

August 16, 2019

Becky Koons is with AHC Inc., an affordable housing nonprofit in Arlington, Virginia. AHC’s Summer Camp program is designed to prevent learning loss — a particular challenge for low-income students — through both educational and enrichment experiences.

Becky believes there is not much better than sitting on the beach with her toes in the sand getting lost in a good book. One of her...

August 13, 2019

I like to read in all kinds of weather, but it’s been a wild summer to try to pick up a book outdoors! Friend Cindy Chiu and her son know all about this.

But whether or not the weather cooperates, this teacher-reader-writer-mom and son are filling their summer with all kinds of stories.

“We can wait...

July 30, 2019

Teacher question: I teach fourth-grade social studies at my school and I have an ongoing argument with our reading coach. Perhaps you can help me. She says that the way I teach is bad, but it works, and I see no reason to change. My students take turns reading paragraphs aloud and when each one finishes then I ask them questions or explain what the book said. I like it...

July 23, 2019

Fifty years ago, I was clueless about the fact that Neil Armstrong was taking the first steps on the Moon. I was a busy toddler taking my own very first steps! Even though I missed the big event, I have forever been fascinated by the Moon. Like many young children, I was sure it was following me every time I went out at night and wondered why the Moon and I had such a special connection....

July 23, 2019

Last week, in response to a teacher’s question, I explained the important role summarization plays in reading comprehension. I described how, according to research, we can best teach kids to summarize paragraphs from informational texts.

Voilà, I just walked the talk: I just...

July 3, 2019

While books can transport you through space and time, sometimes you just have to get behind the wheel and go! Always a great bonding experience, the summer family road trip can also be a learning adventure full of meaningful and authentic opportunities for kids to read, write, listen, and talk.

June 26, 2019

Leah Henderson shares with Book Life how a simple moment can lead to hours of exploration and real and imagined adventures. Complement her recommendations for summer exploration with the Start with a Book Geography, Travel...

June 12, 2019

Reading Rockets resources at Start with a Book provide an abundance of book recommendations and great ideas for pairing fiction and nonfiction to engage kids and help them make connections between what they read and their own lives.

June 4, 2019

This will be my 47th summer as a reader.

My first summer as a reader was one of those unbearable hot, muggy Florida summers where you park yourself in front of the air conditioner and look longingly out the window, wishing for a trip to the beach or pool. Or pick up Norah Smaridge’s The Big Tidy-Up and Miss Suzy by Miriam Young and hide under your bed in the dark and...

March 26, 2019

Teacher question:

I was wondering what the research says (or if you could point me in the right direction to find it) about explicit instruction for nonfiction text structure. Specifically, English Language Learners.

Shanahan's response:

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

I’ve been waiting for this question for almost three...

January 22, 2019

Teacher question: The National Assessment of Educational Progress says that only 37% of 4th graders are reaching reading proficiency. Why is it so low?

Shanahan's response

Why do so few American kids read well?

There seems to be plenty of blame to go around. Parents? Society? Too much screen time? Poverty? Immigration? You and me...

September 17, 2018

Teacher question: I don’t get the reason for trying to make students read “like historians” or read “like scientists.” Many of my students aren’t likely to even go to college and even if they did they probably won’t be historians or scientists. I understand why it makes sense to teach students how to study a history or a science textbook so they can pass the tests on those...

July 27, 2018

Becky Koons is a Senior Resident Services Manager with AHC Inc. at the Woodbury Park Community Center in Arlington, Virginia. AHC’s Summer Camp program is designed to prevent learning loss — a particular challenge for low-income students — through both educational and enrichment experiences.

Becky believes there is not much better than sitting on the beach with her toes in the sand...

July 20, 2018

How can we teach children about one of our most important natural resources? Gaynelle Diaz combines lots of reading with art, hands-on activities, and field trips to jumpstart a summer full of learning about water and our local rivers.

Gaynelle is the Center Coordinator at the Ruby Tucker Family Center, for the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority. As a young child, she...

February 15, 2018

James Ransome and Lesa Cline-Ransome have been writing and illustrating together and individually for many years. And their work continues to grow and evolve. Perhaps James said it best: “What makes illustrating books so exciting is that because each book has a special voice, my approach toward each is different. Whether it be through my choice of palette, design or perspective, there is...

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"The things I want to know are in books. My best friend is the man who'll get me a book I [haven't] read." — Abraham Lincoln