Content Area Literacy

March 16, 2020

Teacher question: You wrote recently that it was a good idea to teach comprehension skills, but our school district says we shouldn’t, that it’s prior knowledge that matters. Do you know the baseball study? Have you read Natalie Wexler’s research? It is really difficult to trust research when everyone tells us something different.

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February 6, 2020

Teacher question: When working with state educational standards are the expectations for the student to be able to accomplish each of the standards with grade level text. Some of us believe that if a fourth-grade student can determine the main idea in a second-grade text that the student has mastered that standard. Please help us settle this argument.

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November 11, 2019

Teacher question: I've attached a Student Work Analysis tool that we are using. I have read that you oppose attempts to grade students on the individual reading standards. Although this tool is not used for grading students, it is a standard-by-standard analysis of the students’ work, and I wonder what you think of it? [The form that was included provided spaces for...

October 18, 2019

Kevin McCloskey delivers fascinating information in digestible, user-friendly formats, which appeal to not only young readers but experienced ones as well.

Sporting a white tie with black ants, I had the chance to speak with him again recently about his newest book, Ants Don’...

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 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 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 31, 2019

The last time award-winning author Erica S. Perl visited Book Life, we had some jaw-dropping reading fun learning about sharks and her new book Truth or Lie? Sharks!

We’re so glad she’s...

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 15, 2019

Teacher question: What is the most effective way to teach summarizing to our most struggling readers? How can we teach them how to summarize both literary and informational texts?

Shanahan's response:

Good choice. Of all of the literacy activities that you could have focused on, summarizing is the most powerful for elementary students....

July 15, 2019

This month, in celebration of the anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, we’re launching some out-of-this world reading fun that starts at Start with a Book with a new Space Rangers resource to help your young learners blast...

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 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.

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...

November 26, 2018

Teacher question: Last week, I read your blog about how to teach theme to students by having them track character changes across a story and determine what lesson the character learns to determine the overall theme. Can you offer advice on determining the main idea of an informational text? Specifically, for third grade, students must determine the main idea, recount the...

October 2, 2018

I admit it. I did not enjoy science and math very much when I was a kid. But new and fresh approaches in books for young readers (and I, of course, am still a young reader at heart) are sure to not only engage but inspire a new generation.  Many new books are sure add to an appreciation of the humanities.

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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...

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"I feel the need of reading. It is a loss to a man not to have grown up among books." —

Abraham Lincoln