Motivation

May 26, 2020

I’m in Chicago in the 10th week of pandemic confinement. Even in states that are opening up, the schools are still closed, and some may remain closed in the fall. One suspects that there may be future extended school closings as well as this insidious virus works its way through our communities.

There is no research literature on education and pandemics.

But there is an all too...

April 6, 2020

Hello, Reading World! As with most of you, I’m sheltering in place … biding my time until the Great Pandemic Pandemonium subsides. Although despite being at what is currently an awkward (and apparently dangerous) age, I feel pretty safe locked down here in Chicago. Nevertheless, like all of you, I'm worried about family members who are on the front line in this fight, my...

March 28, 2020

Blast from the Past: This blog entry was first issued on June 30, 2014 and was reissued on March 28, 2020. As I re-introduce this piece, we are sheltering in place as is so much of the world. That means schools are closed in many places and teachers and parents are concerned about what is being lost from children's education. As with many of you, I've been trying to help...

March 10, 2020

Teachers can speak a lot of things into existence (a quiet line in the hallway, students sitting “criss, cross, applesauce”) but a love of reading isn’t one of them. Enthusiasm is a part of good teaching, but communicating a love of books isn’t the same thing as teaching reading. I learned that the hard way.

When reading comes easily, it’s easy to love it

Reading courses in my...

November 5, 2019

I don’t do this often, but occasionally a study that catches my eye is particularly pertinent to questions that teachers are asking me.

National surveys suggest that middle and high school teachers are increasingly likely to place kids in texts that are relatively easy to read (Rand, 2017; Thomas Fordham Foundation, 2018) — texts that are supposedly at the students’ “instructional...

September 3, 2019

Ready for a transition? Shorter days are here, signifying the end of summer and ushering the transition to back-to-school.

But there’s another transition on my mind — finding strong book choices for readers who fall between easy-to-read books and traditional chapter books and need practice building fluency and stamina.

Happily, award-winning author...

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...

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...

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....

June 28, 2019

Teacher question: Dr. Shanahan, I know that you don’t support independent reading at school. However, in my graduate program we are learning that research evidence shows that kids who read the most become the best readers. I don’t get why you don’t support this research-based practice.

Shanahan's response

In grad school my statistics...

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...

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...

May 6, 2019

Teacher question: In an effort to streamline the workshop model in our district, I am looking for your stance on focused independent reading and/or any articles that you have written that support the importance of students reading at school with a specific focus in mind rather than "reading just to read"?

Shanahan's response: 

...

January 14, 2019

As regular readers of this blog know, there is an entire segment of the literacy community who thinks I’m an idiot.

I’ve been married for a long time, so those kinds of judgments don’t usually bother me.

But let’s be honest, we all like to be liked, so another blog about why kids learn less from reading on their own is probably not in my best interest. And, that definitely is not...

August 13, 2018

Teacher questions:

Can you point us to any research regarding the practice of Book In a Bag sending leveled readers home with students each night? What do you think of “Books on the Bus?”

Shanahan's response:

I know of no research on either of these methods for increasing kids’ access to books. I checked both PscyInfo...

May 21, 2018

Summer is almost upon us. The days are growing longer, the sun is higher in the sky, and soon school will be over for the year. Our children’s thoughts now turn to swimming, skateboards, baseball, and bike riding.

Unfortunately, for far too many of kids, summer vacation is a time for forgetting. You’ve probably heard that “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” That’s certainly true...

May 15, 2018

Connecting kids with what they need to become engaged readers and learners includes personal and relevant experiences that build confidence. Tami Mounts shares some of the opportunities she’s found in her community to help encourage her own daughter find joy in the written word.

Tami Mount is a consulting editor and content developer for...

April 30, 2018

Teacher question:

I am a reading specialist and a parent. My daughter is in first grade. Her classroom teachers have all the books in the classroom library leveled, and students are not allowed to go beyond their reading level during "Independent" reading. If the teacher assesses a child inaccurately, then that child is stuck reading texts that may be too easy or...

April 9, 2018

The last couple weeks I’ve clarified the definition of “independent reading” and explored the impact of kids doing required reading on their own at school.

Independence is obviously a gradient; the independence teachers often refer to isn’t about whether kids must read or not (it is usually required in these schemes), but it is about who picks the texts and whether there is any...

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"What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person ..." —

Carl Sagan