Literacy at the Crossroads: Crucial Talk About Reading, Writing, and Other Teaching Dilemmas

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From ill-informed politicians, parents, and news reporters, the message is clear: whole language is to blame for illiteracy, declining test scores, and poor spelling and grammar skills. But is whole language - when accurately understood and practiced - truly at fault? Shouldn't we first question the ways in which teachers are trained, students are assessed, educators and parents are communicating, and funds are allocated?

Literacy at the Crossroads takes a hard look at these issues. By informing teachers about what's really happening in our schools, Routman opens up the educational dialogue and disproves some of the misconceptions that threaten good practice. She describes and clarifies critical concerns, suggesting actions we must take so that, in her words, "we can continue to do what's right and best for children."

True, there are problems with schools in America - but, according to Routman, back-to-basics instruction is not the solution. What's needed are teachers who are clear about their goals and outspoken about their beliefs. Here is a book that shows them how.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Regie's insight, practical suggestions, and can-do approach can't help but inspire teachers - and parents! This was a real page turner for me.”–Patricia Broderick, Teaching K8
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780435072100
  • Publisher: Heinemann
  • Publication date: 5/6/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 222
  • Sales rank: 1,451,505
  • Age range: 5 - 13 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.49 (d)

Meet the Author

Regie Routman's intimate knowledge of teaching and learning, down-to-earth style, and dedication to children's success have made her one of the most vibrant and respected names in literacy education. Her books, Teaching Essentials; Writing Essentials; Reading Essentials; Conversations; Literacy at the Crossroads; Invitations; The Blue Pages; and Transitions, all published by Heinemann, have encouraged hundreds of thousands of teachers to take charge of their professional learning and create efficient, joyful practices. Currently she is dedicating herself to a new, dynamic framework to support teachers' professional development. The DVD-based Regie Routman in Residence supports in-depth, yearlong literacy staff development that replicates the demonstration teaching she conducts in weeklong residencies and brings to life the practices she advocates in Teaching Essentials. Regie continues to inform and inspire teachers as a language arts coach in schools across the country, as a speaker at national conferences, and as a presenter of one-day workshops through Heinemann Professional Development.
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Table of Contents


Understanding the Backlash: What's Going on in Reading and Writing?

School Bashing: Do We Deserve the "Hits"?

Are Kids Poorer Readers Today?

Raising Our Goals for Teaching Reading

Are Kids Poorer Spellers Today?

The Controversy Over Phonics and Whole Language

Messages Parents Receive

Media Hype

Television's Prescriptive Point of View

Learning to Deal with the Media

What We Can Do to Get Our Messages Out

Lessons and Legacies from the Nineties: Learning from California and Other Places

California: Complex Issues Without Simple Solutions

Alief, Texas: Educators and Parents Learning to Work Together

Littleton, Colorado: A Conflict in Values and Beliefs

Fairfax County, Virginia: Innovation with Community Support

Whole Language: Rhetoric and Realities

Whole Language Hasn't Failed: We Have Failed Whole Language

What's Gone Wrong? Misinterpreting Whole Language

I'm Whole Language - I Don't Teach Phonics

Whole Language Teaching Requires More Support and Time to Evolve

Making Parents Part of the Process

What Does Whole Language Really Mean?

Defining Whole Language

Beliefs About Whole Language

Some Misconceptions of Whole Language

Some Key Principles and Practices of Whole Language

Whole Language at the University: An Excellent Model in Practice

Dissenting Voices in the Ranks

Reading Recovery Does Fit Under the Whole Language Umbrella

It's Not Necessary to Have Total Agreement to Have Unity

Becoming Political in Our Schools: The Need to Be Articulate, Astute, and Active

The Politics of Change

A Genuine Committee Process: Not Business as Usual

Lessons from Our Process of Change

Necessary Partnerships


Back to Basics: What Does It Mean?

Those Were the Good Old Days

Using Real Books and Paper and Pencil

Reviewing the Language-Learning Research of the Seventies

Understanding Language Learning by Looking at Ourselves

What We Can Do to Provide Good, Solid Reading Instruction

What We Can Do to Provide Good, Solid Writing Instruction

Reenvisioning "Back to Basics"

Phonics Phobia

Beyond "Sounding It Out"

What Does the Research Say About Phonics?

Commonsense Views About Phonics

The Push for Intensive Systematic Phonics: Why and How?

What We Can Do to Keep Phonics in Perspective

Spelling, Grammar, Handwriting, and Other "Questionable" Practices

Teaching the Skills

We Need to Do More Teaching

Sometimes, It's Okay to Tell Them

What's Happened to the Teaching of Spelling?

Putting Invented Spelling in Perspective

So, How Should I Teach Spelling?

Where Does Grammar Fit In?

We Still Need to Teach and Value Handwriting

Other Dilemmas

Using a Published Series: Pros and Cons

We Must Preserve Our Libraries

Teacher Education: Not Just the Job of the University

Changing Demographics

Standardized Testing and How to Deal with It

Still More Dilemmas


What Happens When We Empower Students and Teachers

Choice with Intention

Seeing Evaluation Through a New Lens

What Makes a Good Teacher?

Leading the Literacy Life We Want Our Students to Lead

Inquiry and Change: Become a Teacher-Researcher

Cultivate Your Interests

Take Charge of Your Own Professional Development and Learning

Using Our Literate Selves as Models for Teaching

Envisioning Ourselves as Writers

Make Time for Reflection, Writing, and Action


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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2000

    Important Reading For Educators

    Regie Routman definitely knows her audience. She writes to teachers and apeals to us to get involved. If we don't like the way things are going, its our fault for sitting back and WATCHING the pendulum of educational politics swing. She also discusses the many misconceptions of whole language and goes over both what whole language encompasses and what it does not. It did not ask us to throw out the baby with the bath water; there is definitely a place for phonics and direct instruction. It cleared up a lot of misconceptions for myself and turned me on to finding out more about getting involved in my community and how I educate.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2000

    Don't Listen To Her!

    This book, as well as her others, are the most influential, outstanding books I've ever read regarding the whole language approach. She is an amazing teacher who knows her stuff. Whole language can not immediately become successful, especially after you have been teaching the old, boring, non-productive version of language for so long. Regie states that it takes from 5 - 10 years to master whole language in your classroom. One year simply isn't enough for teachers to grab on. Regie states that you should take one step at a time, even if you accomplish one goal every year. That is enough. Phonics does not rule, it is not enough, and is boring for everyone involved. Worksheets with an apple on them and a traced letter A simply isnt enough and it isnt interesting to the children. You can teach letter pronounciation by reading an exciting book! And the best part is, they'll remember because they were interested! Regie is a master at her work, and all classrooms in the elementary grades should be taugh this way. Please read her books!

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