Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach / Edition 5

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The market leader in literacy education, Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach continues to evolve to meet the needs of a changing world. Integrating the best of what we know about teaching reading and writing while implementing the ideas that will lead us into the future of education, the fifth edition provides the balance that you need to be successful in the classroom.

Balancing Student Learning and Teaching Procedures

  • New! Be Strategic!: These features help you identify and teach the cognitive strategies successful readers and writers use.
  • New! Nurturing English Learners: Expanded chapter sections focus on ways to scaffold students who are learning to read and write at the same time they’re learning to speak English.
  • New! Teaching Struggling Readers and Writers: Using recommendations drawn from research, these expanded features explain how to assist students who don’t meet grade-level standards.
  • New! Differentiating Instruction: A new chapter helps you understand how to vary instruction and provide interventions so that all students can be successful.

Balancing Explicit Instruction with Genuine Application

  • Compendium of Instructional Procedures: This invaluable resource provides you with a bank of step-by-step, evidence-based, teaching strategies.
  • New! New Literacies: These new features describe ways to prepare students for the literacy demands of the 21st century’s digital information and communication technologies.
  • Minilessons: These popular featurespresent clear, concise skill and strategy instruction, ready for you to take right into your classroom.
  • Booklists: These recommendations simplify your job of locating books to use in your classroom.
  • Chapter opening vignettes and authentic student work: As signature features of the text, these classroom stories demonstrate how effective teachers balance explicit instruction with authentic application.

Balancing Assessment and Instruction

  • New! Assessment. This strong chapter, placed early in the text, lays the groundwork for assessing students’ achievement and using the results to inform instruction.
  • Assessment Tools: These features recommend specific tests and informal assessments to use to screen, diagnose, and monitor students’ progress in reading and writing.


New! In the pages of this text you'll meet five second graders who are learning to read and write. You’re invited to go to the Literacy Portraits section of the MyEducationLab website to watch students and their inspiring teacher. There you’ll examine classroom footage and student artifacts that document a year-long case study of literacy learning.

  • Literacy Portraits: Viewing Guide features in every chapter direct you to case study video demonstrating how students develop as readers and writers.
  • Margin Notes direct you to Building Teaching Skills activities that help you refine your knowledge and prepare to teach reading and writing.
  • End of Chapter features outline all the resources on this robust website for you to explore to deepen your understanding of chapter topics.
  • To order this book WITH MyEducationLab, use either ISBN:

    ISBN-13: 9780136101406

    ISBN-10: 0136101402

    To order this book WITHOUT MyEducationLab use either ISBN:

    ISBN-13: 9780135028926

    ISBN-10: 0135028922

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Chapters are all very reader-friendly, chock full of up-to-date information, and engagingly written. I would definitely say it is current, accurate, and research-based. My students consistently have good things to say about the book, which is unusual for undergraduates taking a required methods course! They especially like the authentic vignettes that open each chapter, the clear organization, and the many summary tables. They clearly see the connection from theory to practice. They also like the Compendium of Instructional Procedures. I’d probably rate all chapters a 10 on a 10 point scale!

Bonnie Armbruster

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The book is very readable and the tables/charts are rally helpful. It’s very engaging for students. I love the English Learner and Struggling Reader features, and the compendium is awesome!

Laura S. Pardo, Hope College

This text is one of the finest literacy texts available to inspire and educate pre-service teachers in the ways to create a successful literacy classroom. The strength of this book is the engaging, easy-to-read style, and the Compendium of Instructional Procedures and video support provided.

Jean M. Casey

California State University , Long Beach

The most valuable feature of Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach is the Compendium of Instructional Procedures. Basic instructional procedures are easy to find and are described well. Our students purchase and read this textbook during their sophomore year. Throughout their junior and senior years they continue to use the compendium and glossary to review terms and find appropriate instructional methods as they complete field experience assignments. When graduation arrives, the book is well-worn but ready for the students to take with them into their first classrooms as a reference of effective literacy instructional techniques.

Helen Hoffner

Holy Family University

Literacy for the 21st Century is filled with a wealth of helpful information and resources for the literacy educator. The text is filled with helpful charts/tables and figures that condense the chapter topics and present hem in an organized and easily understood manner. Another strength is the many resources, instructional procedures, and mini-lessons that are integrated throughout chapters along with various authentic examples of how they are used in the classroom.

Preston Van Loon

Iowa Wesleyan College

This is a college textbook that all beginning teachers should keep through their early years of teaching and beyond. It’s an amazing resource.

Kristen Gehsmann

St. Michael’s College

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780135028926
  • Publisher: Pearson
  • Publication date: 1/16/2009
  • Series: MyEducationLab Series
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 5
  • Pages: 544
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Gail Tompkins I’m a teacher, first and foremost. I began my career as a first-grade teacher in Virginia in the 1970s. I remember one first grader who cried as the first day of school was ending. When I tried to comfort him, he sobbed accusingly, “I came to first grade to learn to read and write and you forgot to teach me.” The next day, I taught that child and his classmates to read and write! We made a small patterned book about one of the stuffed animals in the classroom. I wrote some of the words and the students supplied the others, and I duplicated copies of the book for each child. We practiced reading it until everyone memorized our little book. The children proudly took their books home to read to their parents. I’ve never forgotten that child’s comment and what it taught me: Teachers must understand their students and meet their expectations.

My first few years of teaching left me with more questions than answers, and I wanted to become a more effective teacher so I started taking graduate courses. In time I earned a master’s degree and then a doctorate in Reading/Language Arts, both from Virginia Tech. Through my graduate studies, I learned a lot of answers, but more importantly, I learned to keep on asking questions.

Then I began teaching at the university level. First I taught at Miami University in Ohio, then at the University of Oklahoma, and finally at California State University, Fresno. I’ve taught preservice teachers and practicing teachers working on master’s degrees, and I’ve directed doctoral dissertations. I’ve received awards for my teaching, including the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching at California State University, Fresno, and I was inducted into the California Reading Association’s Reading Hall of Fame. Throughout the years, my students have taught me as much as I taught them. I’m grateful to all of them for what I’ve learned.

I’ve been writing college textbooks for more than 20 years, and I think of the books I write as teaching, too. I’ll be teaching you as you read this text. As I write a book, I try to anticipate the questions you might ask and provide that information.

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Read an Excerpt

  • New reading methods texts pop up every year

Hope Madden UBETTDA 2 16 2004-12-10T19:24:00Z 2005-01-25T17:08:00Z 2005-01-25T17:08:00Z 5 1865 10635 Pearson Education 88 21 13060 9.4402 1599415718 Tompkins online Madden, Hope

{id: Tompkins preface}

What makes Literacy for the 21st Century the most valuable and relevant literacy text on the market?

As I revise each edition, working with teachers in the field and with pre-service teachers at the university level, I realize more and more that both new and experienced teachers need the best information about how students learn, ideas to create an environment that engages and addresses the needs of all students, and a deep understanding of the literacy methods that best address those needs. I also recognize that teachers need the specific tools to take into the classroom. My goal is to provide all this in a text that speaks directly to new and experienced teachers, modeling effective teaching, and helping you envision yourself using these methods in your classroom.

I have found that the best approach to sharing this information with you is through an authentic vision of today's classroom, a balanced approach to literacy, and the best research-based and classroom-tested practice I can provide.


I regularly visit and work in the classrooms of some very talented teachers, many of whom have been my students, and I am very pleased to profile them in this text. These teachers face the same opportunities and challenges that you will. They, too, have to find ways to be creative and motivating while being accountable tostate and federal requirements.

The classrooms I visit reflect the diversity you'll find anywhere in America. Most of these students are English learners, and they bring background knowledge and cultural understandings that challenge teachers to ensure they prepare learning experiences that meet the literacy needs of all students.

Good teachers, like those who generously share their experiences with me for this text, strive to help struggling readers develop solid literacy strategies and skills. They work with students who are eagerly learning to read and write and others who are unmotivated and resistant. They work to make sure all their students have the foundational literacy knowledge they need to succeed in life, and help them develop a love of reading as well.

  • Chapter opening vignettes and minilessons throughout chapters help you envision today's classrooms as these teachers share stories of successful literacy teaching with all their students, including English learners.
  • Student work samples that appear throughout chapters model assessment and evaluation, helping you recognize the ways students develop as readers and writers.

•    Instructional Procedures: Scenes from the Compendium is a new DVD, free with each text, that shares video footage of talented teachers and their compelling classroom scenes. These clips take you right into their classrooms to watch them use grand conversations, guided reading, interactive writing, and other procedures discussed in the text.

•    Classroom footage showcases masterful teachers using instructional procedures from the compendium.

•    Notes throughout chapters connect DVD clips with chapter content and Compendium procedures.

•    Activities on the Companion Website help new teachers deepen and apply their understanding of the DVD's instructional procedures.


This new edition strengthens and clarifies the importance of balancing literacy instruction, integrating essential skill development, strategy instruction, literature study, and authentic reading and writing experiences.

You will understand literacy instruction in terms of four foundational instructional approaches: basal reading programs, literature focus units, literature circles, and reading and writing workshop. Through these approaches, I provide you with strategies and skills within the context of authentic reading and writing experiences. You will find in these pages the principles, skills, strategies, and examples of literature that will empower you to get up to speed quickly.

  • Components of a Balanced Literacy Program features in every chapter show how the chapter's topic relates to the 10 components of a balanced literacy program. For example, how does teaching comprehension relate to strategy instruction, fluency, content-area reading, and writing? It's important that you understand how each chapter's topic impacts and supports the entire literacy program, and this feature gives you that information.


The four parts of the text are organized to build your background knowledge piece by piece, always integrating what you've just learned with new information being covered. I want you to see how a solid literacy program incorporates theory and research into teaching and assessment methods, and how they drive your instructional decisions.


  • Part 1: What Is a Balanced and Comprehensive Approach to Literacy Instruction? sets the stage for the methods and application to follow. The 8 principles of effective reading instruction outlined in Chapter 1 provide a strong, easily understood foundation for the entire book. You'll learn about how children learn, how to create a community of learners, how to organize instruction, implement assessment, and how to balance literacy instruction. You will also learn four theories supporting a balanced literacy approach. Chapter 2 builds on this foundation, focusing on the reading and writing processes, and readying you to learn how to work with your students.


  • Part 2: How Do Children Learn to Read and Write? consists of seven chapters that will help you implement a truly balanced approach to working with young readers and writers, covering phonics instruction, developing fluency and comprehension, and addressing assessment in a developmentally appropriate way.
  • Part 3: How Do Teachers Organize Literacy Instruction? applies the foundational concepts you learned in Parts 1 and 2, focusing on day to day classroom instruction. What does balanced literacy instruction look like in terms of basals, literature focus units, literature circles, reading and writing workshop, and content area literacy?


•    Part 4: Compendium of Instructional Procedures completes the text with a bank of classroom proven instructional procedures that will engage and motivate your students in reading and writing. The DVD that accompanies this text illustrates several of these procedures.

Classroom Practice

My primary goal in this text is to show you how to teach reading and writing effectively, how to create a classroom climate where literacy flourishes, and how to empower the diverse array of students that will populate your classrooms and help them function competently as literate adults in the twenty-first century.

Although there are many other useful ideas and strategies that can accomplish the goal of producing literate students, I have deliberately and painstakingly chosen research based, classroom tested ideas - the best of the best - as the focus of this textbook. With these in hand, you will be prepared to hit the ground running as you confidently implement effective methods. If you know how to be effective from the first day, you will have the confidence necessary to add to your bag of tricks as your experience guides your practice.

  • Nurturing English Learners features demonstrate how literacy elements, including cueing systems, basals, background knowledge, assessment, and phonemic awareness, must be redirected and aligned to meet the needs of English learners.
  • Scaffolding Struggling Readers features provide pivotal information on topics such as fluency, revising, the difficulty of vowels, vocabulary in content area texts, and comprehension to help students who struggle make real progress in developing literacy competency.
  • Minilessons offer clear, concise skill and strategy instruction, ready for you to take right into your classrooms!
  • Assessment Resources model classroom assessment to help you integrate assessment before, during, and after literacy instruction.

•    Part 4's Compendium of Instructional Procedures is composed of dozens of clearly articulated instructional methods will become an invaluable professional resource and ready classroom reference.

Integrating Media and the Standards

Today's school environment is one driven by state and federal mandates, and by standards. You will need a handy reference to the national IRA/NCTE Standards for Reading Professionals, as well as access to your own state's standards. You will also need to find ways to integrate these standards into your own teaching. On my Companion Website you will find the quick reference and teaching tools you need.

  • An NCTE/IRA Standards matrix will pinpoint chapter by chapter standards coverage.
  • A complete correlation of NCTE/IRA Standards and chapter content will help you conceptualize a standards-driven literacy classroom.
  • Online lessons keyed to the NCTE/IRA Standards will give you classroom tools. Link from these lessons to your own state's standards to adapt the lessons to meet both the national standards and the standards designed for your own state, and save your new lessons to your hard drive or on disk through the Online Portfolio. By the end of the class you will have compiled a wonderful bank of standards specific lessons to use with your own students.


Companion Website: This robust online support system offers many rich and meaningful ways to deepen and expand the information presented to you in the text.

  • IRA/NCTE Standards Integration, delivered through chapter correlations as well as adaptable lessons that can be saved to your hard drive or disk through the online portfolio, providing students with lessons to take right into their own classroom that align with both national and state standards.
  • Praxis practice questions help prepare pre-service teachers for the Praxis 2 exam. Link to Literacy for the 21st Century's Ready for Rica website to cater your practice specifically to California's teacher examination and California's standards.
  • Self-Assessments help users gauge their understanding of text concepts.
  • Field Activities help contextualize chapter content in a classroom setting.
  • Web Links provide useful connections to all standards and many other invaluable online literacy sources.
  • Chapter Objectives provide a useful advanced organizer for each chapter's online companion.

Electronic Instructor's Manual: This useful tool for instructors, available online at with an instructor's access code, provides rich instructional support, including:

  • A test bank including multiple choice and essay tests. Also available as a TestGen.
  • Power points specifically designed for each chapter
  • A Media Guide with suggestions for making the most of the text's accompanying DVD Instructional Procedures: Scenes from the Compendium
  • Chapter by chapter materials, including Chapter objectives, suggested readings, discussion questions, and in class activities.

Videos: Free to adopters, these videos can add depth to classroom concept coverage and promote discussion and analysis in class.

  • A VHS version of Instructional Procedures: Scenes from the Compendium is available upon request to professors whose classroom environment makes viewing footage from a VHS more convenient than watching as a class from the DVD.
  • Guidelines for Reading Comprehension Instruction (ISBN 0-13-031405-6) contains footage of Gail Tompkins providing guidance for pre-service and in-service literacy teachers.
  • Literacy Library: Video A (ISBN 0-13-042087-5) provides a collection of classroom segments where teachers and students are engaged in developing literacy lessons. Individual lessons include: reciprocal circles, inquiry methods for language and literacy, retelling, higher order thinking skills, letters and sound relationships, and reading for word problems.
  • Literacy Library: Video B (ISBN 0-13-112395-5) provides clear guidance for practicing guided reading with students.

CD ROM's: Several CD's are available to package with this new edition of Literacy for the 21st Century. Users can examine, re-examine, and manipulate genuine classroom footage to develop a deep and lasting understanding of highlighted instructional approaches and the ways they are effectively carried out in classrooms.

•    Writing Workshop (ISBN 0-13-117590-4). Experience the effective instruction that takes place in classroom communities by analyzing video footage of master teachers who integrate minilessons and strategy and skill development in the use of writing workshops. 

•    Literature Circles (ISBN 0-13-061167-0). Examine footage of a master teacher in an 8th grade literacy classroom. You will have the opportunity to observe the classroom footage, hear from the teachers and students involved, and consider the research behind the teachers' decisions.

•    Primary Grades Literacy Study a master teacher's approach to a K-3 integrated unit on insects.

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Table of Contents

Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach

Fifth edition


Chapter 1: Becoming an Effective Teacher of Reading






Information Processing Theory


The Phonological System

The Syntactic System

The Semantic System

The Pragmatic System


Characteristics of a Classroom Community

How to Create a Classroom Community



Modeled Reading and Writing

Shared Reading and Writing

Interactive Reading and Writing

Guided Reading and Writing

Independent Reading and Writing


Basal Reading Programs

Literature Focus Units

Literature Circles

Reading and Writing Workshop


Purposes of Classroom Assessment

Classroom Assessment Tools


Review: How Effective Teachers Teach Reading and Writing

Professional References

Children’s Book References

Chapter 2: Teaching the Reading and Writing Processes

Vignette: Mrs. Goodman’s Seventh Graders Read The Giver



Stage 1: Prereading

Activating Background Knowledge

Setting Purposes

Planning for Reading

Stage 2: Reading

Buddy Reading

Guided Reading

Shared Reading

Reading Aloud to Students

Stage 3: Responding

Writing in Reading Logs

Participating in Discussions

Stage 4: Exploring

Examining the Author’s Craft

Focusing on Words and Sentences

Teaching Minilessons

Stage 5: Applying

Reading Strategies and Skills

Types of Reading Strategies and Skills


Stage 1: Prewriting

Choosing a Topic

Considering Purpose and Form

Gathering and Organizing Ideas

Stage 2: Drafting

Stage 3: Revising

Rereading the Rough Draft

Sharing in Writing Groups

Making Revisions

Revising Centers

Stage 4: Editing


Correcting Errors

Stage 5: Publishing

Making Books

Sharing Writing

Writing Strategies

Qualities of Good Writing

Assessing Students’ Writing


Comparing the Two Processes

Classroom Connections


Professional References

Chapter 3: Assessing Students’ Literacy Development

Vignette: Mrs. McNeal Conducts Second-Quarter Assessment



Determining Students’ Reading Levels

Monitoring Students’ Progress

Diagnosing Students’ Strengths and Weaknesses

Documenting Students’ Learning


Why Are Portfolios Worthwhile?

Collecting Work in Portfolios

Involving Students in Self-Assessment

Showcasing Students’ Portfolios


Problems with High-Stakes Testing

Preparing for Standardized Tests

The Politics of High-Stakes Testing

Review: How Effective Teachers Assess Students’ Literacy Development

Professional References

Children’s Book References

Chapter 4: Working with the Youngest Readers and Writers

Vignette: Ms. McCloskey’s Students Become Readers and Writers



Concepts about Print

Assessing Students’ Concepts about Print

Concepts About Words

Environmental Print

Literacy Play Centers

Concepts about the Alphabet


Stage 1: Emergent Reading and Writing

Stage 2: Beginning Reading and Writing

Stage 3: Fluent Reading and Writing


Shared Reading

Language Experience Approach

Interactive Writing

Manuscript Handwriting

Writing Centers


Professioal References

Chapter 5: Cracking the Alphabetic Code

Vignette: Mrs. Firpo Teaches Phonics Using a Basal Reading Program



Components of Phonemic Awareness

Teaching Phonemic Awareness

Assessing Children’s Phonemic Awareness

Why Is Phonemic Awareness Important?


Phonics Concepts

Teaching Phonics

Assessing Students’ Phonics Knowledge

What’s the Role of Phonics in a Balanced Literacy Program?


Stages of Spelling Development

Teaching Spelling

Assessing Students’ Spelling

What’s the Controversy About Spelling Instruction?


Professional References

Children’s Book References

Chapter 6: Developing Fluent Readers and Writers

Vignette: Ms. Williams’ Students Learn High-Frequency Words



Word Recognition

Word Identification


The Components of Fluency

Promoting Reading Fluency

Developing Writing Fluency

Assessing Students’ Fluency


Professional References

Children’s Book References

Chapter 7: Expanding Students’ Knowledge of Words

Vignette: Mrs. Sanom’s Word Wizards Club



Levels of Word Knowledge

Incidental Word Learning

Why Is Vocabulary Knowledge Important?


Word-Study Concepts

Words to Study

Teaching Students about Words

Word-Study Activities

Word-Learning Strategies

Word Consciousness

Assessing Students’ Vocabulary Knowledge

Review: How Effective Teachers Expand Students’ Knowledge of Words

Professional References

Children’s Book References

Chapter 8: Facilitating Students’ Comprehension: Reader Factors

Vignette: Mrs. Donnelly Teaches Comprehension Strategies



Reader and Text Factors

Prerequisites to Comprehension

Background Knowledge



Comprehension Strategies

Activating Background Knowledge

Setting a Purpose





Determining Importance


Drawing Inferences




Comprehension Skills


Explicit Comprehension Instruction

Developing Comprehension Through Reading

Developing Comprehension Through Writing

Assessing Students’ Comprehension


The Teacher’s Role

Students’ Role

How to Engage Students in Reading and Writing

Assessing Students’ Motivation

Comparing Capable and Less Capable Readers and Writers

Review: How Effective Teachers Facilitate Readers’ Comprehension

Professional References

Children’s Book References

Chapter 9: Facilitating Students’ Comprehension: Text Factors

Vignette: Mr. Abrams’s Fourth Graders Learn About Frogs



Formats of Stories

Narrative Genres

Elements of Story Structure

Narrative Devices

Looking at the Text Factors in a Story


Nonfiction Genres

Expository Text Structures

Nonfiction Features

Looking at the Text Factors in an Informational Book


Formats of Poetry Books

Poetic Forms

Poetic Devices

Looking at the Text Factors in a Book of Poetry



Comprehension Strategies

Reading and Writing Activities

Assessing Students’ Knowledge About Text Factors

Review: How Effective Teachers Focus on Text Factors

Professional References

Chapter 10: Organizing for Instruction

Vignette: Fourth Graders Participate in a Yearlong Author Study



Components of Basal Reading Programs

Materials Included in Basal Reading Programs

Managing a Basal Reading Program


Steps in Developing a Unit

Units Featuring a Picture Book

Units Featuring a Novel

Units Featuring a Genre

Units Featuring an Author

Managing Literature Focus Units


Key Features of Literature Circles

Implementing Literature Circles

Using Literature Circles With Young Children

Managing Literature Circles


Reading Workshop

Writing Workshop

Managing a Workshop Classroom

Review: How Effective Teachers Organize for Instruction

Professional References

Children’s Book References

Chapter 11: Differentiating Reading and Writing Instruction

Vignette: Mrs. Shasky Differentiates Instruction



Grouping for Instruction

Text Sets of Reading Materials

Tiered Activities

Differentiated Projects


Struggling Readers

Struggling Writers

Working with Struggling Students

Review: How Effective Teachers Differentiate Literacy Instruction

Professional References

Children’s Book References

Chapter 12: Reading and Writing in the Content Areas

Vignette: Mrs. Zumwalt’s Third Graders Create Multigenre Projects



Reading Nonfiction Books

Writing as a Learning Tool

Writing to Demonstrate Learning


Features of Content-Area Textbooks

Making Content-Area Textbooks More Comprehensible

Learning How to Study

Why Aren’t Content-Area Textbooks Enough?


How to Develop a Thematic Unit

A First-Grade Unit on Trees

A Fourth-Grade Unit on Desert Ecosystems

A Sixth-Grade Unit on Ancient Egypt

Review: How Effective Teachers Use Reading and Writing in the Content Areas

Professional References

Children’s Book References

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Facing the Challenge: How Do Today's Teachers Chart a Course to Create Competent, Literate Citizens for Tomorrow?

Helping children become literate is one of the greatest challenges facing teachers today. As some teachers and researchers tout and defend one approach after another, parents are frightened that the new instructional methods aren't getting the job done. The media fuels the controversy with reports lamenting failing test scores and criticism that many schools are failing to produce literate citizens who can function competently.

I have written this textbook to blaze a pathway toward implementing a thoughtful, balanced approach to teaching reading and writing, a pathway that incorporates the most effective teaching approaches and strategies.

The second edition of Literacy for the Twenty-First Century: A Balanced Approach builds on the research-based approaches to literacy instruction outlined in the first edition, the most popular new reading methods textbook in a decade.

Why Is This Reader-Friendly Textbook a Best-Seller? Here's What Professors and Their Students Tell Us:

  • This comprehensive text presents several sound approaches to literacy instruction and guides teachers toward best practice in teaching skills as well as and strategies.
  • It functions equally well as a core text for traditional introduction to reading methods courses and for the newer literacy "block" courses.
  • The ten principles of effective reading instruction outlined in Chapter 1 provide a strong, easily understood foundation for the entire book.
  • The textiswritten with preservice teachers in mind; however, those teachers pressed into service in accelerated credential programs will find the book invaluable as a resource to get up and running quickly.
  • The easily accessible Compendium of Instructional Procedures at the back of the book offers 38 clearly articulated instructional methods, an invaluable resource and quick reference.
  • The text includes many lively descriptions of how real teachers teach reading and writing effectively, through vignettes opening each chapter and colorful part opening sections that present visual reinforcement of each major approach to teaching literacy.
  • The Review section at the end of each chapter includes a chart that contrasts effective and ineffective instructional practices related to the chapter topic.

What Is New in the Second Edition?

  1. Increased coverage of comprehension: an entire chapter is devoted to the most recent research on facilitating students' comprehension. This chapter details how to help students understand and make meaning from text, once they have learned to decode it.
  2. Still more on comprehension: check out the video free to adopters of this text in which the author herself presents her analysis of field-tested ideas to improve students' comprehension.
  3. More ways to use technology effectively as a resource. Not only are there more Technology Links features, but there are many website addresses provided throughout the text. These addresses are accompanied by brief annotations so readers can assess their usefulness.
  4. More ways to use technology effectively as a teaching tool. The Companion Website for the second edition ( offers opportunities for self-assessment; analysis, synthesis, and application of concepts; updated web addresses; and special information for teachers required to pass state tests in teaching reading in order to obtain credentials.
  5. Much more on assessment tools, including ideas for alternative assessment.
  6. Suggestions for the creative use of traditional basal readers, including the "guided reading" approach.
  7. A new full-color opener for Part III, featuring a middle school content-area unit on medieval life.

What Is the Purpose o f This Textbook?

My goal in this text is to show beginning teachers how to teach reading and writing effectively, how to create a classroom climate where literacy flourishes, and how to empower the diverse array of students in today's classrooms to function competently as literate adults in the twenty-first century. To that end, I have based the text on four contemporary theories of literacy learning: constructivist, interactive, socio-linguistic, and reader response theories.

Readers will learn how to implement a reading program with skills and strategies taught in context using a whole-part-whole organizational approach. The approach I take can, I believe, best be described as "balanced." Literature provides the major focus for reading instruction and for integrating the language arts. You will learn how to teach vital skills and useful strategies within the context of authentic reading and writing experiences. I have carefully selected the principles, skills, strategies, and examples of literature that will empower the beginning teacher to get up to speed quickly. In creating this textbook, I used knowledge I gleaned from a host of teachers who have been students in my beginning reading course over the years, and I also sifted through the array of practices and procedures proven effective in today's classrooms and with today's diverse student populations. Although there are many other useful ideas and strategies that can accomplish the goal of producing literate students, I have deliberately and painstakingly chosen research-based, classroom-tested ideas—the best of the best—as the focus of this textbook.

It is widely recognized that today's teachers need as many approaches and strategies in their repertoire as possible. However, I have carefully culled out a critical path for beginning teachers to follow. Why? Because it is important for beginning teachers of reading and writing to learn a few things well at the outset so that they are prepared to hit the ground running as they confidently implement effective methods. If you know how to be effective from the first day, you will have the confidence necessary to add to your bag of tricks as your experience guides you.

So, could it be argued that there are many more principles for effective teaching of reading and writing than the ten I outline in Chapter 1? Sure. But I am certain that the ten principles I present there will be memorable, useful, helpful, and effective. Does this textbook cover every permutation of every practice option? No. But I am sure that the 38 procedures outlined in detail in the Compendium at the back of the text constitute a memorable, useful, helpful, and effective critical mass of practice options on which you can build.

This textbook is neither an encyclopedia of reading methods nor a comprehensive history of reading. Rather, it is intended as a practical application of knowledge obtained from these encyclopedias and histories and, more important, from the experiences of hundreds of teachers across the country. Not only is the focus on practical application—the reason professors will adopt this book—but that focus is also the reason beginning teachers will keep this book.

How Is This Textbook Organized?

This book is organized into four sections. The three chapters in the first section address the question "What is a balanced approach to literacy instruction?" Chapter 1 sets out ten basic instructional principles on which to build balanced literacy instruction. These ten principles describe how effective teachers teach reading and writing. Chapter 2 explains the reading and writing processes that teachers use to teach reading and writing, no matter whether teachers are teaching literature focus units, literature circles, reading and writing workshop, or content area units. Chapter 3 describes both traditional and authentic assessment procedures.

Part II examines the question "How do children learn to read and write?" Chapter 4 is devoted to the special needs of emergent readers and writers (kindergartners and first graders). The basics of the alphabetic principle-phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling—are explained in Chapter 5. Chapter 6 explains word recognition and word identification and how students become fluent readers.

Answering the question "How do readers and writers construct meaning?" is the focus of Chapters 7 and through 9. Chapter 7 is devoted to vocabulary and how students refine their understanding of the meanings of words. Chapter 8 focuses on comprehension—the five comprehension processes, the metacognitive strategies that capable readers use, and comprehension activities during each stage of the reading process. Chapter 9 presents information about the structure of stories, informational books, and poetry. Students use their knowledge of the structure of texts in comprehending what they read.

The five chapters in Part IV answer the question "How do teachers organize literacy instruction?" Chapters on literature focus units, literature circles, reading and writing workshop, basal reading textbooks, and content area units show teachers how to set up their instructional programs based on the reading and writing processes described in Chapter 2.

What Are the Special Features?

I have included nine special features to increase the effectiveness of the text and to address the most current resources in the field of literacy.

Principles of Effective Reading Instruction. I set out a list of ten principles of effective reading instruction in Chapter 1, and these principles provide the foundation for the entire textbook. Near the end of each chapter (except Chapter 1), the Review section includes a feature in which I contrast effective and ineffective instructional practices related to the chapter topic. Instructors and students alike will find these features very interesting.

Vignettes. Starting with Chapter 2, I begin each chapter with a vignette in which you will see how a real teacher teaches the topic addressed in the chapter. These vignettes are rich and detailed, with chapter-opener photos, dialogue, student writing samples, and illustrations. Readers will be drawn into the story of literacy instruction in a real classroom as they build background and activate prior knowledge about the chapter's topic. Throughout the chapter, I refer readers to the vignette so that they can apply the concepts they are reading about and make connections to the world of practice.

Website Addresses. Annotated Internet website addresses are listed as margin notes in each chapter. These websites are suggested as resources that readers might use to extend their learning and read the most up-to-date information about guided reading, interactive writing, fluency, comprehension, literature circles, and other literacy topics. Instructors and students are also encouraged to visit Merrill/Prentice Hall's Companion Website at edition

Technology Links. Readers will learn about innovative uses of technology in teaching reading and writing through the Technology Links. Among the topics I present in these special features are screen reading using captioned text on television to develop reading fluency, electronic dialoguing to write back and forth to a reading buddy to respond to literature, videotape portfolios to document student learning, and interactive electronic books on CD-ROM to teach high-frequency words and phonics skills.

Chapter on the Reading and Writing Processes. In Chapter 2 I describe the reading and writing processes. These two processes provide the foundation for the chapters on how to organize the instructional programs, literature focus units (Chapter 10), literature circles (Chapter 11), reading and writing workshop (Chapter 12), basal reading textbooks (Chapter 13), and thematic units (Chapter 14).

Chapter on Breaking the Code. Chapter 5 focuses on the phonological system: phonemic awareness, phonics, and spelling. Phonics is a controversial topic in reading, and the position I take in this chapter is that phonics and related topics are part of a balanced literacy program and are best taught in the context of real literature using a whole-part-whole approach.

Chapter on Fluency. In Chapter 6 I explain that students in the primary grades need to develop strong word recognition skills so that they can automatically, read hundreds and hundreds of words in order to become fluent readers. That is, they can read quickly and with expression by the time they are third graders. Students also need to develop word identification tools, including phonemic and morphological analysis, so that they can decode unfamiliar words as they are reading.

Chapter on Comprehension. Chapter 8 delves into five comprehension processes and how teachers teach and assess each process. I set out 12 strategies that readers and writers use and explain the difference between strategies and skills. To emphasize the importance of helping children become strategic readers, I compare more-capable readers will less-capable readers and writers and conclude that more capable students have both more skills and more strategies, but what really separates the two groups is that more-capable readers are more strategic.

Compendium of Instructional Procedures. For your ready reference, the Compendium at the back of the book provides a comprehensive review of 38 instructional procedures used in literature-based reading classrooms, with step-by-step directions and student samples. The procedures are highlighted when they are mentioned in the text to cue readers to consult the Compendium for more detailed information.


Many people helped and encouraged me during the development of this text. My heartfelt thanks go to each of them. First, I want to thank my students at California State University, Fresno, who taught me while I taught them, and the teacher-consultants in the San Joaquin Valley Writing Project, who shared their expertise with me. Their insightful questions challenged and broadened my thinking.

Thanks, too, go to the teachers who welcomed me into their classrooms, showed me how they used literature in innovative ways, and allowed me to learn from them and their students. In particular, I want to express my appreciation to the teachers and students who appear in the vignettes: Eileen Boland, Tenaya Middle School, Fresno, CA; Jessica Bradshaw, Rocky Hill Elementary School, Exeter, CA: Roberta Dillon, Armona Elementary School, Armona, CA: Whitney Donnelly, Williams Ranch School, Penn Valley, CA; Laurie Goodman, Parkview Middle School, Armona, CA; Judy Hoddy, Hennessey School, Grass Valley, CA; Sally Mast, Thomas Elementary School, Fresno, CA; Kristi Ohashi, Terry Elementary School, Selma, CA; Jill Peterson, Mickey Cox Elementary School, Clovis, CA; Judy Roberts, Lincoln Elementary School, Madera, CA; Camilla Simmons, Charles Wright School, Merced, CA, and Darcy Williams, Aynesworth Elementary School, Fresno, CA. Thanks, too, to Sonja Wiens, Leavenworth Elementary School, Fresno, CA; Kimberly Clark, Aynesworth Elementary School, Fresno, CA; Lisa Coronado and Wendy Magill, Lincoln Elementary School, Madera, CA; Bob Dickinson, Williams Ranch School, Penn Valley, CA; Judith Salzberg and Mr. Lee, Charles Wright School, Merced, CA; Kim Ransdell, Armona Elementary School, Armona, CA, and their students also appeared in photos in the book. I also want to acknowledge Jenny Reno and the teachers and students at Western Hills Elementary School, Lawton, OK, and Carol Ochs, Jackson Elementary School, Norman, OK, who have been a part of each of the books I have written. I want also to thank the reviewers of my manuscript for their comments and insights: Judy A. Abbott, West Virginia University; Joanne E. Bernstein, Brooklyn College; Jean M. Casey, California State University, Long Beach; Carolyn L. Piazza, Florida State University; Thomas C. Potter, California State University, Northridge; Cheryl Rosaen, Michigan State University; and Sharyn Walker, Bowling Green State University.

Finally, I am indebted to Jeff Johnston and his team at Merrill/Prentice Hall in Columbus, Ohio, who produce so many high-quality publications. I am honored to be a Merrill author. Linda Scharp McElhiney continues to be the guiding force behind my work. I want to express my appreciation to Mary Irvin, who supervised the production of this book, and to Jonathan Lawrence, who has again dealt so expertly with production details and copyediting.

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  • Posted August 15, 2009

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    I used this textbook for a graduate course in Literacy. It did a great job of combining facts and anecdotal stories. The books one shortcoming was that I found it gave no specific help developing lesson plans for literacy.

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