Reading for Understanding: A Guide to Improving Reading in Middle and High School Classrooms / Edition 1

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Published in Partnership with WestEd"A breath of fresh air! After reminding us that any teacher who puts a book in front of a student is a reading teacher, the authors give us a teacher-tested reading course for middle and high school students. They avoid the baloney in the present reading debates by paying attention to actual students. What they propose is an apprenticeship in using a tool kit for problem solving in reading. The tool kit itself is a combination of cognitive and social dimensions embedded in subjects. And, lo and behold, they can point to actual results."—Miles Myers, former executive director, National Council of Teachers of English"As a teacher of inner-city youth, I had tried every idea in my bag of tricks to get my kids to read. It wasn't until I started working with the reading apprenticeship approach that I was able to see changes in my students—in their scores, their attitudes, and their comprehension. The reading apprenticeship approach has completely changed the way I look at my students. Now I share my reading process and invite them to share their problem solving in the classroom. In the beginning of the year I hear, 'I hate this.' Over time I hear, 'I don't get this part, but I think I get this,' and finally, 'This is what I think this means.' More and more I hear, 'What are we reading next?'"—Rita Jensen, teacher, John Muir Middle School, San Leandro, California "Reading for Understanding should be in the hands of teachers, principals, superintAndents, curriculum coordinators, school board members, state educational leaders, university professors, and teachers in training. Engaging, to the point, and grounded in research, this book shares current work in progress, possible stumbling blocks, ideas to overcome them, and specific strategies with detailed examples. Most middle and high school teachers have little or no 'teaching reading' training. It is not too late and this book is a great start."—Judy Cunningham, pri

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It is rare to find the voice of such optimism regarding the possibility of dramatically improving the reading skills of students.... It is also rare to find a book that focuses on improving reading skills, acknowledging the critical role of libraries, both school and public, in accomplishing this task. This professional resource does both.... This book should be a required purchase for every professional collection in middle/junior high and high schools." (Voice of Youth Advocates, 8/01)

"Important and highly recommended." (Library Bookwatch, February 2003)

Reading instruction shouldn't end in elementary school. Middle school and high school teachers struggling to improve students' ability to comprehend what they read will appreciate this program that takes an interactive, problem-solving approach to reading, in which teachers serve as "master readers" to their "apprentices." The authors, a group of classroom teachers and education researchers, present their concept of reading apprenticeship and then move on to ideas for implementing reading apprenticeship in the classroom, including setting up a sustained silent reading program and using apprenticeship strategies in various subject areas. There are descriptions of how the approach has been used in various locales, as well as ideas for professional development. Appendices offer an academic literary curriculum as well as quantitative measurement of reading improvement using the program. One freshman urban high school class increased its average reading scores by over two years after using this approach for seven months. Worth a look for any teacher eager to improve adolescents' reading ability. (The Reading Apprenticeship Guidebook) 1999, NCTE/Jossey-Bass, 194p, figures, notes, 28cm, 99-006978, $22.95; NCTE members, $16.95. Ages Adult. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
It is rare to find a voice of such optimism regarding the possibility of dramatically improving the reading skills of students who reach the middle grades and high schools inadequately prepared to read and understand the texts required of them in all their content classes. It is also rare to find a book that focuses on improving reading skills, acknowledging the critical role of libraries, both school and public, in accomplishing this task. This professional resource does both. In it, the authors describe the Strategic Literacy Initiative, a research and professional development project based at WestEd, one of the nation's Regional Educational Laboratories. The Guide describes the initiative, which takes two forms. One is a reading-apprentice approach for teachers in all subject areas, and the other, using the same approach, is via a year-long course for students called Academic Literacy. Beginning with a conceptual discussion of the underpinnings of the program, the guide then provides a framework for understanding it, and continues with a description of how to implement an Academic Literacy course, complete with suggested activities. Descriptions of how teachers in the Strategic Literacy Network are embedding the approach in their regular classes and a discussion of professional development and how to establish a school-wide reading apprenticeship program complete the guide. Unfortunately, there is neither an index nor a bibliography. Source notes are provided at the end of each chapter. For most teachers, including school library media specialists, for whom this resource is not sufficient to get them started replicating the program, WestEd provides professional development workshops.Those interested in the Initiative can find additional information on the Web sites at and This book should be a required purchase for every professional collection in middle/junior high and high schools. Source Notes. 1999, Jossey-Bass, 193p, $19.95 Oversize pb. Ages Adult. Reviewer: Sue Rosenzweig SOURCE: VOYA, August 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 3)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787950453
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Series: Jossey-Bass Education Series
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,455,643
  • Product dimensions: 8.58 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

RUTH SCHOENBACH is project director for the Strategic Literacy Initiative at WestEd. For the past twenty-five years, she has worked as a classroom teacher, curriculum developer, and program innovator with a focus on literacy in diverse settings from preschool to adult education. CYNTHIA GREENLEAF is director of research for the Strategic Literacy Initiative at WestEd. For the past fifteen years, she has provided professional support to secondary teachers and studied the impact of classroom innovations on student learning and achievement. She has won several national awards for her research on classroom-based literacy learning. CHRISTINE CZIKO is co-director of the CLLAD Program at UC Berkeley's School of Education, where she works in teacher education. She taught English for twenty-five years in New York City and San Francisco public schools and worked as a teacher consultant for the New York City Writing Project. LORI HURWITZ is a teacher in the English Department at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School in San Francisco and a teacher consultant with the Strategic Literacy Initiative. She teaches Academic Literacy and assists other schools in implementing Academic Literacy courses.

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Read an Excerpt

Preface: Into the Heart of Reading

In a back room off the school library, a boisterous group of ninth-grade students talk about a newly developed yearlong course called Academic Literacy. They started the course in September, and it is now early December. We have asked these students to discuss their impressions so far. They are eager to talk.

LaKeisha starts, describing the new way she thinks about reading. ÒWhen you read,Ó she says, Òthere should be a little voice in your head like a storyteller is saying it. If it's not there, then you're just lookin' at the words.Ó Other students jump in, competing to be heard. They agree they are reading more than they used to. They talk about knowing what kinds of books they like and how to choose a book.

Michael leans back in his chair, arms crossed, and tosses out a mock complaint about his teacher: ÒMan, she's tryin' to be sneaky! She wants you to pick a book that you are interested in so you will read it more. That's like, what hooks you into reading.... She makes you find a book that you like so you have to read it. Because you like it.Ó

The talk shifts from choosing books to reading what they Òhave toÓ read for their classes. Jason speaks up about a history text he has been reading. ÒI understand the book more now,Ó he says. ÒBefore, it didn't make sense to me.Ó When asked why he thinks he understands more of his book now, he answers, ÒBecause I read differently now. Like when you're reading, if it doesn't make sense, you can try to restate it in your own words, or you can make questions so you can understand it better. Now I read in between the lines. I basically get into the story, into the heart of it--like reading deeper into what it is saying.Ó Others rush to agree.

The meeting ends forty-five minutes later with cookies and sodas for the students and, for us, a growing sense of excitement. We wonder what will happen as these young men and women become increasingly effective in their reading and begin to add to their self-images the dimension of successful reader. We know that one school year cannot reverse lifelong habits and attitudes about reading, and we realize that we have to continue to nurture this fragile growth. But we also believe in the resiliency and resources that adolescents bring to any challenge they are really determined to meet. We leave the room feeling optimistic about the academic future of these blossoming adolescent readers.

Why We Wrote This Book

The authors of this book are two classroom teachers and two senior staff members of a research and professional development project called the Strategic Literacy Initiative (SLI). We decided to write this book to explain how a number of urban adolescents have come to understand reading in new ways. We describe what is happening in dozens of middle and high school classrooms in which we and other teacher colleagues are working to implement a reading apprenticeship approach to literacy instruction. Our goal is to help secondary students become engaged, fluent, and competent readers of both academic and recreational texts. We want to invite teachers, school administrators, teacher researchers, and others to join us in this effort.

In this book, we


This book will assist middle school and high school classroom teachers in improving their students' ability to read materials ranging from textbooks to Web pages to novels and will increase students' interest in reading on their own. It will offer guidance to middle- and senior-level administrators such as language arts coordinators and curriculum administrators with responsibility for students' academic performance who are working to improve students' reading at the school or district level. The book will help middle and high school principals support teachers' efforts to increase students' reading ability. And finally, the book will inform educational policymakers and academics who are interested in issues of literacy, equity, and achievement.

Overview of the Contents

Part One introduces the concepts underlying our reading apprenticeship approach. We discuss both the need for improved reading ability among middle and high school students and the reasons we are optimistic that these students can learn not only to read textbooks and related materials with increased understanding but also to make reading an important part of their lives beyond the classroom (Chapter One). We then examine the complexity of reading and the importance of cognitive apprenticeships in its development. We offer a framework for understanding reading apprenticeship, based in four dimensions of classroom learning, and an overview of instructional approaches that support reading development for adolescent learners (Chapter Two).

Part Two describes how we have put the reading apprenticeship approach into practice. First, we set the scene with an overview of the students and curriculum of Academic Literacy, the yearlong reading course that we all helped conceptualize and design and that two of us taught to ninth graders at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School (Chapter Three). Then we present the ways we have put our theories into action, with detailed descriptions of the specific activities we used in Academic Literacy that have greatly improved not only our students' reading abilities but also the way our students think about reading (Chapters Four, Five, and Six). We then examine the ways our colleagues in the Strategic Literacy Network are embedding a reading apprenticeship approach in their regular English, science, social studies, and math classes (Chapter Seven). Finally, we discuss some of the challenges we and our colleagues face in implementing a reading apprenticeship approach in the light of diverse student needs, curriculum pressures, and increasing demands for testing and accountability (Chapter Eight).

In Part Three we discuss ideas for professional development and schoolwide work toward implementing a reading apprenticeship approach. We describe the methods we have used to help teachers become aware of their own reading skills, acquire a better understanding of the struggles students are experiencing with reading, and prepare to assume the role of master reader to their apprentice reader students (Chapter Nine). We conclude by suggesting ways teachers and administrators might create support for a schoolwide reading apprenticeship program (Chapter Ten).

Our aim in this book is to give readers a new way to think about teaching reading in all subject area classes. We encourage you to experiment with the key ideas, core practices, and sample lessons we weave throughout the book and to adapt and expand on ideas that you find promising. In the Epilogue we tell you how to get in touch with us; we ask you to share with us the impact of these ideas on your classrooms, your teaching, and your students; and we invite you to involve yourself in an ongoing, professional conversation.

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Table of Contents

Part I: Confronting the Problems of Middle and High School Reading.

1. Rethinking the Problem: Crisis and Opportunity.

2. The Reading Apprenticeship Framework.

Part II: Reading Apprenticeship in the Classroom.

3. Developing Academic Literacy.

4. Motivating Students to Take Control of Their Reading.

5. Acquiring Cognitive Tools for Reading.

6. Building Context, Text, and Disciplinary Knowledge.

7. Embedding Apprenticeship Strategies in Subject Area Classrooms.

8. Overcoming Obstacles in Implementation.

Part III: Beyond the Classroom.

9. Professional Development: Creating Communities of Master Readers.

10. Developing Schoolwide Reading Apprenticeship Programs.

Epilogue: Inviting Continuing Conversation.

Appendix A: Academic Literacy Curriculum.

Appendix B: Reading Assessment.

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