Monday, November 11, 2013


Gallagher, Kelly. Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 2009. Print.

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Summary of the book from Kelly Gallagher's website:
"Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools. Reading is dying in our schools. Educators are familiar with many of the factors that have contributed to the decline — poverty, second-language issues, and the ever-expanding choices of electronic entertainment. In this provocative new book, Kelly Gallagher suggests, however, that it is time to recognize a new and significant contributor to the death of reading: our schools.

In Readicide, Kelly argues that American schools are actively (though unwittingly) furthering the decline of reading. Specifically, he contends that the standard instructional practices used in most schools are killing reading by:
• Valuing the development of test-takers over the development of lifelong readers;
• Mandating breadth over depth in instruction;
• Requiring students to read difficult texts without proper instructional support;
• Insisting that students focus solely on academic texts;
• Drowning great books with sticky notes, double-entry journals, and marginalia;
• Ignoring the importance of developing recreational reading;
• And losing sight of authentic instruction in the shadow of political pressures.

Kelly doesn't settle for only identifying the problems. Readicide provides teachers, literacy coaches, and administrators with specific steps to reverse the downward spiral in reading—steps that will help prevent the loss of another generation of readers."

My Thoughts
I'd heard something on my library list-serv about this book. My library already owned it, so I put it on my "to read" pile. Very interesting read (and only 118 pages)! I wish I'd read it while I was still an English teacher. I would have changed a few things about my teaching.  Fortunately, I still work with a group of high school students and think I can use some ideas with them. The book also confirmed some things I did right in the classroom and helped me think about how I can help students in my role as librarian.

Testing is killing curriculum. There is no question about this.  The data that administrators and legislators use to decide if teachers are doing their job are not factoring in the human component. Teachers are not producing widgets, we are trying to educate a human being. Each tester must fit into a box (yet, ironically, we constantly talk about thinking outside of boxes!).

I liked how Gallagher examines readicide and gives teachers some ideas on how to still play well with the people who care more about the test than the student while really helping students learn how to enjoy reading--even when the text is difficult. He states that "if students are taught to read and write well, they will do fine on mandated test" (Gallagher 26). YES!

We need to expose kids to authentic reading and give them experiences to have prior knowledge when they read. "Kids without prior knowledge are at a disadvantage, regardless of reading ability" (Gallagher 38). He gives an example from an actual state mandated test about "The Farrier." Students without prior knowledge had no idea what they were reading. He later gives an example using baseball. As an avid fan myself, I had to "decode" the words being used. I understood the words, but not always the meaning. Very eye-opening!

Gallagher also validates the use of SSR in the classroom. Gallagher states, "SSR is actually a valuable investment in test preparation...SSR is necessary to allow students an opportunity to build their prior knowledge and background...[and] SSR provides many students with their only opportunity to develop a recreational reading habit" (42). HIP, HIP, HOORAY from this teacher!

One of my favorite analogies Gallagher uses is the movie. He gives an anecdote about a student saying her reading time was "ruined by the teacher's insistence on repeatedly stopping to that students could analyze the book" (Gallagher 59).  He continues the explanation with a question, "Would you stay in a movie theater if the projectionist stopped the film twenty-two times?" (Gallagher 61).

This book is powerful! I want my English department buddies to read this; I want my principal to read this; I want our curriculum director to read this; I want my teacher friends in other schools to read this; I want my daughter's teachers to read this. In fact, I've changed my email signature to tell everyone they should read this book.

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