Friday, June 20, 2014

An Excerpt from my new book: Reading Workshop 2.0 (Heinemann, 2015)

A Reading Workshop 2.0 environment is designed to provide teachers and students with digital and web-based resources and technologies for reading, sharing, discussing, and analyzing children’s literature. These resources provide new avenues for breaking away from traditional ways of responding to one’s reading and new tools for accessing, sharing, analyzing and discussing what is being read.
As readers encounter children’s literature in new formats and platforms, the basic processes of reading, sharing, discussing and analyzing texts will change in some ways and remain the same in others. Because of these changes, new instructional approaches and resources will be required to support the development of young readers in a Reading Workshop 2.0 environment. In the second half of this book I will share specific instructional approaches and lesson ideas that take into account how digital and web-based resources impact reading, sharing, discussing and analyzing children’s literature.
Although these processes blend together in actual practice, I will present them separately here to provide some instructional approaches for supporting these processes individually. In real life and in classrooms, when does reading not entail some analysis, and when does sharing not blur into discussing? However, there are enough distinctions among the four processes being identified to warrant them being presented separately.
Let me begin by briefly defining each of the four processes that will make up the second half of the book:
1.    Reading – The ways in which readers read and access texts have changed drastically in the past ten years. E-readers, tablets, computers, and smartphones provide instant access to a wide variety of digitally based texts. Not only have the devices used to access texts changed because of digital technologies, the types of texts made available through these technologies and devices are different. Texts with hyperlinks, visual images, embedded video segments, interactive components, and new formats and design elements are commonplace. As our reading lives go digital, we have to consider the ramifications for how we access texts and the expansion of the features of the texts we access.
2.    Sharing – As readers, we archive and share what we read in new ways due to the resources available in digital environments. Readers now have digital bookshelves that house their collections, websites that keep track of the books they want to read, and chat rooms for sharing reviews of the books they read, and communication technologies for sending recommendations to their friends. Using digital highlighters, readers can share what is important in a text with anyone around the world willing to take a look at what they have highlighted. The ability to digitally catalog what has been read gives us a different perspective on ourselves as readers, and allows others to peer into our reading lives in new and exciting ways.
3.    Discussing – Whether we are face-to-face or across the globe, we can now discuss our favorite books with friends in real time (synchronous) or on our own schedule when we feel like adding our thoughts to a discussion board (asynchronous). We can use video conferencing technologies like Skype and Facetime to discuss ideas with other readers in our schools and around the globe in real time. In addition, there are many social media sites available for posting on-line reviews and participating in virtual book clubs. In today’s digital and web-based environments, we are able to discuss texts with different people, in different ways providing readers with new perspectives and new opportunities to consider what others think about the texts we read.

4.    Analyzing – There are numerous digital and web-based resources available for supporting readers’ analysis of the texts they read. Multimedia software like Glogster and Wordle allows readers to create and present interpretations in new and exciting formats. Technologies can be used to take images apart and make comments on them, highlight sections of texts, post analytical notes in the margins of texts, and provide ways to closely read and interrogate print and digital texts. This last section contains some of the most challenging, but also some of the most exciting, resources and instructional approaches to analyzing what we read.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Some Thoughts on Reading

Readers learn to read by reading. In some ways, it’s just that simple. No one can read a book for you. Yes, they can read a book to you, but that is different. If children don’t see themselves as readers, and don’t see the purposes for reading, why would they ever want to become readers? We have to establish routines and procedures in the reading workshop that provide access to interesting texts, time to read, and opportunities to share what has been read.
In addition, we have to stop asking readers to do things in the name of becoming a life-long reader that life-long readers would never tolerate. Asking readers to build dioramas, write book reports, fill in worksheets, or participate in round-robin reading simply needs to come to an end. We just need to finally say, ‘No.” In place of these worthless activities and outdated instructional approaches, we need to provide readers with demonstrations of the kinds of literate practices that life-long readers engage in, and provide instructional approaches that support the development of life-long readers. Doing things in the name of reading instruction that do not involve actually reading real texts seems pointless to me. It is crucial that we carefully examine those instructional practices that have no base of evidence of their effectiveness other than tradition and teacher control.

Reading should not be a competition, and books should not be seen as trophies. As Daniel Pennac suggested in Better Than Life, readers learn to read at their own pace, which may not be necessarily anybody else’s pace. Learning to read has its leaps forward and its sudden retreats, its periods of hunger and its long doldrums with no appetite. We need to recognize how individuals evolve as readers and support them on their journey so they begin to see themselves as capable readers.