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…And with a Light Touch

Learning about Reading, Writing, and Teaching with First Graders

By Carol Avery
Foreword by Donald H Graves

Classroom teachers, parents, and anyone concerned with young children learning to read and write will appreciate this book for its honest look into a classroom, both its ups and its downs.

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Full Description

    "There is nothing more practical than a good theory," someone once said. "Well, this is the most practical inside-the-classroom book about the primary years that I’ve read to date."
    —From the Foreword by Donald Graves

With its first edition, …And with a Light Touch was immediately praised for its authentic portrayal of classroom life and learning. "It's my bible for teaching young children" and "It reads like a novel," said veteran and preservice teachers alike. Those with minimal background in children's literature have found the book a godsend. Every page rings true with the voice of a caring, real-life classroom teacher-one who marvels at what young children can do if given the chance to work in daily reading and writing workshops taught with a sensitive and responsive approach.

Now, Carol Avery offers a second edition, giving more insight and examples of children and a teacher learning together. Since her first edition, Carol has worked extensively in kindergarten and second grade, has had her own fourth- and sixth-grade classrooms, and has watched three grandchildren learn to read and write. Her latest edition incorporates Carol's stories and learning from these new experiences. It also expands sections on crafting writing, phonics instruction, read-alouds, and documenting assessment, and includes an updated bibliography. At the same time, it retains its focus on these major areas, addressed in depth:

  • the writing process—structuring daily writing workshops and the development of young writers
  • the reading process—structuring daily reading workshops and learning to read without a basal reader
  • children's literature—incorporating children's literature into the daily life of the classroom and stimulating children's responses to literature
  • classroom environment and tone—organizing and managing the classroom
  • expanding literacy—reading and writing across the curriculum and a focus on kindergarten
  • assessment—documenting and reporting student progress.

Throughout, Carol rejects the concept of "one right way" to teach, but believes instead that a responsive environment provides the greatest possibilities for student growth.

As Donald Graves notes, Carol shows "real children in the process of learning to learn". Classroom teachers, preservice teachers, parents, and anyone concerned with young children learning to read and write will appreciate this book for its honest look into a first-grade classroom, both its ups and its downs.

(click any section below to continue reading)


1. The Butterflies Are Being Born
2. The First Day of School
Environment and Tone
3. Classroom Climate: A Foundation for Learning
4. Planning and Preparing
5. Establishing and Managing a Writing Workshop
6. Mini-Lessons: Helping Children Craft Their Writing
7. Listening and Responding
8. From the Author's Chair
9. The Process of Publishing
Children's Literature
10. The Why, How, and What of Reading Aloud
11. Reader Response
12. Children Take Literature to Heart
13. Developing a Reading Workshop
14. Guided Reading and Literature Circles
15. Learning to Read
16. Learning Language: Phonics, Word Study, Spelling
Expanding Literacy
17. Lessons from Kindergarten
18. Reading and Writing in Math, Science, and Social Studies
Considering Student Progress
20. Reporting Student Growth
Afterword: Laura's Legacy
A. Conference Checklist
B. Publishing Conference Record
C. Directions for Bookbinding
D. Reading Conference Notes (Whole Class)
E. Reading Record (Individual)
F. Strategies and Skills of Written Language
G. Children's Books—Child-tested Favorites