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Reading Essentials

The Specifics You Need to Teach Reading Well

With research-based strategies and detailed lessons, Reading Essentials gets to the heart of what matters to kids, what kids need to know, how we can move them forward, and how to ensure that they comprehend and enjoy what they read—including struggling students.

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With all the controversy and confusion over "best practice" issues in teaching reading, someone with the necessary experience, the ability to take the long view, and most of all a level head is essential to set things straight. This is where Regie Routman steps in: giving clarity, support, specific demonstrations, and confidence to teachers so they can teach reading in a manner that is consistent with research and learning theory and respectful of students' needs, interests, and abilities. In Reading Essentials, she realistically describes how to achieve these goals—and get high test scores too.

Based on her continuing work teaching in schools, Routman proves that good teaching doesn't have to mean lots of hours spent planning. What's necessary is good thinking—thinking about what matters to kids, what kids need to know, how we can move them forward, and how to ensure that they comprehend and enjoy what they read—including struggling students. Readers will discover research-based strategies, immediately doable ideas, and detailed lessons—all based on an instructional framework that includes:

  • demonstrations
  • shared demonstrations
  • guided practice
  • independent practice.

Thoughout the text, Routman emphasizes the use of professional common sense and demonstrates how to maximize your time, making the most of every teachable moment. Practical, philosophical, and political, Reading Essentials gets to the heart of what excellent reading instruction is all about—and puts the fun back into your teaching.

Additional Resource Information

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  1. The Essential Reading Life
    1. Simplify your teaching life.
      • Why Reading Essentials?
        Be as knowledgeable as you can be.
        Teach what's essential to the well-being of the child.
        View teaching as an art supported by science.
    2. Bond with your students.
      • How does bonding work?
        Work your magic with students.
        Bring in stories.
        Get to know your students as readers.
    3. Share your reading life.
      • Share your reading habits.
        Show your students how you read.
  2. The Essential Reading Day
    1. Teach with a sense of urgency.
      • Do more teaching.
        Rely on an optimal learning model.
        Reduce isolated skills work.
        Maximize whole class teaching.
        Connect reading with writing.
        Take a look at an integrated reading-writing lesson in grades 1-2.
        Raise your expectations.
    2. Organize an outstanding classroom library.
      • Classroom libraries improve reading achievement.
        Take a critical look at your classroom library.
        Make classroom and school libraries attractive, comfortable, and accessible.
        Classroom libraries contribute to easy management during guided reading.
        There is no substitute for quality books.
    3. Plan for and monitor independent reading.
      • Students need to do more reading.
        What do we mean by an independent reading program?
        An independent reading program is essential.
        Depend on partner reading.
        Value independent reading in kindergarten.
        Teach students how to select "just right" books.
    4. Make assessment instruction's working partner.
      • Make assessment work for you and your students.
        Regularly evaluate students on the texts they are reading.
        Use standards and high stakes testing appropriately.
        Make ongoing accountability central to teaching reading.
  3. Teaching Essentials
    1. Teach comprehension.
      • Teach comprehension right from the start.
        Demonstrate that proficient readers use many strategies.
        Use texts that are easy enough and meaningful enough to support comprehension work.
        Keep fluency in perspective.
        Use standards and high stakes testing to improve comprehension.
        Use caution and common sense when teaching strategies.
    2. Emphasize shared reading.
      • Make shared reading an integral part of your reading program.
        Add shared read aloud.
        Listen in on several shared read aloud lessons.
    3. Examine guided reading.
      • Clarify guided reading for yourself.
        Be cautious about how you group children.
        Choose books for guided reading carefully.
        Establish a workable schedule.
        Be flexible about guided reading in kindergarten.
        Make management easy and meaningful.
        Plan your guided reading lessons with a focus on meaning.
        Framework for a guided reading lesson
        Excerpts from guided reading groups
  4. Advocacy Is Also Essential.
    1. Build on best practice, know the research, and use programs as a resource.
      • Build on best practices in teaching reading.
        Be knowledgeable about relevant research.
        Use programs only as a resource.
        Take professional responsibility for what you believe.
    2. You only have so much time.
      • Live an interesting life.
        Spend most of your planning time thinking about instruction and learning.
        Maximize your time, make every minute count.
        Make time for ongoing professional development.
        Do less, but do it more effectively.
Appendixes: guidelines, letters to parents, forms


Companion Resources

Recommended Literature by Grade Level, K-8, and Supplemental Literature