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With Rigor for All, Second Edition

Meeting Common Core Standards for Reading Literature

By Carol Jago

Carol shows how to create English classrooms where students care about living literate lives and develop into proficient independent readers. With 50 percent new material, With Rigor For All, Second Edition, features integration of the Common Core State Standards as teaching touchstones.

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“The stakes are high. Without artful instruction, many students will never acquire the literacy skills they need not only to meet Common Core Standards but also to meet the challenges this brave new world is sure to deal them.”

Carol Jago

Again and again the Common Core Standards state that students must read “proficiently and independently” but how do we achieve this when students are groaning about having to read demanding literature and looking for ways to pass the class without turning pages? 
Carol Jago shows middle and high school teachers how to create English classrooms where students care about living literate lives and develop into proficient independent readers. With 50% new material, With Rigor for All, Second Edition features:

  • integration of the Common Core State Standards as teaching touchstones
  • YA lit pairings with classic texts to aid comprehension for middle and high school students
  • tips to motivate reluctant readers with immersion, encouragement, and small steps
  • a study guide and guidelines for curriculum development.

Students need books that mirror their own experiences and if you teach literature that you love, your students will be more likely to love it too. Let Carol show you how to create an individually designed curriculum in which students read literary works of comparable quality, complexity, and range and enjoy doing it!


Question 1: In chapter 7 you discussed testing that teaches (also one of my favorite chapters!) You gave me some great, realistic ideas for assessment. What advice would you give to teachers that feel they must “teach to the test?” Some teachers feel if they don’t assess the way their students are assessed on state exams they are not adequately preparing them. What would you say to those teachers?

  • Teaching to the test is a waste of time. Long term, it doesn't "take." The new Common Core assessments are going to include performance tasks that will require students to read and write extensively. I'm hoping this will help send the message that preparing students for the occasional high stakes moments is best accomplished by teaching them authentically to read and write well. And don't forget listening and speaking! If I were in charge of the world, every child would participate regularly in Socratic seminars -- critical thinking about critical texts, K-12.

Question 2: What do you think is the most important thing for teachers to understand or embrace as they move forward with implementing the Common Core State Standards?

  • The most important thing for teachers to understand about the Common Core is that it is a clarion call to accelerate learning in our classrooms. More is more when it comes to reading and writing. At the moment there is still too much filling out of worksheets going on in classrooms. Just calling the page a "graphic organizer" doesn't make it less of a fill-in-the-blanks task.

    How to include nonfiction along with literature? Have students read twice as much over the course of the year (easier said than done, I know!)

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)


Introduction: Teaching in Troublous Times
 1  Creating a Context for the Study of Literature
 2  Developing Proficient, Independent Readers
 3  Comprehending Complex Literature
 4  Redefining What We Ask Students to Do
 5  Reading Literature for Common Understanding
 6  Reading Literature in a State of Flow
 7 Testing That Teaches
 8  Reading the Media
 9  Motivating Reluctant Readers
10  Constructing and Using Lists


Companion Resources

Study Guide


Carol’s discussion of the impact of the Common Core Standards is of utmost importance at this moment and she specifically addresses those standards throughout the book, especially in Chapters 5, 8, and 9. Concrete examples, as well as the gray sidebars scattered throughout the text, are found in each chapter and provide a firm foundation for and insight into Carol’s theories and practices. Each example is specific, easily transferable and applicable to middle and high school classrooms, and occasionally even to college-level literature courses. Carol argues for teaching complex literary texts of any variety, and is argues that our students, by doing that challenging reading, and by writing about those challenging books, will change substantively, and for the better.  It is a challenge, Carol argues, that English teachers must meet rather than shirk, because it’s worth the effort.

The Leaflet, Volume 111, Number 1, Spring, 2012.
(The Leaflet is the academic journal of the New England Association of Teachers of English)

With Rigor for All is clear, interesting, and honest. I feel like I am talking to an old friend who feels the same way about teaching and learning as I do. Throughout the text, I see the respect Carol has for her students, her personal sense of self-efficacy and her plan to instill those feelings in her students.

Harriet D. Porton, Supervisor, Notre Dame of Maryland University

Just finished With Rigor for All, Second Edition and really enjoyed and admired it. I was raised on Dickens and Dostoevsky so I loved how Carol featured them in the book and in her classroom. When I was about 13 I actually bought a full set of Dickens’ novels (all crammed into 6 volumes) at an auction. They were too heavy to carry home, so I had to get my old Radio Flyer wagon to carry them. Thank you, Carol, for your work here and your passion for a type of reading that I treasure.

Thomas Newkirk, University of New Hampshire

I have a plethora of things marked that I can’t wait to share with colleagues in our PLC. So many of the things are directly part of my curriculum—Tom Sawyer, Paul Revere’s Ride, The Diary of Anne Frank, plot lines (how stories work), Poe, vocabulary formal study vs. vicarious learning. I could go on and on…Carol’s emphasis on students needing to love reading is at the core of what I do.

Jeanne Topic, Gregory Middle School, Team 8-1

I absolutely love With Rigor for All. In my role as the President of the International Reading Association Secondary Reading Interest Group, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about what the CCSS literacy standards will look like in social studies, history, science, and technical subjects. Reading With Rigor for All provided a clear illustration of what Standard 10: Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently, looks like in ELA compared to the content areas. It has provided clarity, language, and evidence about what is unique about reading literature independently and proficiently, compared to what reading to reason, to think, and to learn looks like in the other disciplines. Thank you!

Lori DiGisi, Ed.D., President of IRA Secondary Reading Interest Group

In this curriculum development guide for middle and high school English teachers, Carol Jago gives advice on using demanding literature to motivate and engage students. She warns of the uses and abuses of reading aloud and film in the classroom and offers ideas on developing students’ vocabularies, mapping complex sentence structures, and holding students accountable for their reading. She notes the limitations of objective tests and recommends unconventional summative assessment and essays. The author lists recommended books of many types, from short classics to contemporary novels about romantic relationships, action and adventure, books about the Middle East, and contemporary issues.

Book News Inc., Portland, OR

The first opportunity I had, I picked up With Rigor for All  and could barely put it down. It is decorated with notes in the margin, underlined sentences and post-it notes.

Christy Howard, English Language Arts Curriculum Specialist

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Email if you would like to contact Carol Jago directly about professional development support.