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What Readers Really Do (eBook)

Teaching the Process of Meaning Making

By Dorothy Barnhouse, Vicki Vinton

With practical tips for meeting today’s rigorous standards while reminding us of the deeper, enduring purposes of reading, What Readers Really Do helps you learn to notice and name what students do as readers to build identity and agency.


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Full Description

Drawing on their own lives as readers and writers and years of experience working in classrooms as coaches, staff developers, and consultants, Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton offer practical tips for meeting today’s rigorous standards while reminding us of the deeper, enduring purposes and process of reading.

In What Readers Really Do, you’ll peer into the minds and hearts of readers to notice the often invisible thinking work that goes into making meaning of texts—from comprehending where a scene is taking place to constructing thematic interpretations. And you’ll look into the authors’ own teaching minds and hearts as they unpack the moves and decisions they make to design and implement instruction that allows every student to make significant and personally relevant meaning of texts. Along the way, you’ll learn how to:

  • notice and name what students are doing as readers to build their identity and agency
  • move beyond simple strategy instruction to step students into more complex texts
  • show students how readers draft and revise as they read to promote engagement, self-monitoring, and deeper comprehension.

Filled with student voices and classroom examples including read-alouds, small groups, and conferences, What Readers Really Do will challenge, inspire, and empower you to become the insightful, independent teacher your students need you to be. And it will remind both you and your students why and how we really read.

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)


1: Stalking the Invisible: What Listening to Students Tells Us About Reading Instruction
2: What We Mean By Making Meaning: Noticing and Naming What We Do as Readers

3: How Readers Draft and Revise Their Way from Confusion to Clarity
4: How Readers Infer the Significance of Details
5: How Readers Look Closely at Patterns to Draft Understandings
6: How  Readers Put All the Parts Together to Revise Their Understandings
7: How Readers Evaluate the Worth of a Text by Questioning and Considering Its Relevance

1: Two-column Know/Wonder chart to help students keep track of their thinking.
2: Chart for tracking a pattern.
3: Chart for connecting patterns to think about possible ideas being shown.
4: Growing the Know/Wonder chart to draft interpretations about changing patterns.



“Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton link research with reading and teaching experience. In a very conversational style, full of examples, they help us to notice and understand the problems children face in their reading, and how to figure out teaching strategies to prevent those problems. Then they offer clear examples of lessons that turn children’s attention to the processes of reading. This is a book that helps us as teachers to develop a sense of agency as we learn how to build that sense in our students.”
—Peter Johnston, author of Choice Words and Chair of the Reading Department at the University at Albany–SUNY

“What I loved most about this book is that it is the best book that I have read about teaching reading in the age of the Common Core without billing itself as such. This book is all about reading closely and carefully.  Barnhouse and Vinton place a lot of emphasis on teaching children how to focus on details as a way of honing and revising their thinking about text…. All children need to learn to read deeply and Barnhouse and Vinton show us how to make that happen.”
Review by Kim Yaris at Literacy Builders

“This book brought a lot of my thinking together—thinking that I hadn't quite been able to articulate.  It was the perfect book for me as I get ready to go back to the classroom—thinking about building agency and independence in readers. I think this book also helped me think through the Common Core talk about close reading and text complexity. One of my favorite new books on literacy instruction!”
Review by Franki Sibberson at Reading Year

"[The CCSS standards] have drawn tremendous attention to 'close, careful reading' leaving many to wonder what this means, exactly. One of the best books that we know that deals with this topic is Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton’s What Readers Really Do: The Process of Meaning Making."
Review at Burkins and Yaris

Check out one teacher book group's discussion of What Readers Really Do.

Read out Amy Donnelly's review in NCTE's Language Arts journal.

Related PD Services

Email if you would like to contact Dorothy Barnhouse directly about professional development support.


Email if you would like to contact Vicki Vinton directly about professional development support.