Readicide (Book Review)

26 Sep

Read-i-cide (noun): The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.

Readicide – How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher is a fantastic book that I should have read many years ago. It was published in 2009, and while some of the references to the the state of educational initiatives and politics seem a bit dated, the information and approaches are spot on. This year, I have returned to teaching Language and Literature. This book would make any Humanities, Language Arts, or Middle School/High School English teacher reflect on his/her practices. It is centered more on the teaching practices in the U.S. but I also think the anecdotes fit a lot of what I have observed in American international schools during my career. Parts of the book that resonated with me, include:

  • The over-analysis of books creates instruction that values the trivial at the expense of the meaningful. This “chop-chop” curriculum or step-by-step approach that we often see in novel studies bombards students with ‘goals’ and ‘habits of thinking’ is a recipe for readicide.
  • The over-teaching of literature prevents students from experiencing the place where all serious readers want to be – the reading flow.
  • The need for authentic reading, sustained silent reading or DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read), and the 50/50 goal of having students read for pleasure 50% of the time, while the remaining 50% is focused on classes reading a novel that focuses on the skills needed to unpack that novel.
  • The need to build classroom libraries, in addition to amazing school libraries. The middle school language arts classrooms at the American International School Chennai (India), my former school, has incredible classroom libraries and spaces to read. I felt like I was walking into a independent book store.
  • “Young readers are drowning in a sea of sticky notes, marginalia, and double-entry journals, and as a result, their love of reading is being killed in the one place where the nourishment of a reading habit should be occurring – in school” (Gallagher 59).
  • The importance of finding the balance between over-teaching and under-teaching a novel or text and what this looks like.

Along with The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, a book I read several years ago when I taught Humanities, Readicide gave me a lot of practical ideas and things to ponder about how we literacy skills. I have often observed very different philosophies between school divisions in how they view the teaching of reading. I feel like this book could bridge the divide and for departments to come up with common agreements and understandings that promote a love for reading while also supporting students to become better readers.

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