Thank you to Darryl for inviting me to speak at the SLG conference. I very much look forward to exploring the development of the reading mind with Darryl and anyone else on the forum.
I am delighted that Darryl’s first volley was Reading Nonfiction by Beers & Probst; the book that first got me thinking about the reading mind, especially in the context of struggling readers, is called When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do and it is by Kylene Beers (2002). This book has been a metaphorical bible for me as a teacher and intervention specialist looking for ways to improve the academic and life chances of students.
Beers and Probst have another book, Disrupted Thinking: Why How We Read Matters (2017). In it, they talk about reading as more than retrieval and extraction; they advocate interaction with text – teaching students how to read with curiosity, how to ask questions and how to let what they read change them. They conclude by stating (p. 162):
Perhaps, therefore, the most important thing we do with children is to ask them to consider how they might have revised their thinking as a result of reading. ‘How has this book or story touched you, made you think again about who you are or what you value? How has this text changed your thinking?’
As educators, we need to teach students how to develop the ability to allow text to ‘disrupt’ thinking – and we need to provide a multitude of opportunities for them to engage with challenging fiction and non-fiction from a variety of viewpoints. In our keynote, I am hoping that we can provide practical strategies that librarians, leaders and teachers can use to develop the reading mind.
My name is Alice and I am the Literacy Coordinator and Reading Intervention Specialist at King Alfred’s Academy in Wantage. I am currently working on three areas: building a reading culture; helping struggling readers; and developing academic reading (and the teaching of academic vocabulary) across the curriculum. I have created a website with numerous resources linked to these areas: http://www.readingforpleasureandprogress.com.
I am from the United States but have lived in Europe since 1991 (Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland, Germany, UK) with my Dutch husband. I have five children now aged 23-16; all have multiple nationalities (‘Where are you from?’ is a complicated question for them). My undergraduate degree is in History & International Relations and my first MA was in International Relations. I taught IB and IGCSE History for a few years before children. In 2005 we moved to the UK and I did an MA in Children’s Literature (Roehampton University); in 2013 I re-trained as an English teacher and have worked at a comprehensive ever since. Fifty percent of my timetable is allocated to improving literacy across the school. When I started at my multi-site school, two of three sites did not have a functional library, and the third site (for Years 7/8) had a library that was mostly used for detentions. We have since moved to two sites and the library for Year 7/8 in particular is dynamic as far as supporting reading for pleasure is concerned — but more work needs to be done on information literacy on both sites. We have also developed a rigorous programme to support and monitor struggling readers; one component of this is a community volunteer ‘Reading Partner’ programme which takes place in the library.
A significant part of my work at the moment is to encourage teachers to use complex (academic) texts from ‘real world’ sources in their lessons. Traditionally students have been ‘spoon-fed’ small chunks of information (usually in the form of worksheets or textbooks). This makes it difficult for them to see the connections between various things they learn, and it also means that their enthusiasm and stamina for longer complex texts is reduced. I have introduced pre-reading, during reading and after reading strategies across the school to support teaching of and learning from these texts and have led CPDs on effective teaching of academic vocabulary. I have also been involved in team-teaching to model good practice. My hope is that both students and teachers feel empowered to engage with and critically reflect on a wide range of texts from well-respected, informative, thought-provoking sources.