Book Review – Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It

I am really enjoying the Kindle App on my iPad. This summer I read ‘Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It’.  As a former elementary teacher, I was familiar with many of the facts stated in the book.   Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools. It’s sad but true, our children are reading (emails, texts, blogs) but reading novels for pleasure is on the decline. Why? Well for many issues I answer, “don’t blame everything on the schools”. However, in this case, the educational system is partially to blame.  But it’s not the fault of the teachers, it’s what the insane pressure from high-stakes standardized testing has done to our schools. We are afraid NOT to spend huge amounts of time in test-prep. It is also due to this test pressure that teachers have lessened or completely abandoned the time devoted to independent reading (i.e. SSR). When we do read real literature, we chop it up and over-analyze it to the point that there is no enjoyment in it.  What can we educators do about this? Read the book. I was glad I did.

With the help of Kindle, here are some of the most popular quotes from the book:

“The stakes are high. If those students who enter schools linguistically impoverished—thirty-two million words behind—do not read extensively, they will never catch up. This bears repeating: struggling readers who do not read voraciously will never catch up.”

“WYTIWYG” (pronounced “witty-wig”): What You Test Is What You Get. Students immersed in massive test preparation classes receive massive amounts of shallow instruction. In the quest to raise scores and make teachers and administrators look good, our students are paying a price. Simply, a curriculum driven by multiple-choice assessments creates an oxymoron: many students are drowning in shallow “water.” When instruction is driven by narrow assessment, instruction itself is narrowed.

“Students who read the most for fun scored the highest on standardized reading tests.”

“Sternberg suggests that we should be emphasizing those skills that would make our students ‘expert citizens’: creativity, common sense, wisdom, ethics, dedication, honesty, teamwork, hard work, knowing how to win and how to lose, a sense of fair play, and lifelong learning.”

“Reading consists of two factors: (1) being able to decode words on the page and (2) being able to connect the words you are reading with the prior knowledge you bring to the page.”

“Want to extinguish an adolescent’s curiosity? Cover as much material as possible.

“Ray Bradbury said, ‘You don’t have to burn books to destroy culture. Just get people to stop reading them.’”

“If students are taught to read and write well, they will do fine on mandated reading tests. But if they are only taught to be test-takers, they will never learn to read and write well. A terrible price is paid when schools value the development of test-takers more than they value the development of readers.”

“Should our students be spending all their time chopping up the novel?”

“My job is twofold: (1) to introduce my students to books that are a shade too hard for them and (2) to use my expertise to help them navigate these texts in a way that brings value to their reading experience.”

“Schools value the development of test-takers more than they value the development of readers. Schools are limiting authentic reading experiences. Teachers are overteaching books. Teachers are underteaching books.”

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