07/05/2021 / Review

Striving to Thriving: How to Grow Confident, Capable Readers

A few years ago I attended the NYS Reading Conference and sat in on many fine presentations. On that day, I was lucky enough to listen to Stephanie Harvey present on helping struggling readers become confident readers. As an educator, Stephanie clearly knew how to engage her audience, offering funny quips and engaging questions for us to discuss with each other. The presentation was wonderful, the conversation was thoughtful, and I left with renewed ideas to help my struggling readers. I couldn't wait to purchase the book From Striving to Thriving: How to Grow Capable Readers that Stephanie co-authored with Annie Ward. 
It is not too often that one can say a professional text is an easy read, but this one certainly is. I believe this is because the authors address areas that most educators think about, consider, and sometimes struggle with. For instance, the idea of tabling labels and adopting a true growth mindset is important to helping confident, capable, and independent readers. Harvey and Ward write, "We need to make sure our kids develop a 'yet sensibility' as well." (page 52). 

This book is broken up into three major sections. Part one focuses on Trust and the need to create a comfortable and flexible classroom environment. This includes establishing spaces for small group instruction, collaboration and independent reading (see page 66). The discussion on how to "Table the Labels" is found in the part of the book offering questions to "Use...to drive responsive, learner-focused teaching based on what kids can do." (page 69). Building in time for reading as well as for kids to "explore, investigate, and research questions that interest them" offers great ideas and questions to drive our teaching. Finally, "Take Action" on page 126 offers ways to "Pump up the Reading Volume" in our classrooms. 

Part Two helps us "Teach" reading, offering "Three to Know Research on Thinking-Intensive Reading Instruction". (page 169) Here we are offered well researched strategies such as "Teach comprehension strategies explicitly," from the research led by P. David Pearson and then explored by Pearson, Dole, Duffy, and Roehler (1992) to provide ways to teach those strategies,  the "gradual release of responsibility" developed by P. David Pearson and Meg Gallagher (1983) and the power of the "Interactive Read Aloud" as an instructional strategy with research from Irene Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell. Throughout this part of the book each of the three strategies is thoughtfully presented, offering great ideas to explore and incorporate into our classrooms. 

As with the first two sections of this book, part three asks us to take action and  "Transform" our teaching. "Assess Readers in the Round" otherwise referred to as ARR is outlined in the "Take Action" providing the three steps of collecting "full spectrum data", discussing and analyzing the data with the striving reader, and having a discussion and set goals with the student and/or the family in a conference. What follows is a description of each of these steps. Conferring is essential in helping our readers and on page 210 a "Getting to Know Your Students" chart is offered showing what kind of information is important to collect. I personally like the topic of conferring because I very much agree that when we conference one-on-one with our readers facial expressions and body language help us understand what our students are thinking or how they are feeling about themselves as readers. (see page 210-211)

"Practices and Lessons" are offered as the end of this text. There are six chapters offering specific practices and lessons . For example, chapter 5 offers the practice of "Going the Extra Mile to Put the Right Book in a Striving Reader's Hands" and the lesson "Making a Reading Plan." (page 253) Additional materials are also shared for striving readers such as the why and what of "Shared Reading". 

This is a book that I will be spending time with this summer. 

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Kathleen Palmieri

Kathleen Palmieri is a National Board Certified Teacher, a National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Learning Facilitator, and a fifth grade educator in upstate New York. She reviews professional texts and writes education articles for Middleweb. As a writer with a passion for pedagogy, Kathleen's focus is on education practices and strategies, as well as her own experiences as an educator. She has presented at math conferences, writing workshops, actively collaborates in literacy projects, and networks globally.