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2011-01-10 Steve Gardiner Book Review: Readicide by Kelly Gallagher


I love it when I find myself saying, “Yes,” or “I knew that,” or “I've seen that,” as I read a book about teaching. One book that caused this effect is Readicide (Stenhouse Publishers, 2009) by Kelly Gallagher.


He defines readicide as “the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools” (p. 2).


Schools do this, according to Gallagher, by overteaching novels, analyzing them into small pieces leaving nothing left for the students to enjoy. They do this by assigning written response to everything students read. They do this by handing out endless worksheets.


To fight against this, Gallagher developed what he calls his 50/50 approach. He wants 50 percent of his students' reading to be academic and 50 percent to be for enjoyment. In an age of high stakes testing, many schools have removed independent reading from the school day, effectively removing reading for enjoyment from the lives of their students. According to Gallagher, schools are removing sustained silent reading programs because they are seen as “nonacademic” and do not help to prepare students for the mandated tests.


Gallagher remains optimistic about being able to help develop motivated readers because “school is where I have the opportunity to discuss books with my students. At school, students are given both time and a place to read interesting books. And at school, educators are more interested in developing lifelong readers than in developing short-term test-takers” (p. 4).


In his research, Gallagher looked at scores from the National Assessment for Educational Progress and reported that the NAEP learned that students who read for fun daily had higher scores on the NAEP assessment that those who did not. It seems logical, yet as Gallagher warns, schools are cutting back on time to read, places to read, and opportunities to enjoy reading.


Readicide is caused by overanalysis, Gallagher says. “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” (p. 59).


To stop readicide, Gallagher recommends giving students books, time, encouragement, and teacher modeling. Bring back the SSR sessions and give students a chance to find how much they enjoy reading.


I nod and say “Yes.” I couldn't agree more.

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