In the Name of Reading Education

This is my last post in 2014. I promise I will be better about posting book reviews more regularly in the new year. So for now, here is one last rant to close out 2014. Happy Holidays!

As I have been writing my new book, which will be out in Spring 2015, I have been wandering the internet for resources and have uncovered an unfortunate trend: teachers still do crap in the name of teaching children to read that life-long readers would never tolerate. I have seen so many "alternative" to book reports postings, using digital resources to make kids do the same waste-of-time assignments I tried to rally against when I write my first book on the Reading Workshop in 2001.

Why does anyone think having children post images on Pinterest from their iPads is any more worthwhile than writing book reports on paper plates? Why waste their time? The next thing you know someone will be suggesting that we use auto-cad architectural programs to build digital dioramas.
So what should we ask young readers to do when they have finished reading? The answer is only asking them to do the same things we do ourselves when we finish reading. We share ideas with other readers, make suggestions, read another book, conduct research, go out and play, buy another book like the one we read, we talk, and we write about the books we love on a goodreads website or blogs like this for other readers to read. That's about it for me. I don't make trailers, I don't build collages or write found poetry, and I definitely don't cook food from the book.


  1. Oh, Doctor Serafini!
    We are all looking for ways to help students to show what they know about their independent reading books. The absolute most important way to assess comprehension and love of a book is discussion with others, I agree. But I have found it worthwhile to suggest to a student who "hates" an ending to rewrite it -- see how it can change/improve, and then share it with peers.

    You know I'm going to remind you of the diorama my team made for your after reading in Indianapolis. We HAD to discuss the book, find the parts that we wanted to share, and create that diorama in a way that would relate our understanding of the book. Plus, it was an enjoyable way to engage with each other: no set "comprehension questions," no quiz; we just talked and shared and made you laugh!

    Don't get me wrong, I would never cook food from a book. I don't need the extra calories.

    Thank you for your rant. Thank you for reading my reply. Have a GREAT holiday season!

  2. I think the reason teachers feel this need to have some record of what children have read comes from this Big Brother mistrust of our profession, but also speaks to our lack of resilience to teach literacy in a generative way. If someone comes into my class and asks how I know the children have read 10 books this term, my response would be, 'Why don't you ask them?' I wouldn't go scurrying off to find a file with book reports written in - a sure fire way of preventing any boy in your class from reading more than one book -(he would tell you about anyway). You can tell my class are readers by talking to them.
    I teach 5 and 6 year olds and in our Key Stage we have 'dialogic book talk groups' which are differentiated according to the child's English language proficiency.
    We look at books and talk about them as an authentic experience. As we're exploring a book we talk about the illustrations, what we think the author is thinking about or what their viewpoint is, we ask questions to each other such as 'What is the Straight Line Wonder telling us?' 'Do you have a story like Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters in your home language?'
    After we've read the book we don't go and make clay models of the characters. We don't make a poster about the main idea. We don't bake a cake for the plot.
    We talk to our friends in another group - maybe- and recommend the book we explored.
    These are what makes readers want to go on enjoying literature and develop into critically literate adults.

    Keep ranting Frank. Happy Holidays!

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  4. but it was the discussion, not the building of the diorama that was where comprehension occurred. It was funny, yes, but the diorama you built did not show what you learned as you read - it was the talk. We dip too much crap in the name of reading 0 that is still my point
    Happy New Years

  5. and rewriting an ending does a disservice to the author - have them write their own story

  6. Thank you for the conversation. Happy New Year to you as well!


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