Welcome, Kelly Gallagher!

Kelly Gallagher, author of the upcoming Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It (available to read online here), has been on a blog tour all week.  Today I am thrilled to introduce him here, at TheReadingZone!  For the past few days, Kelly has been answering questions posed by you, the readers.  I am thrilled to include his responses here!

From Ann- As a teacher, what can I do about programs like Accelerated Reader? How do I keep my job (as an untenured teacher) but still instill that passion for reading in my students?

 

The key word in the question is “untenured.”  :) The good news is that AR
allows students to read real books…and good books, too. The bad news is
that the love of reading is undermined by the dumb quizzes and the quest for
points. I would explore ways of using the books but reducing the quizzes and
point grubbing (See McQuillan’s study in Readicide). Read Alfie Kohn¹s
Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes—great book.

After you are tenured, close the door and do what you think is best for your
kids. Take a more active stance. Educate others on the long-term
de-motivation caused by  ³carrot² programs. Model, model, model. Surround
kids with great books.

 

From Clix- Oh! I’d want to know if he has a blog ;)

I don’t, but I do have a website, www.kellygallagher.org

 

From Lisa: I have been flipping through and reading over at The Tempered Radical. I guess my big question is how do we help them love reading AND do well on the test. Obviously we have to care about the test whether we actually care about it or not. : ) I have my own ideas on this subject, but would like to hear his.

If you turn students into readers, they will do fine on the tests. There is
a direct and strong correlation between time spent reading and performance
on mandated reading tests. Not surprisingly, students who do the most
reading are the students who score highest. Conversely, students who do the
least amount of reading frequently score the lowest. If we want our students
to score higher, they have to read more. Incidentally, I have not had a
single student in over 20 years of teaching who was a non-reader and who
also scored high on the verbal section of the SAT. Not one. On the other
hand, I can pretty much predict which of my students will score well on the
exam before they take it. You guessed it: the readers.

 

It seems that reward programs for reading are all the rage now- from AR (Accelerated Reader) to Scholastic’s Read 180. How does a teacher work with these mandated programs when the district is unable to purchase more than a few dozen tests? In other words, when students must complete reward programs but can only choose books from a small, preselected list (that often includes more classics than anything else!), how does a teacher continue “the good fight”?

 

The best thing about AR is that it gets kids to read good books. The worst
thing about AR is it ties all reading to a stupid reward system‹a system
that teaches students to read because they can earn points (instead of
reading because of the value of reading itself). I believe this harms young
readers. Many studies have shown that reward systems like AR actually
decrease reading motivation once the ³treatment² is finished.
If your administration forces you to use the program, try to get them to
change their minds. I think the first thing teachers can do is challenge the
school¹s decision to use the program. Ask to see justification‹studies that
indicate that there is a long-term benefit from using the program. Share the
McQuillan study (and others) cited in Readicide. Ask administrators what we
are really teaching kids about reading when we tie all their reading
activity to earning points from shallow multiple-choice assessments.
Worst case scenario: do everything possible to augment your classroom
library. In Reading Reasons I discuss a number of ways one can build a
classroom library without breaking the bank.


As soon as I hear back from Kelly, I will update with his responses.  But what do you think of Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It? I have been recommending it to everyone I know and I think this is one of those books that will change the culture of our schools. It may start small, but people are going to be talking about this one! I absolutely agree with Kelly and his assessment of reading in our schools. See my review here.
Thanks goes out to Kelly Gallagher, as well to as the teachers who submitted questions. I appreciate Mr. Gallagher including TheReadingZone on his blog tour and wish him well as he continues his tour!

Readicide by Kelly Gallagher

On January 26th, Kelly Gallagher will be here at TheReadingZone answering your questions!  His newest book, Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, will be released on February 10, 2009. However, thanks to Stenhouse, we can get a sneak peek at the entire book before Kelly stops by!

So here is your assignment: Get reading! I have read the book and it is amazing- count on a review in the next few days. However, now I need you to read the book. This is your chance to pick the brain of Kelly Gallagher….when will you get this chance again?

You don’t need to read the entire book. One of my favorite chapters is Chapter 2: Endangered Minds (beginning on page 27). Gallagher presents a flood of information on the dearth of reading material in our schools and the effects on our kids’ reading. Read it, make notes, and come back here to post your questions! Kelly will be here on January 26th and I can’t wait!

Kelly will be participating in a five-stop blog book tour. Each of the following blogs will post either a Q&A with Kelly, or a review of the book, or will give you the opportunity to submit questions to Kelly. So browse the book and then check out all of these blogs in the coming days and discuss this vitally important topic!

Blog tour dates and stops:

1/20 – A Year of Reading 
1/22 – The Tempered Radical 
1/23 – The Dream Teacher 
1/26 – The Reading Zone 
1/28 – The Book Whisperer < span>

Kelly Gallagher Is Coming!

On January 26th Kelly Gallagher will be stopping by to answer questions from you, my readers!  Kelly has a new book coming out and it is amazing. Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do about It is being added to my list of “bible books”.  I am only about halfway through it right now, but I just keep finding myself nodding along with it and sometimes yelling, “YES!”, after reading a chapter.  

Don’t worry, around January 14th I will be able to share a link to the full text of the book so that you can also read over the book before asking Kelly your questions.  This is an amazing opportunity from Stenhouse and I am so excited to be a part of it.  So mark your calendars!k

Mary Pope Osborne Blog Tour!

Recently, I read Magic Tree House #40: Eve of the Emperor Penguin for the Cybil Middle Grade category. When the opportunity arose to interview Mary Pope Osborne, I jumped on it! Below is our interview.

 

Welcome to TheReadingZone!  Thanks so much for stopping by.  My younger sister is a fan of The Magic Tree House series, and she is dying to know how you get your ideas. Do you pick a topic (such as Antarctica) and then write the story around it? Or does the story come to you first?

After a lot of thinking and talking to kids, I pick a topic and start researching it. I scribble for weeks, filling notebooks with ideas and information. Then I organize all my notes and thoughts, and as I’m doing this, things start to swirl in my head, and I start writing little bits here and there. I grab more books and look up more things, and the next thing I know, Jack and Annie are saying this and doing that…and I’m running to catch up with them.

 

How hard is it to tread the line between including too much information about a topic and not enough? In other words, do you ever struggle with fitting in the information about a specific topic without hindering the story?

If I want to share more information and it doesn’t fit the story, I can put it in the notes at the back of the book. Or my sister Natalie Pope Boyce (who now writes the Magic Tree House Research Guides) can put it in her book of nonfiction that acts as a companion to the fiction book.

 

Where do you write? Do you have a special room, or a desk, or do you have to leave your house to write? Do you follow a special routine, like writing at specific times or a certain number of words per day?

The only routine I have is that I have no routine. You could catch me at work any time, day or night, writing a chapter or just writing a paragraph. No two days are ever the same. Now I mostly work in my study in Connecticut, as it overlooks a lake and has tons of bookshelves, a fireplace and 3 dog beds for 3 dogs. But for almost 30 years I wrote in New York City, and because our apartment was so small, I worked all over town, writing in libraries, parks, cafes and coffee shops.

 

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Did you start as a young child or was it a decision made later in life?

I didn’t decide to be a writer until my late 20’s. Once I figured out that’s what I loved to do more than anything else, I couldn’t imagine ever doing anything else.

 

And last, but not least, as a teacher I have to ask this. What is the best memory you have of a teacher in your life?

Well, I grew up going to many different schools, as my dad was in the army. So my memories about school are pretty jumbled. But my high school English teacher, Miss Davis, sticks in my mind. I mostly remember that she loved praised good writing and would talk passionately about books she loved. I was always glad to go to her class and be in her sunny presence; and I remembering feeling really sad when during the school year, she got married (for the first time, at age 50!) and moved away.

 

 

Wow, Mary!  Thanks for sharing!  

 

The Magic Tree House books are awesome early chapter books and kids eat them up.  If you are still looking for a holiday gift for a young reader in your life, Mary Pope Osborne’s series is a surefire winner!

 

 

Be sure to check out the rest of Mary Pope Osborne’s blog tour this week!

Monday 12/15: Big A little a

Tuesday 12/16: Here

Wednesday 12/17: Fields of Gold

Thursday 12/18: The Page Flipper

Friday 12/19: The Well- Read Child

Interview with Mary Pope Osborne!

Tomorrow I will welcome Mary Pope Osborne to TheReadingZone!  Stay tuned for a great interview.

In the mean time, check out the rest of the blog tour that Mary Pope Osborne is on this week!

Monday 12/15: Big A little a

Tuesday 12/16: Here

Wednesday 12/17: Fields of Gold

Thursday 12/18: The Page Flipper

Friday 12/19: The Well- Read Child

Interview with Terri Fields

After reading My Father’s Son, I was dying to know what inspired this awesome story of a teenage boy whose world is turned upside-down when his dad is arrested and accused of being a serial killer. Luckily, the wonderful Terri Fields was kid enough to answer a few of my questions. Below is my interview with her!

I absolutely loved reading your latest YA, My Father’s Son. What inspired you to write My Father’s Son? Was there a certain case in the media that made you start thinking about the families of those accused of horrible crimes?

I was interested in the idea that we want to see our parents only in the role we have conceived for them. Teens, especially, have so much other turmoil in life that their parents are supposed to be a constant.
But is that reality? To investigate, I created a very extreme plot situation.

It’s awful, but it seems like these crimes are in the news more often in recent years.  How did you go about researching for the book (if there was any research necessary)? Did you interview family members? Read newspaper articles?

I read a lot about serial killers, especially BTK, whose family believed him to be an honorable citizen and loving dad right up until he was caught.

As someone who feels like there aren’t enough hours in a day (which is why it took ten days to get these questions to you!), I would love to know how you make time to write! Are you a full-time writer or do you have a day job? And what is your daily writing routine like?

I have just retired from teaching. I now have two part-time jobs related to education that still enable me to work with students and teachers. I think that’s important because it helps keep my voice honest. I also do tons of author visits which I adore! Because I have been a writer while raising two children and teaching, I’ve found that I don’t have a writing routine. I grab time whenever I can, and I love escaping to that inner world of my imagination. I’ve written for grades K-12.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished a book called The Fiction Class which I recommend.

And just for fun, what is your favorite dessert?

Hot Fudge Sundaes. If only someone could figure out a way to take the calories out of them, I’d eat one every day!

Me too, Terri!  In fact, I could go for a hot fudge sundae right now….

Thanks for stopping by, Terri!  It was great getting inside your head for a few minutes!

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes Interview!

Today, I am interviewing Amelia Atwater-Rhodes as part of her blog tour! (See the full schedule below the interview.) I am very excited, because as a writer who began getting published as a teen, she is a great inspiration to my own students.

Thanks for stopping by TheReadingZone! As a young writer, you are especially inspirational to myself and my middle school students. How did you begin writing?

I have always told stories, and since learning how to write, I have always attempted to write them down. The earliest attempts were of course nearly illegible and lacking in any notable grammar, but the point is, it’s something I have always done.

The first novel I finished, I started in fifth grade. I had particularly incredible teachers that year and the year before. I had performed in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hamlet, had helped transform my fifth grade classroom into first a lighthouse and then a rain forest, had participated in trust-falls and egg-drops and other activities, and just in general had developed a great deal of faith in myself, and in life in general. When a lazy summer came about, it seemed perfectly natural to finish a novel.

What type of writer are you? Do you plan ahead/plot or do you simply fly by the seat of your pants?


Absolutely by the seat of my pants. Occasionally I outline, when I have ideas faster than I can get them down, but I tend to stray from even the briefest notes. I love discovering the story as I go along, just as I would if I were reading. I outline when I go to revise.

Do you write everyday? Do you have a specific writing schedule?

Part of the “seat of my pants” method involves never knowing when I’ll even have time to sit down at my computer. I have no set schedule; if I did, I would only break it.

I tend to write more when I’m insanely over-scheduled, and get little done on vacations when I should have plenty of time. I write in the five-minute breaks between other things, in my head while I’m trying to fall asleep, in the margins of my class notes, and occasionally on my hand in movie theaters.

Congratulations on graduating, and I hope the job hunt is going well! What inspired you to become an English teacher?

Three things inspired me to teach: the wonderful teachers I had, the awful teachers I had, and all the readers I’ve had a chance to speak with over the years. I have known, as a student, the kind of power a teacher can hold to inspire, and I have known as a writer how wonderful it feels to see the spark of inspiration alight in someone you have been working with.

Your books delve into complex fantasy worlds, fraught with numerous characters, histories, and stories. Do your characters come to you first, do the stories come first, or do they shape each other?

It tends to be the characters who drive my stories. I’m lucky if I figure out the plotline before the fifth or sixth chapter of a first draft, but in that time, I get to know my narrator. Once I know the character, I can figure out the story.

What can we look forward to next? Are you working on anything right now?

The next book, arriving at bookstores on December 9, is Persistence of Memory. It returns to modern day, with the vampires and witches and shapeshifters. After that is Night’s Plutonian Shore (tentative title), which explores another facet of Nyeusigrube’s magic.

What is your advice for other writers, especially young writers?

The first piece of advice I always give is, do it. If you want to write, if you have stories and characters in your head and know you need to share them somehow, just pick up a pen or go to a keyboard and start. So many people never get started because they wait to have everything perfect first. First drafts exist for a reason; they’re supposed to be messy. Write first. If you decide to share your work, you can always edit later, but get the story out first.

Thanks so much for stopping by, Amelia! I am sure you are very busy getting ready for the beginning of the new school year. Good luck with your students- they are lucky to have such an accomplished author as their teacher!

Make sure to visit the other stops on Amelia’s blog tour:
July 22nd – Bildungsroman
July 24th – Cheryl Rainfield
July 25th – BookLoons
July 28th- Mrs. Magoo Reads
July 30th – Teen Book Review
July 31st – Saundra Mitchell
August 4th – Bookwrym Chrysalis
August 5th – Here!
August 7th – Through a Glass, Darkly

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