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The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers Paperback – January 1, 2007

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Teaching Resources (Teaching; 1.2.2007 edition (January 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439926440
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439926447
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.3 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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I wish every LA/English/Reading teacher would read this book.
Atwell asks high school teachers to re-consider how they teach English, to think about what will make a true difference in the intellectual lives of their students.
Mary G. Dovey
For anyone who is considering moving toward a reading workshop program, especially in middle school, this book is like a how-to manual.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

152 of 153 people found the following review helpful By Mary G. Dovey on January 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
Nancie Atwell calls her new book The Reading Zone a manifesto: that free choice of books and time to read should be a child's right from kindergarten until high school. She uses her more than 20 years of successful teaching to support her claim that the only delivery system for reading comprehension is reading. I couldn't agree more. Eight years ago I read her seminal work, In the Middle, and it changed my life as a teacher. The techniques she used in her middle school reading and writing workshop affirmed everything I felt in my heart to be true. I worked hard to create my own workshop, wrote grants for books and purchased hundreds myself. I read, read, read until I knew most books well enough to recommend them to my students. And it worked. With independent reading as the mainstay of our reading block, I saw my kids, 7th and 8th graders with little or no previous interest in reading, enter into their own "reading zones" and blossom into authentic readers, right before my eyes, long before the end of the school year.

I should have been ecstatic, but I found myself uneasy. Was it enough to let kids just read and do occasional projects that promoted their books to their peers? It all seemed too simple. I worried that I wasn't doing enough. Eventually, I did what Atwell herself admits to doing in The Reading Zone: I jumped (she says she "vaulted") into teaching comprehension strategies techniques-- predicting, connecting, visualizing, questioning, summarizing, re-telling and so on. This focus should have enriched my workshop, but it didn't.
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105 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Ken C. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 28, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I teach middle school English, read and profusely highlighted Nancie Atwell's seminal work IN THE MIDDLE, and once served as an intern at her Center for Teaching and Learning one snowy February in Edgecomb, Maine (a class act, Atwell came in on a snow day to meet with a group of teachers who expected the day to be a complete loss due to the school closing). Under her influence, I built an in-class library at considerable cost, launched a full-steam-ahead reading workshop, and spent countless weekends poring over kids' reading journals so I could write back encouragement and questions. Still, there were always questions and concerns about the workshop method (not to mention the time-intensive journals), plus new reading strategies to reckon with as the years rolled by. This new book deals with both issues - concerns related to workshop methodology as well as the latest reading strategy fads.

For instance, in recent years our school has jumped on the "Sticky-Note Bandwagon" and English teachers were like flies to flypaper following its prescriptions to create better student readers. Under this "Reading Strategies That Work" spell, we began to isolate readings, stop our readers mid-page, and teach kids how to make connections, determine importance, ask questions, make inferences, visualize, and synthesize.

You can imagine my pleasure, then, when I read Atwell's words in a chapter called "Comprehension." She writes, "In the 1990's, I jumped -- VAULTED is a more accurate verb -- onto the comprehension-strategy bandwagon.... In I plunged. I explained proficient reader research and schema theory to my students. I prepared, rehearsed, and modeled a connection-packed read-aloud of a short story by Robert Cormier.
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By T. D. on February 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
This is a fine, fine book that works on its own or as a compliment to all of her earlier work. What to add to the previous review? I, too, found Atwell's challenge to teachers at the high school level - and by extension, their parents - to be especially powerful. Students are so loaded with vocabulary words and double-entry journals and literary minutia and book reports that they avoid reading anything beyond assigned materials, and too often learn to abhor all that falls under the `English' umbrella. Whose interests are served by a curriculum that proscribes experimentation, curiosity, and exploration?

Her critique of reading programs and `skill building' instruction is also sobering. With countless dollars and many instructional hours devoted to building reading skill from Kindergarten through community college, it is worth remembering that reading is an art best crafted through habitual, passionate, thoughtful practice. Although teachers have an arsenal of A.R., DOL, SQ3R, and all the rest, there is precious little evidence that students learn to read because of these tools (for further evidence on this point, look into Stephen Krashen's "The Power of Reading").

Once again, Atwell swims against the educational currents in which most of us blithely bounce. The greatest challenge presented by her oeuvre is that she is highly self reflective and attuned to her professional responsibilities. Atwell holds nothing sacred beyond what is best for her students. Her work cannot be copied because it continues to evolve. Her stance may be digested, but each teacher must then engage with his or her unique students in their particular context. I, for one, hope to be up to the challenge "The Reading Zone" presents to all of us in the teaching profession.
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