Monday, July 14, 2014

Steering the Balanced Literacy Conversation Towards More Productive Topics

Ever since New York City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña called for more Balanced Literacy in NYC classrooms (see{%221%22%3A%22RI%3A8%22) the responses have been interesting and even reassuring.

Teachers, teacher educators, and even Lucy Calkins herself have proclaimed that whether or not to use Balanced Literacy is not the most pressing issue that should be occupying our time. According to Calkins, “other approaches to English language arts standards, as well as balanced literacy, work when taught well.”

So what are some of the important issues that should be occupying our time? Here are three issues that top my list, all gathered from responses posted on the Opinion Pages of The New York Times:

1.     Providing more content—“stuff” that’s good to think with. According to E.D. Hirsch, “the reading gap between advantaged and disadvantaged is mainly a knowledge and vocabulary gap.” Children need in depth study of interesting topics in science, math, and social studies.
2.     Providing resources for teachers and children. Schools need resources for building curriculum that is interesting and challenging. According to sociologist Pedro Noguera, “Instead of gearing up for another fight over literacy, we should be talking about how to make it possible to provide schools with the resources they need to support language development for all children.”
3.     Selecting appropriate materials. According to teacher Claire Needell, we have been paying more attention to the balanced literacy approach and less attention to the texts we are using. She writes, “…we need to make appropriate text selections widely available for new teachers, families…, and students.”

In the spirit of supporting these three important goals, I want to respond to teacher Claire Needell by suggesting one great website and one new book that she might find helpful. That website is Guys Read (, the site of the first Ambassador to Children’s Literature, Jon Scieszka. I also want to recommend a new title coming out in September, namely the fifth volume in the Guys Read series, True Stories, edited by Jon Scieszka. This anthology contains ten riveting, true stories, each written by a different outstanding nonfiction writer. Any one of these stories could be the basis of an extended inquiry or could simply be read for enjoyment. Check it out. Also, I see no reason why girls will not like this book too.

No comments:

Post a Comment