book study: Catching Readers Before They Fall

I have been wanting to really get into Catching Readers Before They Fall - read it for deep understanding and read it as an examination of my teaching practice.

Kimberly from First in Maine is hosting a book study and gave me the necessary nudge.  Thanks.

chapter 1: Expanding Our Paradigm of Reading

what I loved  

The first thing that I highlighted was " We strongly believe in the power of quality literacy instruction and effective early intervention that provides safety nets for readers that struggle ... the strongest safety net of all is the classroom teacher".  Not consultants, reading coaches, specialists, visiting experts, principals, but the classroom teacher.  (Richard Allington - What Really Matters for Struggling Readers (2012) -  says exactly the same thing.)  Let's give the girl or guy on the ground - the classroom teacher -  the training and support needed to be a superlative safety net for struggling readers.

I also loved that one of my favourite professional books, one I turn to when I need to get myself back on track, was mentioned.  Debbie Miller's book Teaching with Intention reminds us to define our teaching beliefs and allow our teaching to flow from those core beliefs.

how I connect this learning to my teaching

While I have waded through my thoughts and clarified my beliefs about teaching, I have not done so about teaching reading.  Guess I need to get on it.  It will make my getting-ready-for-reading-and-oh-my-goodness-you're-a-reader teaching more intentional (and therefore, more effective).

chapter 2: How Reading Works

what I loved - or what jumped out and hit me on the head

The "magic of reading" is actually a very complex system composed of many moving parts that all have to be used at the right time and with the correct power level.  

I loved the analogy of the orchestra.  All the different reading strategies are like the different instruments; when they are used independently, they make noise, but when integrated, used at the right time and in balance, they can make soul shaking music.  

My boys might understand a video game analogy.  You have lots of reading weapons.  They all need to be used a the right time and with the right power to have an integrated attack on the text.  When the strategies are not used in the correct combinations at the right time and place, you lose a reading life.

While the reading process is the same for everyone, everyone needs to develop their own reading system.  Using the orchestra analogy: we all have the same instruments in the orchestra, we each make different music with them.

A reading system is all inside the reader's head.  It's not like math where we can say "show your work".  Each reader has to develop his/her own system.  If readers learn to use faulty weapons (video game analogy) in their system, their integrated assault will be off.  

how I connect this learning to my teaching

In Kindergarten, we are putting together our arsenal of reading weapons.  Learning the alphabet and letter sounds is a big one.  But it's sure not the only one.  

I need to be more intentional about showing the inside-the-brain process for the other reading weapons.  I need to talk my thinking - and invite the kidlets to talk their thinking too.   

With different kidlets talking their strategies, we can show how the brain works integrating all those weapons into an integrated assault.  We can own that text!

I am reminded that I have to advocate, call upon the research, and maybe even stamp my feet to get support for my kidlets who need  to learn in a small group so that they can put together their reading weapons correctly. It's important.

I want to continue building my capacity as a teacher of reading.  I am the best safety net for my struggling learners.  That's a big responsibility. 


  1. That last phrase was so good that I have to repeat it "I am the best safety net for my struggling readers" that is such an important statement! Well said. The book sounds perfect. I am just finishing Allington & others Summer Reading Loss and am looking for my summer professional read. This might be it.


    1. I am interested in your thoughts from the Allington book.

      I recommend Catching Readers Before they Fall. It is making me think about the reading process, as a whole, and in it's separate parts.

      It's feeding my brain.


  2. I'm amazed by how my brain works as I read what other people say about the words I have read and thought about. So much of what you write is the same as what I think which I expected, but there are other things that make me just want to be in a classroom with you and say, "YES! GREAT IDEA!" I loved your video game analogy. I thought it was brilliant. Thank you for taking the time to link up with me.

    First in Maine

    1. Now I can read your post (and the others that linked up). I wanted to read the book with a fresh brain. I'm looking forward to read what you loved and how it will live in your classroom.

      Last night (yes, on a Friday night - I live a fascinating life!) I was at school stapling work into scrapbooks and watching TED. I watched a clip about boys and school. One of my soap boxes. That's where the video game thinking came. So many of our struggling readers are boys - we need to enter their world and bring reading into it. I think you might appreciate it.


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