Thanks to the Westminster English Department and chair Bart Griffith, Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide was on my summer reading list. The short, compact read is full of summarized research and practical advice about how to end readicide in schools and to promote more engaged joy with reading for a lifetime. In addition to describing teaching in a “sweet spot” – neither under-teaching nor over-teaching – Gallagher provides a monumental “duh” (one of those grand aha moments!) for me in chapter three:
“In my first book, Reading Reasons (Gallagher 2003), I discuss the work of philosopher Kenneth Burke, who says the reason young people should read books is that it provides them with ‘imaginative rehearsals’ for the real world. When children read books, Burke argues, they are not just reading stories. They are being given an opportunity to understand the complex world they live in (1968). Books enable adolescents to begin wrestling with those issues that remain universal in all our lives” (66).
Later, Gallagher states that “The value comes when we use this great book as a springboard to examine issues in today’s world” (67).
With the examples that Gallagher provides, he is not merely advocating for in-class, passive imaginative rehearsal. Rather he is advocating and advancing the practice of student learners interacting ACTIVELY with their current world as citizens who are springboarding into issues through great literature and the guidance of a lead learner (teacher).
For teachers getting more comfortable or even more deeply immersed in PBL (project/problem-based learning), I believe this advice and advocacy from Gallagher provides the ideal bridge from a long-taught classic to authentic, “do-something-real-in-the-community” PBL. Gallagher gives a number of examples that would apply directly where I teach, as the books named are novels that we include in our school canon. Additionally, such books and the issues they raise could provide the threads and links that tie together curricula for integrated studies.
A great reminder about RELEVANCY…thanks Kelly Gallagher!
Gallagher, Kelly. Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It. Stenhouse Publishers, Portland, Maine: 2009.