Serravallo’s Reading Strategies Earn a Rave Review
Reviewed by Linda Biondi
At a recent professional development session, the chatter was all about Jennifer Serravallo’s new work, The Reading Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Readers.
“When is it being released? I can’t wait.” “ Did you order yours yet? I hear it’s being released today.” The excitement was overwhelming, in spite of the fact that no one had yet received their copy.
A few days later, Twitter was abuzz with tweets from teachers who had received their copy. “Can’t put the book down…Jennifer Serravallo’s new Reading Strategies Book arrived. AWESOME!… teachers planning for excellence with Serravallo’s Reading Strategies book.” Teachers, hold on to your hats! The book is here and it is beyond expectations.
Some background about the book’s origins
Ms. Serravallo is an author, researcher and literacy consultant. While working toward her Masters at Columbia Teachers College, she taught grades 3-5. She works as staff developer and national consultant at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University and her work reflects Lucy Calkins‘ Readers and Writers Workshop approach.
Serravallo is also a magician. She definitely has the magic touch when it comes to reading strategies. Her book is a response to teachers who read Conferring with Readers, 2007, and reached out to her asking for “more of what’s on page 93” (reading strategies you can use with readers). After research and teacher input, she addressed the teachers’ requests. How responsive is that?
Chapters are organized around goals
As teachers, we know how important setting goals are for our students. The process of setting goals gives students motivation and a long-term vision for the future. A student centered classroom, where children are involved in their goal setting, is an important part of the daily instruction strategy. With their customized goals in mind, students can measure progress and take pride in accomplishment.
“Goals coupled with teacher feedback make one of the biggest differences in student achievement and progress.” (John Hattie, 2009)
Guided by Hattie’s research, Seravallo organizes the book’s 13 chapters using 13 goals commonly matched to readers in kindergarten to eighth grade (from engagement to fluency, word solving to comprehension, for both fiction and nonfiction).
The book’s organization is incredible. There is an overview table at the start of each chapter to offer special guidelines so you can locate strategies based on the skill. Each strategy page addresses the population it helps, the genre/text type, the specific skill, ideas on how to teach it, along with prompts and charts.
The charts are definitely a bonus. Current research shows that if visuals accompany any written text , individuals are more likely to remember the information or strategy (Smarter Chart Book series, Mraz and Martinelli, 2012, 2014). Each chart is easy to reproduce and will enhance any teaching repertoire.
Put the focus on the reader
Serravallo’s book reminds us to focus not on just our students’ reading level but on the readers themselves. She reminds us that the teacher “knows best.” She provides the resources and the sources, but cautions the teacher to remember that we are the professional who knows our students best.
What is equally phenomenal is the adaptability to various types of reading instruction:
- Daily 5 Literacy Café
- Guided reading and literacy centers
- Basal readers and anthologies
- Whole class novels
Adaptable research based lessons targeting student’s skills, adaptable to different levels of students and texts, as well as different reading programs: what could be better than that!
We know that time is at a premium for teachers. There isn’t enough time to do what we need or desire to do. The layout of the pages and the illustrative material included in the book save us time and (in effect) give teachers extra time to reflect on the needs of their students and strategies on how to accomplish them.
Love the book, sad I have to wait ’til September
I have to admit, I was going “Post It Crazy” and on copy machine overload as I looked through the book. Every time I found a strategy that I thought I might be able to use next year, I “Post It-ed” it or copied the page and shared it with colleagues. I was happy that summer was coming and I would have a chance to reread this book, recreate the charts in the book, and think about the upcoming academic year.
However, I was also very sad. Sad that my students would be leaving and I hadn’t had the chance to apply some of these research based strategies – sad that I had to wait until September for school to begin.
A colleague asked me if this book was appropriate for pre-service teachers, and I had to think about it. Yes, it is entirely appropriate, but with the restriction that pre-service teaches need to recognize that this book is not a script to use with children but a guide to help students succeed. It helps the teacher to understand the reading process and to assist in choosing strategies that will help reinforce their teaching, especially of skills that students may be lacking.
This book should be in every reading teacher’s library.
Images: All found in the Heinemann PDF sampler.
Linda Biondi is a fourth grade teacher at Pond Road Middle School in Robbinsville, NJ, and a long-time Morning Meeting practitioner. She’s also the recipient of several educational grants, a Teacher Consultant with the National Writing Project and a participant on the NJ Department of Education Teacher Advisory Panel. Linda participates in ECET2 Celebrate Teaching which has posted an interview with her.