Literacy Essentials at a Busy Teacher’s Fingertips
Reviewed by Deana Jones
One of the educator’s most valuable resources is time. For this reason, subconsciously, many educators choose a short blog, a single article from a teacher magazine, or some other succinct reading material in an effort to continually remain abreast of what’s new in education.
Regie Routman’s book, Literacy Essentials, could have easily been titled Literacy Essentials Handbook because – although the 500pp book is a bit daunting at first glance – it can be read and applied to one’s practices with ease. The practical format makes the task of reading this robust book less imposing and very worthy of the investment of time.
Specific, research-laden advisement
As the subtitle reveals, the book is chunked into three main sections: engagement, excellence, and equity. All sections have a common framework involving specific, research-laden advisement (principals really appreciate the teacher’s use of research-proven practice, too!), followed by common-sense application tasks for implementation.
Unlike many teacher-development texts that provide insights and advice but leave teachers to wonder if the guidance is practical enough for their situations, Literacy Essentials includes many examples, pictures, charts, and lists to demonstrate how others have already implemented the suggestions. The examples spark the readers’ planning, encouraging them to attempt to apply the new practices without delay.
The accompanying website for the book is chock-full of resources, examples, anchor charts, lesson plans, and more. But, if one just followed through the text’s offering of “Take Action” recommendations, the book would still be worth the price! I’m a respecter of getting to the point, so I find these bulleted, succinct, common-sense lists perfect to use as a resource.
Applicable to various subjects and grade-levels
One quality of Routman’s solid advice is the generalizability of the information. While the tasks are offered through a distinctive literacy lens, much of the content can be applied through various subjects and at various grade-levels. This is an excellent reminder that every teacher is also a literacy teacher.
For example, there are recommendation sections titled “Rely on Formative Assessment,” “Expert Teaching Through Frontloading,” and “Using Student-Friendly Data” to name a few. There are examples from every grade-level area (elementary, middle school, high school) throughout the book. This fact increases the book’s relevance for all teachers.
Routman’s book provides useful insights specific to middle grades educators in that she directly addresses vital characteristics identified by middle grades research and support organizations. For example, the Association for Middle Level Education recommends 16 “Keys to Educating Young Adolescents.” One of the keys, “Students and teachers are engaged in active, purposeful learning,” is addressed through Literacy Essentials in a subsection titled “Make Sure Students are Engaged, Not Just On-Task.” Another example is the key “Educators use multiple learning and teaching approaches” which is addressed by Literacy Essentials through several subsections such as the one entitled “Apply an Optimal Learning Model.”
The information you need right now
So often, education functions on a “delay” of information and research. Not so in this case! The three “E”s (engagement, excellence, and equity) are timely and relevant for today’s classroom. These topics are the roots for the outgrowth of the author’s obvious goal to ensure that all students are engaged in meaningful, challenging, and joyful literacy work.
Deana Jones, EdD is a School Improvement Specialist for Northwest Georgia Regional Education Service Agency in Rome, Georgia. She has served more than 25 years in education in various roles including classroom teacher, academic coach, school administrator, and RESA professional development specialist.