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How Schools Are
Killing Reading
and What You
Can Do About It
Readicide
Kelly Gallagher
Foreword by Richard Allington
Stenhouse Publishers
Portland, Maine
Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher. © 2009
Stenhouse Publishers. No reproduction without written permission from publisher.
Stenhouse Publishers
www.stenhouse.com
Copyright © 2009 by Kelly Gallagher
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy,
or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission from the
publisher.
Every effort has been made to contact copyright holders and students for permission to reproduce borrowed material. We regret any oversights that may have
occurred and will be pleased to rectify them in subsequent reprints of the work.
Credits
Page 8: Testing cartoon © 2007 The Record, reprinted by permission of Jimmy
Margulies.
Page 33: Bridge to Prison cartoon © 2008 Bob Englehart. Reprinted with permission.
Page 70: “Introduction to Poetry,” from The Apple That Astonished Paris by Billy
Collins. Copyright © 1988, 1996 Billy Collins. Reprinted with permission of the
University of Arkansas Press.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Gallagher, Kelly, 1958Readicide : how schools are killing reading and what you can do about it /
Kelly Gallagher.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 978-1-57110-780-0 (alk. paper)
1. Reading—United States. 2. Literacy—United States. 3. Reading
promotion—United States. I. Title.
LB1050.G25 2009
428.4—dc22
2008040694
Cover, interior design, and typesetting by Martha Drury
Manufactured in the United States of America on acid-free, recycled paper
15 14 13 12 11 10 09 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher. © 2009
Stenhouse Publishers. No reproduction without written permission from publisher.
For those educators who resist
the political in favor of the authentic
Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher. © 2009
Stenhouse Publishers. No reproduction without written permission from publisher.
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Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher. © 2009
Stenhouse Publishers. No reproduction without written permission from publisher.
con•tents
Foreword by Richard Allington vii
Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
1 The Elephant in the Room
2 Endangered Minds
7
27
3 Avoiding the Tsunami
59
4 Finding the “Sweet Spot” of Instruction
5 Ending Readicide
87
111
Appendix A: 101 Books My Reluctant Readers Love to Read 119
Appendix B: Book-of-the-Month Form 125
Appendix C: One-Pagers 127
Appendix D: Hard Talk Checklist 135
References 137
Index 143
v
Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher. © 2009
Stenhouse Publishers. No reproduction without written permission from publisher.
This page intentionally left blank
Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher. © 2009
Stenhouse Publishers. No reproduction without written permission from publisher.
fore•word
Readicide by Kelly Gallagher is one of those few must-read books that appear every
year in education. Although the primary focus of the book is on adolescents’ reading, or the lack of it, the message is one that will ring true for teachers of grades K–12.
Gallagher defines readicide early on as “the systematic killing of the love of
reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in
schools.” He then documents just how widely readicide is practiced and discusses its outcomes. Citing recent reports from the National Endowment for the
Humanities and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, he illustrates
how powerful readicide has been in creating aliterates—people who can read but
largely do not.
The data available indicate that we are producing more and more aliterates
every year. In many cases, we do so with good intentions. State and national initiatives linked to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 have created schools
in which lessons are focused primarily on improving reading test scores. As a result,
instruction has been narrowed and made even more mind-numbing than in earlier
eras (and those eras did not provide much to celebrate). The end result is that evaluations of the effects of NCLB have demonstrated no improvement in actual reading achievement1 and instead show a disturbing potential for fostering readicide.
1. Gamse, B. C., R. T. Jacob, M. Horst, B. Boulay, and F. Unlu. 2008. Reading First Impact Study Final Report (Report No.
NCEE 2009-4038). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of
Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.
vii
Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher. © 2009
Stenhouse Publishers. No reproduction without written permission from publisher.
viii
Readicide
As a classroom teacher, Gallagher understands the readicide pressures that
teachers face and, in this book, offers a solution. He provides readers with a
hopeful alternative—one that not only fulfills state standards but also meets his