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Dedicated to Teachers


On the Podcast: When Kids Can't Read with Kylene Beers

When Kids Cant Read PodcastIn When Kids Can't Read, Kylene Beers offers teachers the comprehensive handbook they've needed to help readers improve their skills. Recently, Kylene hosted a Facebook Live Q&A on this book. We've taken the audio of the conversation and made part of The Heinemann Podcast. 

Below is a transcript of this episode. 

Brett: Hi everybody. This is Brett from Heinemann, and we have a very special podcast for you today. If you weren't able to join us on Tuesday night, August 9th, Kylene Beers, hosted a special Facebook Live in the Notice and Note Facebook group. The Notice and Note book club group on her title, When Kids Can't Read. And we went for about 45 minutes and we took questions from everybody that was participating via the Facebook Live. And there's a lot of amazing information in there. Things about what Kylene would do if she could update the book today. George, if you remember the story about George, the student from When Kids Can't Read, is George real, and where is George today? And does Kylene ever hear from him? She also talked a lot about various different things that have come up over the years in regarding how her thinking has changed about comprehension, her thoughts on vocabulary and spelling sheets, and so much more.

If you wanted to follow again or listen to Kylene's words again, or you weren't able to participate in the Facebook, [inaudible 00:01:04] you can't for some reason have access to Facebook Live for one reason or another. We decided to take the audio from that Facebook Live event, and put it into a podcast for you, that you could download and take with you or share with colleagues. So here it is now, the audio from the Facebook Live with Kylene Beers from August 8th, 2016, from the Notice And Note Facebook group about When Kids Can't Read. Hope you enjoy, and for more information about When Kids Can't Read, visit the Heinemann website, heinemann.com, and search for When Kids Can't Read, or search for Kylene Beers. And if you'd like to know more about it, check out the Heinemann blog, where we've got some special blogs dedicated to When Kids Can't Read. Thanks, and enjoy.

Kylene: And here we are, live on our Facebook event. We're over here on the Notice And Note Book Club page, talking about When Kids Can't Read, What Teachers Can Do. And we're excited to give people a little bit of space and time to think about this important issue of what to do when kids can't read, as we all are starting back to school. So folks we're all together now. And what I wanted us to do was spend some time really talking about two things. When Kids Can't Read, What Teachers Can Do, the book, and when kids can't read what teachers can do, the actual situation. This seem like a really great time to have that conversation, because we're headed off into a new school year. Bob and I, yesterday were with teachers in Fishers, Indiana. They get their kids on Wednesday.

So many of you are getting your kids this week. Some of you got them last week. Some of you start in the next couple of weeks. All of us are beginning to wonder, what are we going to do with those kids who sit in our classrooms, and are wondering what do we do when they're not reading like we need them to read? So I wanted us to be able to answer your questions. If you've got questions about the book in particular, and if you've got questions about just reading in general. So let's see where you go with your questions. Christina is in from New Jersey, people from Florida, people from Pennsylvania, you're in all over the place. Let's hear what your questions are. What is it you want to do know about when kids are having trouble with reading? One of the questions that I just saw coming through was, what ... It's always just such an interesting question.

What do we do when we sit there with the kid in our classroom, who says, "I hate to read." And that is such an interesting question, because it's hard to tell the difference between hating to read and not able to read. We've also got this question, this just popped in, on monitoring student reading. I want to start off with this question about, when the kids are sitting there in the classroom and they can't read, I think the first thing we have to do folks, when people tell us a kid can't read, is we've got to figure out what does that mean? Some kids can't read because they really are still struggling at the word level. That's rarely the issue after about fourth grade. Until about fourth grade, that might be an issue. But after fourth grade, it's really much more an issue of practice.

When kids say they can't read something, it's mostly an issue of, they haven't had enough practice with reading it. A lot of people say that practice makes perfect. I think that practice makes fluent. And so what we've got to do, is with our older kids, and let's be honest, I'm more focused on those fourth graders on [inaudible 00:05:05], who are having trouble with reading. We've got to take some time and say, "Is the reading problem a lack of fluency, or a lack of actual decoding ability?" Almost every time, it's a lack of fluency. And so the first thing I would ask you to do as the school year is beginning, is to stop and say to yourself, "How many minutes a day am I going to make sure my kids have a chance to read?" If we can up reading time, we're always, always going to be able to improve their vocabulary, improve their automaticity, and then get to some of those other reading skills that we need to get to.

This question of, how do I monitor? That came through a little bit earlier, is really for me about getting to know my kids. And let's be honest, it's going to take you about two weeks in a classroom to look and know which kids aren't going to need constant monitoring from you, which kids are going to need a lot of support, and which kids you need to check in on, on a regular basis, but not an everyday basis. It's those kids that need a lot more monitoring from me, that I'm going to try to check in with three or four times a week. And once I can figure out who those kids are, then I need to start looking at what are they reading? And more importantly, what are they not reading? And when I can see that a kid is constantly and consistently turning away from a certain kind of reading, then I can begin to look at what it is I need to do to help them.

So I'm going to pick this question up, again, how do you help administrators understand that one size doesn't fit all? What I would respectfully say to principals who want us to think one size fits all is just, "Where's the research that shows that?" Any time a principal wants me to do something that I know goes against best practices, then I try to have a conversation about the research that shows we ought to be doing that. And there just isn't any research that shows one size fits all. And if we can respectfully get administrators to stop and say, "Well, where's the actual research that would prove that?" Then we may be able to change some things. Be careful, when someone says to you, "Well, it's our policy. You cannot argue with a policy." So I always say, "Who's the person that wrote the policy?" Because I don't want to have an argument, but I do want to have a conversation.

And so when I can ask someone to tell me who wrote that policy, and I can get to that person, then I can begin to have a conversation, and conversations are what changes things. So Brett just asked me, "How do we help avoidant readers?" I guess that's kids that are avoiding readers. In When Kids Can't Read, I talked about a couple of different kinds of readers. One was of course the avid reader. Let's just love those kids, because they do sit in our classrooms. We can't ignore those children who are hungry for more books. And then we talked about dormant readers, those readers who love to read, but because of time, don't make time to read. It was a student who said to me one time, "I'm a dormant reader." And I said, "Sweetheart, what kind of reader is that?" And he said, "I'm just like those plants were studying about in science. Until the conditions are right, they're not going to bloom." And he said, "I think that's what I am." He said, "Those plants are called dormant plants, and I think I'm a dormant reader."

And so we've got a bunch of kids in our classrooms who want to read. And during the school year, they just don't have the time to read. As a matter of fact, I think a lot of teachers become dormant readers during the school year. We love books, but we just don't have the time to always do all the reading we want to do during the school year. Another kind of reader I talked about in that book, were uncommitted readers. And those uncommitted readers are kids that like to read, if you show them the right book. So they're book at a time readers. They're not out there actively searching for books on their own.

And then finally we have the kids who are actually unmotivated readers. What scares me the most about those kids, is they are highly, highly influenced by their peers. So if their peers that they're hanging with don't like to read, then for them it's really cool to say, "I don't like to read." So when we're looking at kids who are avoiding reading, we have to look at more than just have they found the right book. We've also got to look at what's their social group doing. That's why I think any time you can let kids have time in class to say, "Here's a book I love, here's a book I thought was great." Let kids sell to other kids, then I think we're making a really big difference, because we can't sell all the books for our uncommitted readers and our unmotivated readers. What's going to sell the book more than anyone else, is another kid saying, "This is really, really a great book."

Another question that I saw come through, that just came through was, would I change anything in When Kids Can't Read, if I were to write it again right now? I'm asked that question a lot. That book's over 10 years old now, and at times I look at it and say, "I wouldn't change anything because it was really, if you've read it, it was a love story between me and a kid named George." It was all of the things I wish I had known to say to George then. And so would I change any of it now. Yeah. Actually they'd be a little bit unchanged because I know more now.

So I would probably do more with, during reading, would certainly be talking more about digital reading. And I think I would actually talk more about the critical importance of us as teachers to give kids more time to read. But it was a story to me and George and yeah, there's new things, I would say to him. One of the questions that just came through was about phonics. What's my position on phonics. I'm asked that question a lot too. At the basic my position on phonics is yeah, every kid out there needs to know how letters and sounds go together. I mean, how could we not want to know how letters and sounds go together? My dad, who was probably the person who introduced me to reading was one of those kids who grew up at a time when everyone learned to read by sight.

So I can remember actually him coming to me occasionally and saying, "So what's this word?" Because he knew how to sight read and knew words he hadn't learned. Now, he had learned a lot of words because he was a lawyer, but occasionally there was this new word out there. And of course he had intuited a lot of phonics, but I don't want kids to have to guess, and I don't want them to have to intuit. I want them to know how letters and sounds work, but except for a very small number of kids, after about fourth grade kids get how letters and sounds work. Most kids begin losing time to practice that. And folks, if you don't practice something, you'll never get great at it. And we get caught up in this strange cycle of thinking, if they're not great at it, we better just give them more of what they've already had. And that's not it.

What we need to do when our kids seem to lack decoding ability, is recognize that what they probably lack is automaticity and automaticity comes from practice. So that's when we need to up our amount of time that kids are reading. So Brett just told me that a question came in to ask me how my understanding of comprehension has changed. That's probably where I've spent the most time in the last decade, trying to learn more and watching kids trying to understand kids more. I'm trained as an ethnographer. All of my research experience from my doctoral work came out of anthropology and ethnography. So I've spent a great deal of my time in classrooms, just watching kids. My first degree were in psychology and I spent my early career working with autistic children in the Austin State Hospital.

So how people make sense of the world has always been a part of my professional life. And of course that's what comprehension is, is making sense of the world. I think the place where my thinking on comprehension has changed the most is when I wrote When Kids Can't Read, I was looking more at what teachers do to help get kids into a text. So I was really interested in the engagement level and the pre-reading level, then where I am now to be quite honest, is looking more at what's happening during reading. I think that during reading stage is the most important. I've probably been influenced a lot by Bob Probst. Who's always saying to me there ain't always going to be a teacher around. And when he first started saying that, I thought, "Oh, that's true." And then one day I thought, "Oh, my God, that's true."

We have got to give kids the tools that they can use on their own so that when there's not a teacher there they'll know what to do. And that's pushed me into thinking a lot more about during reading. That of course is what led us to Notice & Note. And that's what led us to a tremendous amount of time with reading non-fiction, trying to give kids the tools they need so that when they confront complexity in a text, they know what to do. Right now Bob and I are looking at a series of what we call fingertip tools. And fingertip tools are those things that kids will have right at their fingertips. So that the moment a text becomes complex for them, they'll have something to do other than just stop and say, "Miss, I don't know what this means." I want them to actually stop and be able to reflect and think forward on what they need to do.

I see Julie statement that says, "We've all been affected by Bob." That is so true. He's not here tonight because he's trying to get home so that he and his family can go on a vacation. He's been affected by the Delta power outage. He's been sitting at an airport in Indianapolis for about nine hours. He's not a happy camper at this moment, I can tell you. And is hopefully headed to Atlanta pretty soon. So Brett just gave me a question that said, "If middle-school teachers could give kids one independent reading skill, what would that one be to hold on to?" I'm going to expand that question and say, not just for middle school, but for all grade levels. I think the most important skill we can teach kids is to do what Bob says, which is simply show up for work. Meaning be aware when you're reading it.

It's why we called Notice & Note. If we can actually teach kids as they're reading to be thinking about what they're reading, so many of our problems would take care of themselves. With that, I want kids to learn a couple of fix up strategies. I want them to be able to say, "Gosh, I'm confused. Do I need to stop and re-read? Do I need to stop in read on?" Or the one we've been playing with for the last year in a lot of classrooms is, "Do I need to stop and say, would it help me if I could see this? Is my problem, that I just can't see what the author is saying?" And if my problem is, I just can't see it, then I need kids and this will sound counterintuitive, but folks, trust me, this works. I need them to actually underline the parts of the texts, they can't see. What's causing the problem? And then I want them to actually sketch out what they're trying to see.

Two things will happen. Number one, they'll either be able to sketch it and then they'll see it. And they can keep on reading. Or they'll recognize that there's something that's not in the text, that's keeping them from figuring it out. It's that second big question in reading non-fiction, what did the author think I already knew? If there's something there that they can't figure out in the text, then they just need to recognize, "Oh, the author thought I knew this." And then they just know where to go back and, "Do I need to look up a word? Do I need to turn back a couple of pages in the book? Do I need to look at a diagram? Do I need to look at something online?"

So the answer to that question is we want them to show up. We want them to notice things as they're reading. And then when they notice a confusion, make a couple of decisions, "Do I need to read on, read backwards or sketch out what I'm trying to understand?" Probably my favorite question I was hoping someone would ask just came into my ear, which is how does the work on Signposts connect with When Kids Can't Read? It's the missing part of When Kids Can't Read. When I wrote, When Kids Can't Read, I was really trying to provide... And I don't know if it happened, but I was trying to provide a handbook for teachers that would get them through a lot of different areas. Everything from motivation, to spelling, to vocabulary, to pre-reading during reading, after reading. A chapter on how to help kids make inferences.

I wanted folks to have a reference tool that could turn to for very specific issues. But I didn't know what I knew when Bob and I were writing. Notice & Note. It's some of the missing part for the during reading. It's the part that says, "Here's what kids need to be thinking about as they are reading." If I went back and revised, When Kids Can't Read, when I got to the, during reading chapter, I would simply have to say, "Go see, Notice & Note and go see reading non-fiction." Because it's got some of the newer thinking in there about that importance of looking carefully, if you want to use academic language at the author's craft. I want kids to read like a writer and I want them to write like a reader. And to get them to read like a writer, I need them to notice the things that an author is doing.

That's all that Notice & Note is really about, is just getting them to look at author's craft. If we call it author's craft, a lot of our kids won't have any idea what that is. If I tell them to look for an aha, they know exactly what to look for. They know exactly what to look for. Kathy's asking can kids in grades three through five handle the Signposts for fiction and non-fiction. Kathy, we worked with about 450 teachers across the nation, when we were working with developing Notice & Note. I think that, that's one reason that book has resonated so well with teachers. And just like with reading non-fiction we didn't write it in isolation. We went into your classrooms and more importantly, we handed out strategies to 100s and 100s of teachers. And ask them to give us feedback before we wrote the books. Many of those teachers were elementary teachers.

Most of the elementary teachers were grades two through five. And all of those teachers said that the Signpost helped their kids think more deeply about a text. I would tell you that we've had some K through two teachers help us since Notice & Note came out, that have caused us to make a major change in reading non-fiction. We would, if we were to do a second edition of Notice & Note, make this change because of their comment, which was six signposts and six anchor questions are too many for our youngest kids. Our elementary teachers are telling us, let's just ask one major anchor question for all of those signposts, which is simply what does this make me wonder about? I think that's a brilliant, brilliant change. And as you start using those sign posts with your younger kids, I would encourage you to forget what we said about anchor questions for elementary kids and just go with what does this make me wonder about?

So Brett, just tell me there's a lot of questions coming in on how long this should take to teach the signposts. Well, if you ask Bob and me, we obviously got it wrong because we thought you should spend an entire class period, about 40 minutes, teaching a signpost, then teach a couple of reteaching lessons over the next couple of days, and then introduce another one. And that worked for us. Obviously we're slow teachers here and other teachers have come back and said are you kidding me? Who's got six weeks just to teach six signposts?

So most teachers are teaching the signpost in about three weeks, introducing one, showing it with a picture storybook or using the lessons that are in Notice & Note or reading non-fiction, following it up for a couple of days, introducing another, introducing another. Guys, I think I can't tell you how long it's going to take, because I don't know your kids. And I'm one of those folks that's always going to resist telling you how long something should take. And I actually pretty much stand in opposition to teachers who tell you how long a unit should take or how long a particular study should take. I think that I can share with you ideas, but then what I've got to do is respect your authority in the classroom. I've got to respect your professionalism. And I will tell you every time I've gotten it wrong. Bob and I suggested a full class period. That's what worked for us. And I think now you've got to find what works for you and your kids. You're the one that knows.

A lot of questions have just, Brett was just telling me, have come in on reading logs, what are my thoughts on reading logs as a mom. So I've raised two kids, both in public school, both graduated. Meredith just finished her PhD, [Baker's 00:24:44] in law school and he and I were talking the other day about reading logs because I'm working on a new book, which means I was cleaning out a closet, because my first way to begin to work on a new book is to actually not work on the book. And when I was cleaning out the closet I came across his fourth grade report card in which he received a very low grade in part of his reading grade because he refused to keep his reading log.

And he and I were talking about that and I said, "Baker, do you remember that year?" And he said, "Oh yeah." He said, "I wasn't going to keep the log." And I said, "Why not?" He said, "Don't you remember? I didn't want to stop reading to write down anything in a log." And I do remember because his teacher called me and said, "Baker's not turning in his reading log." And I said, "But he likes to read." And she said, "Yeah, but he needs to turn in his reading log." I chose to let him do it the way he wanted to do it, which was not turn in his log. But I also recognize that I knew I had a kid that was going to do fine on tests. And I knew I had a teacher that was in a place where she felt like she had to do what the administration told her.

I think most of us as adult avid readers know what we've read, but we probably don't stop every time we read to write down what we read and how many pages we've read and what we thought of it. So there's a little concern I've got that it's not treating kids like real readers. At the same time, I recognize that I need to know how many pages did you get read in this book and what is your thinking about this book?
I would keep the log to a minimum. And in the beginning of the year, folks, I don't ask kids how many pages you've read, I ask when did you read. If I'm getting kids to read at home, I need to know when were you reading and was that a good time for you to read? Because especially in my middle school and high school kids that are always saying I don't have time, I want us to begin looking at patterns. When was a good time for you to read? When was it a bad time for you to read? Go at logs with a light touch, a heavy touch and you're going to lose a lot of your kids.

So Brett just asked me what would be my best advice for new reading teachers. Number one, be a reader. Be a reader. You can't help kids become a reader if you're not a reader. The second thing I would say is sometimes read some difficult things. It's hard to empathize with your struggling reader if you don't ever struggle. So unless you will sometimes pick up that book, I'm reading a book right now on nuclear fusion. Okay, so folks that's way outside my Lexile level. Read outside your level so that you understand how that reader feels.

The third thing I'd say to a new reading teacher is damn the Lexile. Anyone who tells you a kid has to spend all day long reading within a Lexile level isn't thinking about the kid. Kids need to read what they want to read. Now there's a time during your instructional day when you want to help a kid within that instructional zone. That's Vygotsky's Sone of Instruction, where we want kids to be. But when we're reading for choice folks, let's get it past it. It's not a damn Lexile level. No one has ever turned to a book that they're going to love because of a Lexile. You turn to a book that you're going to love because of where it's going to take you. And so as a new reading teacher, when someone tells you that kids need to read within their Lexile level, walk away. Walk away as quickly as you can because that's bad advice.

I'm getting back to the book, When Kids Can't Read. Folks have, from time to time, asked me if George was his real name. George was the only kid in that book, When Kids Can't Read, whose name I did not change. The publisher, Heinemann, asked me to because I did not have George's permission to use his name because it was so many years after I met George that I wrote about him, but I couldn't change his name because it was George's story. And if you've read When Kids Can't Read, I hope you saw that it was a love story to George. It was all the wonderful things I saw about him and his parents and all the things I wasn't able to do. So George is the only kid in the entire book whose name was not changed. All the other children's names were changed. But George, yeah it's his story. So I had to call him by his name.

So we've got about 10 minutes and then we're going to be wrapping up for just a little bit. I started off all of the chapters in When Kids Can't Read with a letter to George and ended them all with a letter to George because I didn't want us to ever forget that what we do every day is about kids. It's easy to think sometimes it's about standards, and it's easy to think it's about test, and it's not. It's always about kids. It's about helping kids find their place in the world. It's about helping kids discover the best they can be.

I think to think that education is to make kids college and career ready is such a diminished look at what education is about. Education is about finding yourself and that's what you do every day, teachers. Knowing what happens to your kids is part of why you're so special, because mostly you don't know. It's about deferred gratification. You hope what you're doing works out well. I don't know what happened to George, for instance. I always hoped that maybe by the time I wrote When Kids Can't Read, George would have been an adult. And for all I knew he had a kid in school and maybe his teacher would have When Kids Can't Read sitting on his desk or her desk and he would see it. I have no idea what happened to George. I have always held out that he has had a rich and wonderful life.

So Brett just asked me about working with parents. I was Director of Gifted Programs for a while in one middle school in the Alief School District where I did most of my teaching. And I will say that sometimes working with parents was both the best part of my job and the worst part of my job. It's the best part because you get a little bit of a glimpse into the home life. And it's the worst part because sometimes you get a little bit of glimpse into a home life. When you've got parents who are struggling to make ends meet, when you've got parents who want to worry about their kids' homework, but all of their time is spent worrying about paying rent and putting food on the table and how can they get their kid to the store to buy the poster board for the project, how can they afford the poster board, I think you need to recognize that you teachers have got an extra burden and that extra burden is thinking about the parent while you're thinking about the kid. Your job is incredibly difficult.

For most kids, for many kids that walk into your classroom, you are their best hope at a better tomorrow. As much as you can be, as often as you can be, be positive with those parents. And when parents say to you, "I don't know what to do", I'm recognizing that sometimes that means parents just aren't sure how to help their kid with homework because they don't know the answer either. I always tell parents just to turn it back around and stick with those three questions. So sweetheart, what surprised you and what did you think the author thought you already knew? And if parents realize they don't need to give kids answers but can help them with questions, then we've helped the parents also. So Brett, just told me that some questions have come in also on audio books. I wrote an article back in the early 2000s in School Library Journal on audio books. I re-read it the other day and discovered two things. It was the longest article I have ever written in my entire life. You need an audio book to help you get through it. As a matter of fact, it was so long, School Library Journal turned it into part one and part two. So I don't know that I'm encouraging anyone to go out and find it and read it because it was too damn long, but it was the result of some research, and the research said, and I still stand by this, that audio books help kids develop what Eudora Welty called a reader's ear.

It's hard to become a lifetime reader if you're not hearing the text that's in your head, and an audio book can help kids do that. That said, dear teachers, there is nothing more powerful for a kid than you reading to the kids. So as often as possible, instead of putting the kids on the audio book at the beginning, let them hear you read it. They need to hear you sigh. They need to hear you say, "Oh my God, we've got to read this part again." They need to see you get choked up at the most powerful passages. They need to hear you stop and say, "I love the way the author wrote this." They need to hear you giggle when the language is too explicit. They need to see the human behind the voice. And as wonderful as audio books are, they can't give us that.

So, I always start a novel with kids by reading aloud the first couple chapters to them, always, every single time. And then for the kids that want to keep on reading on their own, they go to the back of the room as they come in and they keep on reading. And for the kids who need a little extra support, they sit with me and we read aloud a little bit more. And for those kids sort of in the middle, they need that reader's ear, but they don't actually need me in front of them, then they can listen on an audio book. So I'm for them, but I'm never for them as much as I am for a teacher reading aloud to kids.

And Brett, let's take one last question. Oh, so, Brett just brought up my favorite topic, which is weekly vocabulary and spelling. Oh my God. I've been waiting for forever to do just a workshop on spelling. So, there's an entire chapter on when kids can't read on spelling, I will tell you if you've not read Donald Dear's brilliant book Words Their Way, that's the one you need to pick up. I know it's by another publisher, but we're pretending to be Santa Claus on Miracle on 34th Street right now, head on over to, I think it's Merrill that publishes that book, but I'm not sure.

I think that there is a direct relationship between a kids' spelling ability and reading ability in the early years, because in the early years of spelling, kids are figuring out how letters and sounds work. So in those pre-K kindergarten, first, second grade years, the best way to help a kid become a better reader is to let a kid read what he's writing. And that means as he's reading what he's writing and still doing some reading, his spelling's going to get better. I am not in favor of spelling lists as kids get older, unless they are lists that show kids patterns and they're identifying those patterns on their own. I'm a big believer in helping kids do word sorts and figuring out what those patterns for words are.

As far as vocabulary lists, folks, there's just not any research that shows us that giving kids vocabulary list each week is going to help anyone other than the kid that's already going to score 800 on the vocabulary portion of the SAT. For those other kids, they need to be looking at why they need to know words, and how words work. But spending neural energy on memorizing lists for the national vocabulary test on Friday so that they can be forgotten by Monday is a waste of classroom time. Look at some words kids need to know, ask yourself, "Will the context help them?" And if it doesn't then talk to them about those words before they read them. Otherwise let the damn text do what the text is supposed to do.
You know, that's one thing the Common Core said that I actually agreed with.

David Coleman, the architect of the Common Core, and I have had several conversations, I promise you, on the parts where I didn't agree with him. But I did agree with him that too many times teachers have stepped in and done the work for the text. We've told kids what a text is going to say, and what a text means, before the kids ever have a chance to try to let the text do its work. Folks, the most important thing we can do is get out of the way. We need to let a kid get in there and struggle with the text. Years ago, Bob and I thought about writing an article called Teaching Struggling Readers, Teaching Readers to Struggle. And then we decided all the article needed was the title, and that was it. So we didn't write the whole article. But that's the problem. We don't let kids struggle productively enough with the text. We've got to learn to back out and let kids figure out some things on their own.

Okay, Brett, one more question. I lied. Just one more question. So Brett just asked the question to me, "How important or a book studies for teachers?" Well, since I've got some of those books that I think you might be studying, I think they're damn important. I just think you all ought to do them all the time. Book studies with teachers, the subtext of that question is how important is it for us to come together as a community of readers? And that's what I think is really underneath that question. Is it important to talk with others about what we're reading, and the answer is yes. Back in 1911 or '12, a guy by the name of Percival Chubb, and you have to love someone named Percival Chubb, said, "If we let boys come together to get into small groups and talk about books they would love to read more."

We need to follow a Percival's guidelines there and we need to let kids come together, and I think we need to let teachers come together, to talk about the books they love, and the books that are challenging them, and the books that are tough text. And if we can do that, then I think we have a chance to all grow. Reading is a solitary act, and yet it has a intense social dimension. Rarely when we finish reading a book, do we want to say, "I'm just done. I don't want to talk about it." When we finish reading something that we've loved, we want to connect with someone else. So it's this solitary act with a social dimension. And that means we want to come together.

Louise Rosenblatt told us that reading was a transaction and she was talking about the transaction between the reader and the text. And I would suggest that it's also a transaction between the reader, the text, and other readers. And maybe what I would suggest is that reading is conversation. It's a conversation in your head. It's a conversation on the margins of the page, and it's a conversation with someone else. So do I think the teachers ought to come together to talk about professional text? Yeah, but I think they also ought to come together to talk about their favorite poem, and the article they read in the newspaper, and the movie they saw, and that great piece of fiction that they're reading. I think teachers are aching to be a part of a community. I think it's why this page, the Notice in that Book Club page, is so fabulous. People come together here all the time to talk. And I think that's exactly what we need to be doing.

Reading's a conversation, maybe teaching is a conversation. And maybe that's a good place for us to end tonight, folks. Teaching's a conversation. You're about to go off into a school year where it will be easy to lose that conversation, where it'll at times feel like you're all alone. You're never all alone. There is this community of teachers out there, all of us wanting to help each other. It's going to be an interesting year to be a teacher. We've got a hard election coming up in front of us. I think that this is the time more than ever before that kids need a safe place to examine the rhetoric of the politicians in front of us, and look at what makes sense and what doesn't.

I think that you need to always remember that as a parent of two kids in public schools, I pretty much stand in awe of all that you do. And as a teacher, I am proud to stand beside you in all that you do. So thank you for tonight. I hope we've answered some of your questions. We'll do another one of these real soon and I'll get to see some of you tomorrow at Teacher's College. Night, folks.


kylenebeersKylene Beers, Ed.D., is a former middle school teacher who has turned her commitment to adolescent literacy and struggling readers into the major focus of her research, writing, speaking, and teaching. She is author of the best-selling When Kids Can’t Read/What Teachers Can Do, co-editor (with Bob Probst and Linda Rief) of Adolescent Literacy: Turning Promise into Practice, and co-author (with Bob Probst) of Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading and Reading Nonfiction, Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies all published by Heinemann. She taught in the College of Education at the University of Houston, served as Senior Reading Researcher at the Comer School Development Program at Yale University, and most recently acted as the Senior Reading Advisor to Secondary Schools for the Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College.

Kylene has published numerous articles in state and national journals, served as editor of the national literacy journal, Voices from the Middle, and was the 2008-2009 President of the National Council of Teachers of English. She is an invited speaker at state, national, and international conferences and works with teachers in elementary, middle, and high schools across the US. Kylene has served as a consultant to the National Governor’s Association and was the 2011 recipient of the Conference on English Leadership outstanding leader award.

Kylene is now a consultant to schools, nationally and internationally, focusing on literacy improvement with her colleague and co-author, Bob Probst.

Topics: Education Policy, Facebook, Parent, Podcast, Reading, When Kids Can't Read, Facebook Live, Heinemann Podcast, Kylene Beers

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