It was two days before school started and my husband and I were capturing a few last moments of summer. Sitting on the outside deck of a favorite restaurant, we passed the time with conversation, reading, and an assortment of small plates to while away the afternoon. My body soaked up the sun, but my mind was turning to school brain, and the book I brought was Jennifer Seravallo‘s The Reading Strategies Book. How fortunate that I spent an afternoon focused on absorbing the information she provides in these pages because, if I had to pick only one book to help me plan a year’s worth of lessons, this would be the one.
I have now been in school for a little over a month, and this book is marked up and well-traveled. And, it’s multiplying! On the second day of school, one of the special education teachers asked me what I was carrying. I showed her the book and told her what was great about it, and she went directly to Amazon to get a copy. In the days following, I chatted up the book and showed it to many other colleagues. This week, I saw it sprouting up around me. On Friday, I stopped in to chat with one of our reading specialists. Guess what was on her desk? Yup. The Reading Strategies Book. On Thursday, a colleague in second grade stopped to thank me. Her book had just arrived and she was excited to start reading it over the weekend. On Tuesday, one of my third grade teammates grabbed me in the hall on our way to lunch. “I’m bringing the book to show everyone the lesson I did and the chart I created for making inferences, which goes with this week’s reading lessons. I’m so excited about the chart. It’s one of the best I’ve made.”
You might be thinking that I have tremendous powers of persuasion, but the truth is, this book sells itself as soon as I show it to people.
The design is brilliant. The information is invaluable.
The book is organized around 13 overarching reading goals, arranged in a hierarchy from pre-emergent/emergent reading skills to developing a range of comprehension skills for fiction and nonfiction texts. Each goal covers a series of reading skills that can be taught using various reading strategies that are each presented on a SINGLE page. That’s right. Each strategy is covered on one page that highlights which students this would help and what skill it will help students acquire. It identifies the reading level and the genre or text type this applies to. The strategy is concisely described in two to three sentences, and Serravallo details teaching tips and/or lesson language– very briefly. Every strategy has a short list of prompts that can be used in conversations with students as you teach and guide them. Be sure to read Seravallo’s introduction where you will learn how best to use the book and the reasoning behind various aspects of the lessons, like why the prompts are so brief.
My favorite aspect of the strategies? The visuals! EVERY SINGLE STRATEGY has a visual that shows you an anchor chart or a teaching tool that students can use to apply the strategy independently. Here is a chart I made with my students in the first days of school. It is adapted from Strategy 2.1, A Perfect Reading Spot, on page 48.
My students loved suggesting the pictures after I drew the first one, the light bulb. They were excited to see our carpet squares depicted under “Soft?” and most importantly, they used these suggestions for making good choices. We’ve been able to refer back to it on days when we regress a bit, and the visual is a constant reminder of a strategy we use as readers, and writers, to improve our skills.
When you find yourself thinking, “How am I going to teach that?” or, you think the teacher manual from your reading program is unhelpful or uninspiring, you will flip through the pages of The Reading Strategies Book, and you will find yourself unstuck and completely inspired.
Serravallo likens this book to a cookbook, and it is an excellent analogy. You will pick the meal that fits your students and the day, and you will choose the ingredients that match your goals and those of your students. My first cookbook, the quintessential Betty Crocker, looks like I know The Reading Strategies Book will someday look– old and loved and marked up with constant use.
If my powers of persuasion have failed to sway you, it’s because this post is not irresistible, but I promise the book is. Go check it out on Amazon and look inside the first pages. You will instantly see that the design is incredibly teacher friendly, and the information is immediately applicable.
If you can’t resist buying the book, please post a comment to share your thoughts and experiences. Let’s start a reading strategies revolution together!