I had picked up Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide over the summer but didn’t get a chance to actually read it until this past winter break. I am a big Gallagher fan and think he has a great approach to teaching reading and writing, especially to adolescents. Readicide is a few years old but it hit the nail on the coffin (pun intended) in terms of how to potentially kill a love for reading in our students. We English teachers often don’t even realize how much we are actually murdering something we truly love. I know my eyes were widened after reading this book and am going to think very differently about how I approach teaching Literature.
What I liked most about Gallagher’s points in this book was that he gave practical advice on how to incorporate analysis and critical reading skills into a class without destroying passion for the subject. He also does not believe in simply allowing student choice and understands that classic literature has an important place in our classrooms. He accepts that his students won’t always “like” a book as long as they see value in it. This is something that I have tried to embrace in my last few years of teaching. It wasn’t always easy not to take a student’s lack of joy in a book that I loved personally, but I’m starting to break away from that (and sometimes actually find pleasure when they say they hate it – hate is a strong emotion, after all!).
One of the things that resonated most with me from the book was the acknowledgement that many of our students are extremely lacking in terms of current events and history. This is not something we can place blame on but, in my opinion, is a part of a culture that is more focused on the entertainment world. To counteract this issue, he brings in articles into his classroom and has students practice close reading exercises and write about the topics. This allows the students to improve non-fiction reading skills while learning about their world to build the necessary background knowledge required for deep comprehension – such a seemingly simple idea that will greatly impact my practice and my student’s learning.
I highly recommend all of Gallagher’s work and have found practical tools that can better my own teaching in each book, but I am truly thankful that he brought up a subject that many of us English teachers are afraid to admit to: we are one of the reasons our kids hate reading. And I know, from now on, I am going to try to change this.