Four Books on Teaching Reading or Comfort Food for Thought

Macmillan Employee
Macmillan Employee
2 0 1,321

Writing in Bedford Bits, Jean Bohannon calls attention to the need for faculty to find comfort zones in their teaching. For many faculty getting students to read, to read well, to read challenging course texts or even sometimes what faculty hope will be accessible course texts, creates great discomfort. And sometimes that discomfort leads to frustration and anger. I think the books outlined below can help forestall that.

The post that follows then, is a slightly edited version of an email I sent to the Writing Program Administrator's discussion list (WPA-L). It stems from a recent discussion that was kicked off with the subject line, "Getting Students to Read" ( ). That discussion sprung from my pointing out a nice piece by John Warner in Inside Higher Ed called "When Students Won't Do the Reading" ( ). I really recommend a visit to John's post before reading about the books below. It won't take long and his approach and calm set well the stage for the approaches books two, three, and four take.

As the discussion around "Getting Students to Read" grew to about 50 or so posts, David Schwalm created a new subject line, “Accelerating acquisition of reading ability, was Getting students to read,” and reframed the discussion as one of having, very often, to teach a lot about how to read in a short window of time. He frames the issue this way ( 😞

In response to David's post, I pointed to the following four books. As you'll see in the brief discussion, I highly recommend the fourth book, Ellen Carillo's Securing a Place for Reading Composition as a first choice for writing teachers. But I am finding that the work in Reading for Understanding2e pairs very nicely with Carillo's study and recommendations. So if you have room in the budget for two, get them both.


The first two are professional resources from the Bedford/St. Martin's Imprint of Macmillan Learning, and if you're considering them, your sales rep can help you order them or you can request a free exam copy easily enough by registering as a faculty member at the pages the links below will take you to. The books' tables of contents, which the URLs below will also show, give you a sense of what the books offer and why they'll likely be useful.

One: Teaching Developmental Reading: Historical, Theoretical, and Practical Background Readings by Sonya Armstrong , Norman A. Stahl (Northern Illinois University) , Hunter R. Boylan (Appalachian State University)

While focused on developmental reading, it has a some pieces, such as this one by Frances O. Triggs, "From Remedial Reading: The Diagnosis and Correction of Reading Difficulties at the College Level" that get at a final question in David's post, ""what it is that makes reading (and writing) difficult or easy for college students?"

The following three books offer more comfort -- they give good advice faculty can follow. Book three on the list, Reading for Understanding 2e, speaks to faculty in any college course, not just first year composition.

Two: Reading to Learn and Writing to Teach: Literacy Strategies for Online Writing Instruction by Beth Hewett (Past Chair, CCCC Committee for Effective Practices in Online Writing)​  This Bedford/St. Martin's imprint title is summed up well at its catalog page, and you'll see why it might be useful, especially if you're teaching online, have concerns with students reading ability and skills, and want some practical, and based in current learning theory, ideas for addressing their reading.

Three -- Start Here if You're Not a Writing Teacher: I also really like Reading for Understanding 2e, described more here -- There's a link from that blog post to sample chapters from the book by Ruth Schoenbach, Cynthia Greenleaf, and Lynn Murphy, including one a link to chapter two, "The Reading Apprenticeship Framework," which, in language and approaches that folks can appreciate, gives shape to how the book thinks about reading and the teaching of reading, urging, as their subtitle says a reading apprenticeship. The book speaks to high school and college classrooms. What it does is give every instructor -- an appendix offers strategies for addressing reading in science, math, literature, history and other disciplines -- a lens for seeing their way to better strategies for making their students stronger academic and scholarly readers.

Four -- Start Here if You Are a Writing Teacher: I mention books two and three above because they get at something raised in the fourth book -- one that might be the place folks on this list will want to start: Ellen C. Carillo's Securing a Place for Reading in Composition: The Importance for Teaching For Transfer (Utah State U. Press --  Carillo notes on page 32 that "Despite their commitment to foregrounding the practice of reading in their writing courses, 51 percent of the [writing] instructors interviewed were not secure in their abilities to teach reading."

Another reason for writing instructors to start with Carillo is that Carillo starts with writing instructors, on page one in the first sentence, "In the final months of 2009 ( ), the WPA listserv (WPA-L) saw an onslaught of detailed responses to an initial post with the deceptively simple subject line: "How well do your students read . . .?"

In chapter 6, "Teaching Mindful Reading to Promote the Transfer of Reading Knowledge," Carillo calls for and describes a mindful reading framework, one whose elements also appear in Reading to Understand 2e, touches on the need for that framework to also be metacognitive and then moves to ideas for assignments and recommends some essays and textbooks that can be used in courses to promote transferable reading skills.

All of which is to say, Carillo moves from her own research -- a survey on the role of reading in fyc inspired by discussions here (and a survey that find participation from members here) -- to scholarship on transfer and reading to some things folks can do. If you're teaching a writing and teaching of writing course, it'd be a good book to consider.

More and more graduate students, in composition and rhetoric and other disciplines will be heading to two-year colleges to do their work, or to four year teaching institutions. For those who go as writing teachers, the increased use of combined reading and writing courses, or writing courses that increasingly also emphasize reading, will be something they'll want to be able to talk about in interviews. Carillo's book will be especially helpful to rhetoric and writing instructors, when applying for those jobs; it will help them to be more confident about the discussion of reading and writing. Or to put it as Jean Bohannon might, help them to be more comfortable.