Tuesday, February 11, 2014

We Can Teach All Kids to Read (from Dick Allington)

Last Saturday, I got to hear Dick Allington speak at the No Child Left Out Conference in Charleston, South Carolina. I'm embarrassed to say that I've never heard of Dick Allington. He has served as president of the International Reading Association as well as the president of the National Reading Conference, he's authored over 100 articles and books, and he's in the IRA Reading Hall of Fame! What I heard this weekend about reading research was very powerful, and I'm sharing my notes from his presentation below. 

*My apologies on the quality of the pictures taken by my iPad. Also, the notes are taken from what he said in his presentation.

Dr. Allington said that there are a lot of what he called mythologies around reading: poverty, boys, ADD... He said there are lots of labels to say that not everyone can read, but he said that we can teach everyone to read.

--Two-thirds of teachers feel no responsibility of teaching kids in SpEd, ELL or Title I. (They think it's the specialist's job.)

--Girls reading on grade-level produce 1 baby for every 8 that are produced by girls who read below grade-level.

--You can teach kids to decode, or you can teach kids to read. They're not the same thing.

-->Researchers interviewed teachers who referred more than 5 students per year (high-referral) for SpEd and teachers who had not referred anyone in 5 years (low-referral) for SpEd.
-->When asking high-referral teachers about a struggling student, they get 3 sentences. "He can't read. He doesn't try. His parents are no help either."
-->When low-referral teachers were asked, they gave a 3-page description about the student. What they like to read, what their interests were, and more.
-->What do we as effective or ineffective teachers have to do with LD?

"Middle school teachers say they don't have time for reading intervention. Why would they put that student in any other class in middle school if 
he can't frickin' read." 
- Dick Allington

Principles for Intervention Design
1. Match Reader and Text Level.
**No one can teach kids science or social studies if kids can't read the books. Must be able to read with 99% accuracy and 90% comprehension.
2. Dramatically expands reading activity. 
*Struggling readers read less than those that don't struggle. They do more worksheets and have more testing.
3. Use very small groups or tutoring. 
*The only ones that work are 1:1 expert tutoring or 1:3 expert tutoring.
4. Coordinates Intervention with Core Classroom.
*Ninety percent of classroom teachers have no idea what kids are reading in the intervention program.
5. Intervention must be done by expert teachers.
6. Focus Intervention on Meta-Cognition and Meaning
*Teach kids to think about thinking.

--Round-robin reading aloud should be stopped!

--Teachers have created an environment where kids don't read. Either the books are too hard, or it's things that the kids don't want to read.

What Dick Allington says is very thought-provoking, and I would love to hear your comments and responses below!

Please join me tomorrow when I will share how I plan to use and share this information at our school.


  1. [@edtechgirl] I agree that many teachers do not feel that it is their responsibility to teach kids to read - I tell them that it doesn't matter what subject you teach - We are all the teachers of the language of our content. You have to teach kids how to read "like a scientist" or an "artist" or a "historian". Students can be exposed to complex texts -- start with smaller chunks of rich text and teach strategies for Close reading! I disagree with Allington on decoding. Students do need to learn de-coding strategies. Phonological and Phonemic awareness are part of reading instruction. You wouldn't expect kids to be fluent in math without an understanding of numeracy. Helping students see patterns in the way letters work together to form words and linking those patterns with the way letters and words sound help to make students fluent readers - and give them the tools to tackle unfamiliar words in context rather than having to skip it or ask for help. We need to give our students lots of opportunities to read lots of different things...and we need to make sure they have the tools to do this.

  2. Great comments, edtechgirl. I, too, agree with teaching disciplinary literacy - to read like the person in the field (scientist, historian, etc.) I think Allington's point about decoding is that a good decoder is not necessarily a good reader/comprehender. It's easy to quantify decoding, which fools teachers into thinking that if they can get their students to decode, then that's as far as they need to take it. I do think that decoding is necessary, especially in the middle/high school years. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. The rising demand and popularity of visual books is due to benefit it offers; allowing children to enjoy the content and to improve their reading skills. To enhance the reading abilities it is better that the books should have a message in the end. As a mother of two young ones, I was looking for some good resources and found your blog. Your ideas are good and will implement them for sure. Moreover, I also find another site http://helpkidsread.net/ that is just best to have good books for children. Thanks and keep sharing the nice information!!