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Book Review: Differentiating Reading Instruction by Laura Robb

Jun 10, 2008
OK, so maybe this book does not have mass appeal. It is written by a teacher and aimed at other teachers, the plot, how to entice school kids to read. Reading is the very cornerstone of learning. Without the skill life is pretty darn hard for a school kid, and even worse for an adult.

I am an avid reader, and have been since a very small child. I read for fun then, and I read for fun now. Reading is escapism, reading is learning, reading is the gateway to knowledge. Alas it is also often treated as a boring subject by both teachers and pupils. I know that during my Grammar School (High School in the US) days I hated English Lit, it was taught in an incredibly boring fashion. I defy any 14 year old to get excited about Thomas Hardy's 'The Mayor Of Casterbridge,' or just about anything by William Shakespeare. Kids don't want to read these books, they are too difficult. With Shakespeare you have to deal with archaic language and metaphors that even well read adults have problems grasping, Thomas Hardy on the other hand just wears you down, page after boring page of dreary narrative!

Maybe the high spot of my school career was Orwell and '1984,' but even this classic was reduced to nothing. It was about 5 years after I finished school that I actually picked up a book for fun. The fun had been beaten out of me by the ridiculous approach taken by the school system.

Robb is an educator and innovator who has used her teaching experience to create a format where reading can be once again fun. Reading is maybe the most important aspect of teaching, it matters little what the subject is, the pupil needs to be able to read to learn.

One of the biggest issues facing any educator is the wide spectrum of abilities with the kids in the classroom, it may be grade 8, but there will be some kids that read at grade 4 level, there may even be some at grade 10. To aim only at the grade level results in only teaching to a small percentage of the class. Some will be lost and not able to keep up, while others will be bored, not feeling challenged, and generally frustrated.

The key, Robb explains is to develop techniques where everyone wins. Why does the entire class have to read the same book? Why not use a theme rather than a text? And why not engage the class in talking about the theme? By making the class thematic and using multiple texts suddenly you can gear material to the varied abilities of the class, a win-win situation, everyone can operate within their comfort zone, and learn!

Even when it is necessary from a curriculum standpoint to use a standard text, by being creative in your teaching methods everyone can gain.

I am not a teacher, well not by the traditional definition, but I am peripherally involved in the adult literacy arena, and many of Robb's ideas could be converted to work in the adult world. One of the biggest problems I find with many poor readers is that they can read the words, but cannot assimilate the words into a cohesive idea. Differentiating Reading Instruction is chock full to the brim with strategies to resolve this problem.

This should be a must read book for anyone working within the teaching profession, the ideas are applicable in just about every subject.

You can get your copy of Differentiating Reading Instruction from Amazon.
About the Author
Simon Barrett is an adult educator in Calgary, Alberta. With the 11 months a year of winter, he reads a lot of books! He is also a contributing editor for Blogger News and maintains a personal blog at Simon B.
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