Igniting a Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers
by Steve Layne
Reviewed by Vicky Gilpin
High School English and Drama (IL)
Teacher Leaders Network
With standardized testing, core curricular standards, and increased accountability urging administrators or pressing teachers to examine pedagogical minutae in multiple areas, some scholarly works tend to the anxious and pedantic. Steven L. Layne's Igniting a Passion for Reading is a fast-paced, interesting, and — most important — relevant burst of fresh air.
Cleverly written and saturated with snippets about inspiring educators and students inspired by reading, the book can be enjoyably devoured in one sitting. When was the last time you read a "strategy book," with a smile on your face and ideas for your classroom, in one sitting?
Unlike some works, Layne's conversational style, academic anecdotes, and use of humor are not intended to disguise a lack of scholarship. Instead, they highlight the many excellent ideas within the book with reminders that strategies cannot be successful without an emphasis on students as individuals with needs specific to their situations.
Why is this book so revolutionary? Does it espouse some new program, training, or method based on an educational trend of the minute? No! Instead, Layne focuses the reader's attention on the issue of aliteracy: that students may have the skills to read but not the will: "It's not necessarily that students can't read, it's that many of them don't.”
Even though policy makers may focus on the reading skills which are more easily assessed, such as phonetics, fluency, comprehension, semantics, and syntax, an emphasis on interest, attitude, motivation, and engagement will positively influence the student as a whole reader. Therefore, Layne argues, teachers must use strategies to encourage students to become recreational and lifelong readers. Some of the strategies discussed include the teacher’s use of the magical phrase "I thought of you," book chats, modeling reading, author visits, reading aloud, and others.
Organized into easily accessible sections, each chapter opens with a memory from a current leader in the field of reading and education, explores a strategy, and ends with a section called In the Trenches, containing relevant anecdotes. The information is provided with various examples, friendly for elementary through the high school classroom and easily adapted to individual situations.
The book not only offers an excellent writing style and a plethora of strategies, it includes useful charts, rubrics, and appendices. In addition, Layne created quarterly and weekly schedules to assist teachers in their incorporation of strategies. With these elements, teachers can avoid a common worry of professional development: that they will start off strong with new strategies but neglect the follow-through. The book allows for a strong foundation that teachers can craft to their own classrooms and the needs of their students.
Although hopeful about the contents, I originally (and jadedly) feared another retread of various party lines or advice from someone who had forgotten that some students choose not to read. Instead, I found within the covers a kindred spirit who believes that every child can be encouraged to read interesting books and who understands how encouraging recreational reading can positively influence the child's life, not only through test scores, but through lifetime achievement.
Aliteracy — Steven L. Layne has your number. And thanks to Igniting a Passion for Reading, I'm starting to as well.
I cannot say enough about this book; it contained so many amusing, heartfelt, and — most important again — relevant quotations I would like to reiterate. However, I must resist and, in the tradition of one of the best youth-based book chat models, Reading Rainbow, I remind the reader that "to find out more, you've got to get the book!"
Vicky Gilpin is an English teacher at Cerro Gordo High School and Richland Community College, in Illinois, and was chosen as a Phi Delta Kappa national Emerging Leader in 2009. She holds a doctorate in educational leadership.