In the latest installment of our recommended reads series, Carie King, a doctoral student in Rhetoric and Composition, recommends Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher.  We are also pleased to announce Kelly Gallagher will hold a workshop on campus this Friday, June 14. For more details:

It was the first day of summer with so many possibilities of adventure. I gathered my children, a newly promoted first grader and third grader, to plan our day. My youngest asked, “Momma! Can we pretend to be couch potatoes today?” I had to laugh. This is not a phrase we use in our home, so I asked, “Honey, what would one do to pretend to be a couch potato?”  My son smiled before me and said, “We sit on the couch, watch TV, and eat things that are inappropriate!”

Inappropriate? My son, at the age of six used a word that most of my former high school students and now college students would have never pulled from their vocabulary. Should I be surprised? According to Kelly Gallagher, not so much. My son is a reader, living in a home of readers. He was read to in utero, reads during the school year, and participates in multiple summer reading programs. His vocabulary reflects his love of reading. My son is not like many students we encounter in the classroom who have never been exposed to a love of reading. However, if Gallagher is correct, my son may soon fall prey to “Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practice found in schools.”

In Kelly Gallagher’s 2007 text Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It, Gallagher, a full-time high school teacher in Anaheim, California, defines Readicide, presents what he sees to be the social and political factors that contribute to such poor practice in schools, and the dire consequences to our students and society as a whole. He then provides practical ways that educators can reverse this trend occurring in K-12 schools and, I would add, impacting the university as well.

Gallagher pushes the reader beyond the “usual suspects – poverty, lack of parental education, print-poor environments at home, second-language issues, the era of the hurried child, and other (easier) entertainment options that lure students away from reading” and shines the light on the choices made in the classrooms. He proposes, with regret, that “the practices we, as educators, are employing to make students better readers are often killing them. Intentions are not the problem; our practices are the problem.”  In a setting where schools value developing test-takers rather than readers and often limit authentic reading experiences, an educator’s desire to impart a love of reading to students (at all levels) may be subverted by the “overteaching” or “underteaching” of books.

Gallagher, writing to an audience of educators, delivers a call for the courage to do what is best for students by providing practical suggestions on how to prevent Readicide in the classroom and how to match intention with good practice.  Whether you are an educator or a parent longing for your child to develop a life-long love of reading or one who simply values the act of reading, this is a must read: “A generation of readers hangs in the balance.”

Gallagher, Kelly. Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It. Portland: Stenhouse, 2007. Print.