Reading Reconsidered is not aimed at homeschoolers, but I think it contains some useful information that classical homeschoolers might want to consider. First, an introduction to who and what this book is about.
Reading Reconsidered’s subtitle is “A Practical Guide to Rigorous Literacy Instruction.” Those of you who wince at the word “rigorous” might remember the Common Core wars and make no mistake, Lemov is all in on the Common Core.
In fact, Lemov got his Edu-Professional-Consultant start under the NCLB regime, called in to turn around schools unable to meet the NCLB standardized testing requirements. In response to the unpredictable quality of the average classroom teacher, he made a virtue of Taylorization in the classroom, complete with video monitoring. While it’s true that factories are more efficient since Taylor and his stopwatch, applying those values to the classroom understandably had serious push back, including accusations of racist practices.
Lemov went on to lead the Uncommon Schools charter network in the “no excuses” style. In fact, all of the authors of this book (Lemov, Driggs, and Woolway) are currently affiliated with Uncommon Schools. No Excuses Schools have been a flashpoint for criticism on many fronts.
relentlessly penalizing students who commit minor infractions: resting a head on a desk, chewing gum, talking during the silent march from class to class (Chalkbeat),
students in third grade and above wetting themselves during practice tests (NY Times),
but fewer than a third of its high school graduates were earning college degrees on time (NY Times)
[and parents said] “I wouldn’t put my dog in that school,” (Jacobin)
Very bluntly, all three of these college-educated, white, education professionals want to send poor (83% low-income), “urban” (94% Black or Hispanic) children to college. Reading Reconsidered is much like Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion in that it’s entirely teacher focused–it’s all about what the teacher should do when teaching reading.
The assumption in this book is that children will attend college, and the overarching goal is to prepare children to succeed at that endeavor
Classical educators will find much that is familiar in this book, and in fact on the second page the authors nod to home educated guiding lights of the 19th century. Immediately rejecting “let them read on their own and hope for the best,” they argue for “the diligent study of reading” through, you guessed it, the Taylorization of teaching reading.
Significant goals overlap with classical education:
- “Read harder texts” vs “the Great Books“
- “Close read” texts vs “Socratic dialogue“
- “read nonfiction” vs “read nonfiction“
- “writing for reading” vs “Writing With Skill“
The authors point out that college level reading is more difficult because it require reading dense, technical, primary sources and classic literature. Of course, those who classically educate their children already appreciate the value of classic literature and primary sources.
“The old books lay a foundation for all later learning and life.” —David Hicks
Reading Reconsidered spends a great deal of time on “close reading,” which is possibly the academic skill I most despise, and which I will discuss more thoroughly later. However, it’s worth noting that the Well-Trained Mind Academy offers a study skills class that includes close reading.
Later post in this series will discuss Reading Reconsidered chapter by chapter, and discuss its applicability (or not) to classical homeschooling.