Literacy is huge in education right now. School boards are seeking to raise their schools’ scores on province-wide tests of literacy. That pressure is then downloaded onto teachers, who are directed to improve their students’ literacy results by constantly changing and improving their reading and writing programs. Teachers are often left scrambling to develop robust literacy programs in their classrooms. David Booth’s Literacy 101 promises to “meet the needs of real teachers in K – 12 classrooms.”
For the most part, Booth delivers on this promise. There are many, many practical suggestions for everything from organizing an effective reading program to building a literacy community. The book is set up as a sequence of questions and answers. The Table of Contents lists all the questions in a given chapter (the title of which is also a question), rendering specific answers easy and quick to locate. Some of the answers are, indeed, useful for teachers of all grades, from Junior Kindergarten to grade 12. However, most of the suggestions are best for teachers of the junior and intermediate grades. The vast majority of them are quite clearly impossible in a Kindergarten classroom full of preschoolers, some of whom will be as young as three years old. Many are far too challenging for the primary grades but perhaps not challenging enough for Grades 11 and 12. There are ways to adapt them for the age and reading level of your students, but it would be a falsehood to say that all of the “answers” are useful for all teachers from K-12 in the way they are presented.
Having said all that, I like the book. In my opinion, it would be most useful for new teachers of Grades 3-10, or those looking for new ideas. It is full of excellent suggestions for setting up literacy programs, using new technology, buddying emergent students with more accomplished students, developing critical literacy skills, and encouraging self- and peer- evaluation. If you are feeling lost or frustrated with your literacy program, Literacy 101 will be extremely helpful.
Karen Hoffman, BA, BEd, MA has been a Primary/Junior teacher for 28 years.