Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Holding On to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones: Six Literacy Principles Worth Fighting For by Thomas Newkirk


I have to admit that it took me longer to read this book than I had anticipated. I don't know whether it was the fact that summer finally decided to appear in late July or the slow start to this text, but I did not plow through it with the same gusto as other selections that I finished long ago. Now that I've read the entire book, I can say that there are enough nuggets of wisdom and common sense to make this book a worthwhile read.

What I liked most about this book were the end sections. This is where the author, Thomas Newkirk, talks about the promised "Six Literacy Principles" from the subtitle. These principles are explained in great depth through a combination of personal stories from Newkirk's high school and college teaching experience and a good deal of evidence from research. The six principles are:

-Balance the basics
-Expressive Writing
-Popular culture as a literacy tool
-Literacy and pleasure
-Uncluttering the curriculum
-Finding a language for difficulty

All of these areas are explained in great depth. I found the chapters on popular culture and pleasure the most interesting and full of great points. The one issue that I have with this text is that it seems to end abruptly, without much of a conclusion that ties the whole together. Newkirk ends with a section on free reading, which could have been either developed more fully or a seventh principle, in my opinion. I was looking forward to this section the most, but it was only a few pages. In some ways, this felt a little rushed to me and I couldn't help but wonder why it did not go on longer or have any sort of conclusion.

I would not say that reading this text was time or money wasted. I would definitely read another title by the same author and I look forward to seeing what he comes up with next.

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