National Writing Project

Book Review: Reading for Their Life

By: Michael W. Smith
Date: 2010

Summary: In this foreword to Alfred Tatum's Reading for Their Life, Michael W. Smith, former director of the NWP at Rutgers Writing Project, urges readers to read Tatum's book as a call to action, and for us to heed it.



Tatum is profoundly optimistic about teachers. Although he argues that educators must courageously accept that we are part of a social and educational system that contributes to the underperformance of African American adolescent males, he believes we have the power to change that sad fact.

"It is my hope that through this book other teachers will find a way to squeeze texts for every ounce of possibility that they contain to advance the literacy development of African American adolescent males."

He points the way not only by sharing his ideas about enabling texts, but also by sharing his ideas about enabling instruction. He details how to use essential questions to motivate and reward students' reading. He explains how to use the text to teach the text. He explains how to use students' reading in service of their writing and vice versa. In short, we have the power to make a difference. All we need is the will.

For more, read the Foreward from Reading for Their Life (PDF).

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