Growing Readers: Units of Study in the Primary Classroom

Growing Readers: Units of Study in the Primary Classroom

Growing Readers: Units of Study in the Primary Classroom

Growing Readers: Units of Study in the Primary Classroom


Primary-grade teachers face an important challenge: teaching children how to read while enabling them to build good habits so they fall in love with reading. Many teachers find the independent reading workshop to be the component of reading instruction that meets this challenge because it makes it possible to teach the reading skills and strategies children need and guides them toward independence, intention, and joy as readers.

In Growing Readers, Kathy Collins helps teachers plan for independent reading workshops in their own classrooms. She describes the structure of the independent reading workshop and other components of a balanced literacy program that work together to ensure young students grow into strong, well-rounded readers. Kathy outlines a sequence of possible units of study for a yearlong curriculum. Chapters are devoted to the individual units of study and include a sample curriculum as well as examples of mini-lessons and reading conferences. There are also four "Getting Ready" sections that suggest some behind-the-scenes work teachers can do to prepare for the units. Topics explored in these units include:

  • print and comprehension strategies;
  • reading in genres such as poetry and nonfiction;
  • connecting in-school reading and out-of-school reading;
  • developing the strategies and habits of lifelong readers.

A series of planning sheets and management tips are presented throughout to help ensure smooth implementation.

We want our students to learn to read, and we want them to love to read. To do this we need to lay a foundation on which children build rich and purposeful reading lives that extend beyond the school day. The ideas found in Growing Readers create the kind of primary classrooms where that happens.


I have waited a long time for this book. Katherine Paterson describes the writing process like this: “Writing is something like a seed that grows in the dark… or a grain of sand that keeps rubbing at your vitals until you find you are building a coating around it. The growth of a book takes time… I talk, I look, I listen, I hate, I fear, I love, I weep, and somehow all of my life gets wrapped around the grain.”

For ten years I've watched Kathy as she grew toward this book, and now an exquisite, rich book is finally here, layered with all that she has learned through the past decade of working with little readers and their teachers. Kathy writes that when “we closely observe our students, we learn about them, of course, but we can also learn about our teaching.”

Kathy's dreams and struggles with teaching are evident throughout the pages. She tells us of her alter ego, Ms. UltraOrganizo, the teacher she dreams of being, the one who writes neatly all the time, keeps her files up to date, and has socks and earrings that match every holiday, including Earth Day. She shares the “aha!” moments, those times when the stars align, the instruction is effective, and the children respond in ways that make a teacher want to run and tell everyone what just happened. But Kathy also admits her struggles and candidly shares what she learned from the things that did not work in her classroom. She is not afraid to talk about what's hard, and we learn that it's often how we reflect on the challenges we face that show us the way on our journey to become the teachers we dream of being.

Kathy has been my traveling companion since 1993. She now leads the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project's work with primary reading, coaching all our staff developers and overseeing the work we do in primary reading in hundreds of New York City schools. Each month, Kathy sends 400 coaches from New York City schools a new installment of curricular support.

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