BOOK REVIEW: Writers ARE Readers

Writers ARE Readers-

Flipping Reading Instruction into Writing Opportunities

By Lester L. Laminack and Reba M. Wadsworth Portsmouth, NH/Heinemann 2015

Laminack and Wadsworth help us to understand that “When reading and writing instruction are planned separately, each without regard for the other, the resulting instruction fails to weave clear connections between these related language processes.” Rather, the authors argue, “We pursue the notion of helping students to recognize reading and writing as mutually supportive processes to make their developing literacy more meaningful and efficient.”

Laminack and Wadsworth offer us a workable, accessible book with sections addressing such topics as: Problem and Solution, Inferring, Noticing Important Details, as a few examples. Each section includes: Lesson Focus, Flip-It From Reading to Writing and Writing Samples. This book offers practical advice from authors who lead by example with beautiful and concise writing.


Professional Books and Resources from Jennifer Serravallo

Note—these reviews are excerpted from Jennifer Serravallo’s rich website of book descriptions –Please see links for more details about her publications, great articles,books reviews, and podcasts, and her contact information.

The Reading Strategies Book

Here it is—a book JUST about reading strategies themselves. The strategies outlined in this book will complement any reading program and are presented in usable steps for hands-on teaching in the classroom. Serravallo cross-links each strategy to different genres, skills, Fountas and Pinnell reading levels and assessments.  This user friendly guide helps teachers to develop goals for each reader and models step-by-step instructions and prompts aligned to specific literacy strategies and craft demonstrations.

The Literacy Teacher’s Playbook (Grades K-2 or Grades 3-6)

This text guides teachers in the process of how to collect literacy data that is useful and how to analyze and synthesize multiple assessments to develop instructional plans and learning goals. The book includes actual samples of student work and models the process of how it was analyzed to make specific instructional decisions.

Independent Reading Assessment

Independent Reading Assessment is a complete comprehension assessment guide that includes hundreds of lessons to turn formative assessment results into instruction. The guides are available in both fiction and nonfiction versions for grades three, four, and five and are packaged with 32-26 trade books with specific questions on sticky notes to guide student -driven assessment.  Online support for teachers includes instructional videos and a place to organize anecdotal notes, store and organize results, and sort students for specific strategy instruction.

Conferring with Readers

Conferring with Readers is a comprehensive guide that provides frameworks for conferences that focus on six purposes for reading and provides suggestions for targeting instruction to meet individual student needs.


Other resources:

Jennifer’s online PD resources are located at

Videos of Jennifer are located at


Kathy Leo-Nyquist


Lida Winfield: Growing Up Dyslexic

by Stacy Raphael (@raphaelstacy)


I remember so clearly the first time I met Lida Winfield in November 2011. This was before I directed school programs at the Flynn, and I had been invited to be a guest at their Engaging Active Learners Conference—a day long immersion into arts integration with Vermont educators and Flynn teaching artists. Lida was one of those artists, but that morning, she was also the keynote. And this was no ordinary keynote speech; Lida was presenting her one-woman solo dance and theater performance, “In Search of Air” based on her experiences growing up in Vermont with a learning disability.


In one brief hour, the audience and I experienced the entire range of emotions—poignant heartache, laughter, concern, rage, compassion, and redemptive joy. We experienced it first as fellow humans, together in this journey but second as educators—as people committed to helping children learn and grow and develop. Lida’s painful experiences as a learner with dyslexia and the cast of characters who alternately helped and hindered her growth were all too personal for us. This was our field, our love. Her pain was our own students’ pain.


I practically sprinted to Lida after her performance. This show. It has the power to be a call to action for educators, a reminder of why we got into this field to begin with. I told Lida that I had a number of audiences that I’d like to put her in front of. And that’s exactly what I proceeded to do.


After presenting Lida to the education cohort in my graduate program and then again in the Vermont State House for legislators and other statewide organizations and subsequently when I came to work at the Flynn, I strove to share her performance with as many audiences as I was able. And although I have seen it more times that I can count, it gets me every time.


You see, one of the most potent elements of the arts is their power to convert data and information into a palpable human story. By engaging the heart and the mind, we are transported to seeing our universal oneness, our belongingness beyond the categories that separate us. As stated on her website, “Lida’s presence on stage expresses her life so clearly that it brings us closer to our own.”


It also paints such a vivid picture justifying the arts and their place in the academic curriculum through arts integration. During the Q&A session following each performance, people often ask Lida what would have made a difference in her education. In the show, Lida says, “this is the story of the transformative power of art,” and she re-asserts this in her response: if teachers had utilized curricular approaches to teaching reading, writing, and more such as those used in the Flynn Center’s Words Come Alive program, she could have had an avenue to access literacy. If teaching had been differentiated to include kinesthetic and embodied approaches to reading, she might have learned this skill before she was in her 20s.


Lida’s work has inspired me. It has challenged me to push further and design at the margins. When we plant ourselves resolutely at the edges and teach to each child’s strengths, the floodgates of opportunity open for all students. Celebrating difference, creating multiple pathways for students to experience success in schools, unlocking potential—it’s a monumental effort, but worth the stretch, the risk, the growth for those in the teaching profession.


When people experience “In Search of Air,” they are changed. I am changed. And I am grateful.


Learn more about Lida’s performance and how you can bring it to your school or district for a teacher in-service or student performance and workshops by visiting

Videos of Lida:


Book Review: Stella by Starlight

by Carol Renca

    Inspired by her grandmother’s memoirs and dedicated to her beloved father, writer Sharon Draper’s latest novel, Stella by Starlight, is a powerful story for early middle school youth. Set in Bumblebee, North Carolina 1932, amid a segregated community filled with prejudice and indifference, eleven year old Stella Mills begins to discover the courage emerging from her inner heart.  The novel opens with a gripping scene as Stella and her brother Jojo hide while watching flames in the dark night sky. Nine robed Ku Klux Klan members have gathered for a cross burning near their close knit community. Stella and Jojo are terrified of being discovered. Her father and others in their neighborhood have been emboldened to vote in the next presidential election and there are those in town who are planning to stop it. Stella knows that this meeting of the KKK means trouble for her family and friends and she must warn them.

    This engaging first chapter will draw middle school readers into the story right away. As Stella tries to understand the prejudicial “unwritten rules” and dangers of living in a racially divided South, she is also determined to rescue those she loves from harm. Throughout the novel, Stella struggles with and uses the art of writing as a means of unraveling her inner thoughts. Just as author Sharon Draper and her grandmother have crafted stories to reveal truths, Stella dares to write about the intimidation symbol of KKK for a local writing competition. She cleverly titled her piece Slaying Dragons, and boldly submitted it.

    Stella by Starlight is a story that informs youth about extreme prejudice and the violent practices against African-Americans historically in the United States. It provides cultural awareness and a context for many of the racial challenges that we face today and can be a great book for discussion. Additionally, it is a story that speaks directly to youth with universal themes of hope, resolve and compassion and can provide a sense of empowerment in an adult world.


  • Carole Renca, Edmunds Middle School Teacher-Librarian, Burlington, Vermont