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Book Review: Readers Front & Center

Title:  Readers Front & Center: Helping All Students Engage with Complex Texts by Dorothy Barnhouse. Stenhouse, 2014.

Description:  Students’ ability to interpret complex texts predicts their future success, and author Dorothy Barnhouse lays out two key concepts to help teachers build this ability in young people. Ask questions and listen—while simple, this advice has universal educational value.

More precisely, Barnhouse believes students should never read anything as “disengaged answer-seekers” seeking only to correctly answer questions about the content. Instead, the value of a reading experience lies in students’ struggles to understand the text.

She shows examples of conversations with students in which she helps them break down a text—for example, by applying one’s personal understanding to the situations presented in the piece, or by forming a complete mental map around what was read. 

Bottom Line:  Taking a critical, but fair, look at Common Core Standards for reading, Barnhouse places the reader at the center of a text’s complexity. She notes the importance of reading with a flexible mindset, and through abundant classroom examples, visual diagrams and reading samples, highlights concrete methods for helping students when they struggle.

About the Author:  Literacy consultant and staff professional development expert Dorothy Barnhouse works in elementary, middle and high schools in New York City and across the country with a focus on reading comprehension, writing and critical thinking. She coauthored another professional development book, What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making, with literacy consultant Vicki Vinton.

How to Purchase:  Get this title in paperback for $20 at


Article by Jason Cunningham, EducationWorld Social Media Editor
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