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The Reading Zone: How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  1,608 Ratings  ·  201 Reviews
Long an advocate of frequent, voluminous reading in schools, the author draws on evidence gathered in twenty years of classroom teaching to make the case for reading workshop more powerful than ever. The book establishes the top ten conditions for making engaged classroom reading possible for students at all levels and provides the practical support and structures necessar ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by Scholastic Teaching Resources (Teaching Strategies)
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“If you had observed these students on any other occasion in their waking lives—say, yesterday at recess as they shot hoops, exchanged iPods, teased, and screamed—it might be hard to reconcile that noise with this quiet. But here, in reading workshop, it’s dead silent because my kids are gone. Each boy and girl has vanished into an invisible world. Each, as they put it, is lost in the reading zone.”

It’s a wonderful book for a teachers’ handbook, almost utopian. What’s the secret of a successfu
Aug 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that describes how to create passionate readers. The focus in on students around middle school age. One section that I liked was the chapter specifically looked at boys. It provides an indepth look at one boy who many would not imagine could be passionate about reading. Cam comes from a working class family. He's an athlete, and loves dirt biking and racing. The author, his teacher, finds books that Cam loves and over time he becomes an avid reader and writer. Atwell dismisses a l ...more
Feb 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book made me want to cry because it gave me permission to be the kind of reading teacher I want to be, the kind who helps kids find books that they will love so that they will grow to be reader! I tried this approach with my reluctant, below grade level readers this year, and I am thrilled to say that a majority who have hated reading all their lives now get upset with me when they don't have a chance to read. I've worked my hiney off to find books that they'll love, but it is so worth it! ...more
Lars Guthrie
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
'The Reading Zone' sets itself up as a manifesto. The answer to its subtitle, 'How to Help Kids Become Skilled, Passionate, Habitual, Critical Readers,' could be neatly summed up with one word: 'choice.'

Following a quick tour of her hushed classroom—'nineteen students…reading nineteen books'—Nancie Atwell makes the declaration of principle that is this brief but powerful work’s raison d’etre: 'The only surefire way to induce a love of books is to invite students to select their own.'

Jul 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: reading/writing teachers, librarians
I had the great pleasure of having to read this book for one of my graduate classes at NYU, and it has since become somewhat of a Bible for me to which I still constantly refer (the creases in the cover prove it!)

It is an absolute must read for English teachers, Reading teachers,librarians (particularly those of the YA variety), or anyone interested in discovering how to reach the mind of the adolescent reader, providing ideas, templates, and a complete breakdown of how Atwell, a true master, or
Aug 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I wish all curriculum coordinators and administrators would read this book! I want to go to her school and teach there! She advocates for frequent "voluminous" reading with students choosing their own books and reading at their own pace. This is how I want to teach reading, but find it difficult due to time constraints and administrator constraints!! I think what she says makes perfect sense --- you become a better reader by reading, just like you become a better basketball player by playing bas ...more
Mar 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
There are so many snippets of wisdom that I underlined in this book! I completely, fully agree with everything Nancie Atwell has to say about developing passionate lifelong readers. Just some of her thoughts:

"Do not risk ruining the reading of stories by teaching children to focus on how they're processing them."

"For students of every ability and background, it's the simple, miraculous act of reading a good book that turns them into readers, because even for the least experienced, most reluctan
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education, nonfiction
Where to begin? In 2007, the economy of the United States crashed, beginning what is now commonly called "The Great Recession." In 2008, the federal government borrowed hundreds of billions of dollars as a part of the "Investment and Recovery Act," or something like that (it's ususally called 'the Stimulus'). Many of these billions of dollars were then put on a baited hook known as "Race to the Top," (RTTT) which is a menu of Washington-approved educational reforms that states could adopt if the ...more
Oct 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
It is important to note that this is an academic book and my rating is based in that line of thinking. The Reading Zone is a great book that addresses the way kids actually learn to read, identify, and think abstractly. Continual testing and and analytical approaches to reading do help kids, but what they really need to do, in the opinion of the author, is get large chunks of time to read what they want, where they want, and have a teacher on hand to follow their progress give them help with wor ...more
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nancie Atwell has some great advice, ideas and insight into getting students to read and what it takes for the to fully immerse themselves in the world that lies between the pages of a book. She shares her experiences and feedback from her students. While it may not be applicable for all classrooms, reading this book has definitely provided a springboard for things I can do to help foster a community of readers in my ELA classroom. The key is to have students read frequently and voluminously and ...more
Tena Edlin
Sep 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: professional, pln
Thank you, Nancie Atwell, for recharging my batteries. This book had a lot of philosophical similarities to Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer, but it had enough differences to make it interesting... can't wait to discuss it w/ my PD group. What it comes down to is this: if your reading instruction isn't creating lifelong passionate readers, it's not worth much.

The part I find the hardest is that I'm expected to have grades in the gradebook, and it's not always easy to translate this philosoph
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Interesting approach to reading education--fantastic ideas. One thing that leaves me troubled is the focus on a final grade determination based in part on effort. All the effort in the world does not constitute a grade earned (in my opinion). What can the student do? What can the student show he/she is capable of. Effort will help get you there, but it should not figure into the grading process of what a student knows at the end of a term.
Dec 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: teachers/parents
Shelves: for-school
It's sad that this book seems revolutionary. Her premise: children become better readers if they're allowed the time to read books they enjoy. Reading is a pleasurable act and students should be introduced to the wonderful feeling of entering the "reading zone." Brilliantly obvious, and yet missing from our schools.
Apr 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
Honestly, this book made me angry. Obviously, I picked up some good stuff, like information on booktalks and letter-essays, but I was quite put off by the author's pretension. Let's start at the beginning.
Page 39: And to make home reading easier for all our students, we do not assign busywork in connection with the pleasures of books. There are no home-reading slips, book reports, sticky notes, double-entry journals, or other documentation that serves to check up on, test, eat the time of, and t
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching-english
This is a fine, fine book that works on its own or as a compliment to all of her earlier work. What to add to the previous review? I, too, found Atwell's challenge to teachers at the high school level - and by extension, their parents - to be especially powerful. Students are so loaded with vocabulary words and double-entry journals and literary minutia and book reports that they avoid reading anything beyond assigned materials, and too often learn to abhor all that falls under the `English' umb ...more
Apr 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: English teachers
I can remember reading IN THE MIDDLE by Nancie Atwell, thinking, "Well, all this reading workshop would work in HER school, an exclusive private school, but in the REAL world, this would never fly." Then I started my Reading for Pleasure class...then the class evolved, and then I read Atwell again. Oops! I'm teaching reading workshop. The biggest difference, tho, is my class is an elective, not THE English class.

So, I approached this new book with interest and curiousity. Would I find myself in
Jan 24, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: professional
I agree wholeheartedly with the basic premise of reading workshop: kids need dedicated time to read and to talk about reading with their peers during the school day and a teacher who knows their book interests and can get them into the reading zone without the distractions of "reading comprehension strategies". It is preaching to the choir, almost makes me want to leave the library for the reading classroom. However, I have a few concerns about this book. The author is working in the safety of a ...more
Tracy Tucker
Nov 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really liked Ms. Atwell's style of writing and found this to be a very user-friendly book. I shared this with my sixth grade class as I was reading, and they were thrilled to hear that Atwell is not a fan of sticky notes :). I have most definitely changed my view of teaching reading...I have always provided silent reading time for students, but I am rather embarrassed to say I had not (to this point) allowed them to reread books. This I will change, among other facets of my reading program.

Dec 22, 2012 rated it liked it
The focus of this book is on allowing students plenty of choice in their reading and promoting time for this reading in the elementary and English classroom so that students get "into a zone of reading" in which they are deeply engaged with their books. Her exposition explains why it is okay to have students reading all sorts of different texts, and it helps as a defense for teachers who worry that their courses aren't rigorous enough if there aren't constant comprehension tests or book reports. ...more
Aug 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: on-teaching
This book inspired me. I think it's the best book I've read on reading so far because it encouraged me to keep on doing what I do, and realize that reading really DOES make a difference. I love it when the my reading students are "in the zone." I've seen many kids pretend to read, pose as readers, move their eyes on the page like readers do, but when they're actually fully engaged in a text that they connect with and are interested in, it's a beautiful sight to behold. It doesn't happen everyday ...more
Shannon Clark
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: not-reviewed-yet
This was one of those PD books written like a narrative that just flowed and flowed like a smooth running river. :)

It's all about having a reading workshop WITHOUT the STUFF that we sometimes feel we need to include. She actually debunked the use of comprehension strategies with fiction because she said it takes them out of the zone.

Choice, Book talks, literary essays, and more choice-these were the main themes.

It really focused on just letting the kids read EVERYDAY to be immersed in their rea
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reading, teaching
I loved this book. I want someone to finance a trip for me to Maine to visit Atwell and see her ideas in action.

Atwell believes all readers need to become good at reading is good books and time to read. A simple idea, but one that is backed up by research.

I want to push this book into the hands of every teacher I know, especially junior high and high school teachers. I want to give it to administrators and to politicians. I want to talk to parents about it. I want to try it. I think I can.
Kimberly Montague
Mar 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Yes, this method of teaching reading has been around a while, but this book completely excited me, and I'm dying to try this next year with my middle school students. Excellent questions brought up about what we're doing to our kids in terms of killing their love of reading and the true benefits of teaching one text that doesn't speak to our groups of reluctant readers. I highly recommend this book to all middle and high school English teachers.
Diana Zurawski
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is such a wonderfully validating book. Giving students choice and time to read are the cornerstones of quality literacy instruction and anyone who tries to tell me anything different will have this book handed to them!
Jan 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Timilyn by: Julie Gardner
Wow. My brain is full. I'll get back to you on a review.
Colby Sharp
Jul 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books about teaching reading of all time. If you like The Book Whisperer give The Reading Zone a try.
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
I grew up going to the library which was two blocks from my house. I would come home and sequester myself in my bedroom, reading until my eyes grew weary. I don't remember any of my teachers coming up with fancy reading lessons, but I do remember being given time to read in class. This book is a big proponent of simply allowing students to pick their own books and being given time to immerse themselves in "the zone."

*There's something called the rapture of the deep, and it refers to what happens
Jul 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, teachers
-Short plug with a few pointers for making reading and writing student driven. No basals.
-Reading and writing workshop with daily time for students to be in the "Zone", a place where readers leave like behind and live in their books, daily homework =30 minutes reading
-Basic plan for day: daily poem, writing or reading mini-lesson, independent writing/conferring, booktalks/read-aloud, independent reading/conferring.

Three types of books: Holidays, Just Rights (90% words known), and Challenge (5+
Heather Munao
Jun 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: teaching
I genuinely did like this book and have nothing bad to say about it. Atwell is passionate, and she wants teachers and kids to be passionate, too. That said, it does feel like a statement of ideals. Not all of us get to teach in our own school and do what we wish with a small number of kids. Some of us are highly accountable for the required content and skills, as much as I wish it could be different. There were some practical suggestions , some concrete samples, some research, and some guideline ...more
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
A convincing case for converting middle-school English classrooms into reading workshops. The chapter related to high school--there is only one--is vague, but the ethos of the book is certainly applicable. It is shocking how much teachers do unthinkingly, only because it was done before. If you are an English teacher and have the nagging suspicion that the structure of English class is making students worse at reading and writing, this is a book that will validate that idea. If you happen to be ...more
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“There is no more important homework than reading. Research shows that the highest achieving students are those who devote leisure time to reading, even when the school day and year are only mid-length and homework isn’t excessive. Recently, the largest-ever international study of reading found that the single most important predictor of academic success is the amount of time children spend reading books, more important even than economic or social status. And one of the few predictors of high achievement in math and science is the amount of time children devote to pleasure reading.” 8 likes
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