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"I've always imagined being a teacher, from the time I was a small child and received a little desk for Christmas," says Kathy Collins. "I used to fantasize about wearing a masking tape roll on my wrist, using a pointer, writing on a chalkboard, and collecting book order money."
But when Kathy went to college, she chose another career path. After working in advertising for a couple of years, she knew that she needed to get back to her original plan and become a teacher.
Kathy is a graduate of Syracuse University with a BA in advertising/art history, and she also earned a master's degree in teaching English to speakers of other languages from Teachers College. During her career, she's been an English as a second language teacher in Japan, a first-grade teacher in Brooklyn, New York, and an adjunct instructor at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. She currently teaches at reading institutes across the country and consults with schools and districts.
"I love being with children, figuring things out with them, developing warm relationships with families, thinking with colleagues, and doing work that means so much in the world," Kathy explains. "I love organizing a classroom and wrapping my mind around a child in order to figure out how best to meet his/her learning needs and to support students' hopes for themselves."
When it comes to professional development, Kathy thinks of it in two ways: from her perspective as a classroom teacher and from her perspective as a staff developer. "As a teacher, I was eager for professional development and opportunities to think and talk about how to improve my work and craft.... I wanted to find an environment where professional sharing is the norm rather than the exception," Kathy explains. "As a staff developer, my first instinct is to try to figure out where teachers are with regard to their knowledge-base and their attitudes towards the topics we are studying together. I try to build a relationship with teachers characterized by trust and mutual respect so that we all feel comfortable taking risks and asking questions of each other."
When working on a book, Kathy likes to keep a notebook where she can collect bits and pieces from her work and life that pertain to the book. "I decide on a broad topic and as I figure out the blueprint for how the book might go, the topic usually narrows quite a bit. I tend to try to figure out an outline for chapters first, and then I hit it!"
Kathy and her husband, Ian, have two sons, Owen and Theo. They love to travel and visit family and friends. Kathy also likes to read, run, play outside, and she is trying to learn to knit and cook.
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.
Reading for Real
Take two to four kids, give them a basket of books that go together in some way, and then provide time for them to read, think, and talk together about their ideas, their questions, their wonderings. That's the simple recipe for a reading club, and Kathy Collins demonstrates the powerful results in her new book, Reading for Real. She writes, "The reading clubs I describe are a formal structure providing students with time to read and talk about books with a high level of engagement, purpose, and joy."
Just as adults join clubs to share and talk about common interests, reading clubs allow kids to immerse themselves in topics and ideas they care about -- whether it's turtles, fairy tales, a beloved author, a favorite new series, or the desire to get better at reading aloud to a baby brother or sister. While they are reading and talking about their interests and passions, students in reading clubs are also orchestrating all of the reading skills and strategies they've learned and applying them in real-life ways.
The book offers step-by-step support for implementing these classroom reading clubs, including:specific suggestions for planning cycles of reading clubs;detailed charts with a variety of teaching ideas that can be implemented immediately;ideas for mini-lessons and examples of reading conferences to support students as they learn strategies and hone their reading and discussion skills;suggestions for differentiating instruction; support for launching and fostering reading partnerships across the year;appendixes with examples of note-taking sheets and sample planning guides for several kinds of reading clubs.
While Kathy presents ideas for implementing reading clubs during reading workshop in a balanced literacy framework, the information she provides will be helpful for any teacher who wants to foster the joy of reading by offering students support and opportunities to read for authentic purposes and to have conversations about topics that interest and engage them. After all, we don't just want kids to learn to read, we want them to love to read.
Mathematizing Children’s Literature
Sparking Connections, Joy, and Wonder Through Read-Alouds and Discussion