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December 27. 2016

Cut Across the Path of Literacy Failure: A Teacher Tip from Fountas and Pinnell on Intervening Early

The early years of school are important for every child, but for those who find literacy learning difficult, every one of these years is critical. Intervention must be effective and focused on outcomes rather than simply on numbers of children served. The most effective intervention is implemented early in a child’s school career—before the cycle of failure is established. 

If you intervene to help readers who struggle, you want to do so in a way that will prevent further difficulties. The ability to observe and interpret reading behavior is foundational to effective teaching of struggling readers. Fountas and Pinnell talk extensively in their book, When Readers Struggle, about the essential experiences needed to support young children who find literacy difficult.

Ensure these essential literacy experiences daily: 

1. Talk—evaluate whether your students have enough time to talk with others and share their stories.

2. Texts—engage students in a large amount of continuous text from various genres that are of interest, are age/grade appropriate, and can be read with fluency and comprehension.

3. Teach—provide explicit, clear, effective instruction based on the observed behavior of your students.


A literate life is the right of every child—even (or especially) those who initially find it difficult. Excerpted and adapted from When Readers Struggle: Teaching That Works.


December 20. 2016

Spark Students’ Interest via Book Talks: A Teacher Tip from Fountas and Pinnell

Reading is thinking, and students’ “talk” reveals their thinking. Talking about books is a way to activate students’ interest and introduce them to new texts they might otherwise miss. Think of a book talk as a brief commercial for a book. Book talks are short—you simply want to whet the students’ appetites. 

Consider the following when selecting books for book talks:

  • New books by authors whom the students love.
  • Another book by an author whose book you’ve read aloud.
  • “Best-selling” titles that are popular with the age group.
  • Books on issues or topics that interest the students.
  • Books that introduce a new author, genre, or illustrator.

Book talks enable you to help your students get to know authors, genres and books that appeal to them, and thus extend their literate lives. Excerpted from Guiding Readers and Writers. 

December 13. 2016

Help Students Make Good Reading Choices: A Teacher Tip from Fountas and Pinnell on Independent Reading

Your role in independent reading is to ensure that students consistently select books they can read with understanding and fluency, and to have conversations with them about those books. You may be tempted to prescribe book choices, but this can result in a mechanical approach to reading as a “task.” Without genuine choice they will never experience the authentic role of a reader. At the same time, the ability to choose appropriate books is not something you can expect students to know how to do. It is something you need to teach. Communicate to students that choosing a just-right book, not a difficult book, is the expectation for independent reading. 

Teach students these 7 ways of judging a book choice:
Decide if the book is just right to read independently by reading a little at the beginning or middle
Think about the topic of the book to see if it peaks your interest
Read a bit of the book to get a feel for the author’s style and the language
Ask peers/teachers for recommendations
Look at the book cover, back cover, book flaps and illustrations
Think about the author and what you may already know about the author
Give the book a good chance.

Excerpted from LLI Red System Choice Library Guide to Independent Reading