Abraham Kuyper: Prime Minister, Theologian, Journalist, and School Choice Advocate

Abraham Kuyper was a remarkable man. He lived from 1837-1920. He was Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901-1905.
He founded the Dutch Reformed Church, De Standaard (a newspaper) in 1872, the Anti-Revolutionary Party (ARP) in 1879, and the Free University of Amsterdam in 1880. He kept busy.
One thing he advocated for in his time with the ARP, as Prime Minister, and in his many newspaper articles was school choice for all. 
His rationale was complex and revolved around ideas of “neutral” schools, parental rights, and perhaps most surprisingly, national unity. 

“Neutral Schools”

The idea of neutral schools is certainly attractive. Who wants their child to be indoctrinated into a wrong belief system? What progressive wants their child to constantly hear about the glories of conservatism? What conservative wants their child to be constantly taught as if the progressive worldview was the truth?

This idea runs deep in America. We typically support the idea of neutral schooling as the way to build a peaceful democracy within a diverse society.

The problem is that it is philosophically impossible for there to be a neutral schooling system. Any teaching of morals, any having of rules removes the possibility of neutrality. And, to problematize the idea to a neutral school even further, how can a neutral school possibly justify its stance? Any appeal to natural law, public consensus, God/s, etc takes a stance, removing neutrality.

Kuyper sees this, and calls the idea of neutral schools out for the farce it is.

“How can a teacher nurture and form character,” he asked, “and at the same time be neutral?” After all, “there is no neutral education that is not governed by a spirit of its own. And precisely that spirit of the religiously neutral school militates against every positive faith.” (p47-48)

And, because the principles enacted by neutral schools are not in fact, neutral, they have an unequal impact on society.

When we look at Galston’s statement, a contemporary of Kuyper, we see how easy it is to apply this to the American schooling system.

“Galston points out, “the more one examines putatively neutral liberal principles and public discourse, the more impressed one is likely to become by their decidedly nonneutral impact on different parts of diverse societies. Liberalism is not and cannot be the universal response, equally acceptable to all, to the challenge of social diversity. It is ultimately a partisan stance” (p55). 

Neutral schools attempt to be acceptable and non offensive to everyone, but in doing so, neutral schools minimize the importance of our differences.

“Thus, so-called neutral schools, which sought to please all by separating instruction from a child’s particular religious experience, had hindered thousands of children from developing the mindset, initiative, and skills needed to sustain a strong civil society.” (p35)

Parental Rights

Kuyper viewed education as primarily the responsibility of the parent,

“The father is the only lawful person, called by nature and called to this task, to determine the choice of school for his child. To this we must hold fast. This is the prime truth in the whole schools issue. If there is any axiom in the area of education, this is it. … The parental rights must be seen as a sovereign right in this sense, that it is not delegated by any other authority, that it is inherent in fatherhood and motherhood, and that it is given directly from God to the father and mother.” (p28)

One large problem with having a single schooling system is that the system only serves one group of parents and children well. For example, the “neutral” system only serves parents who believe in neutrality. A Christian education system only serves Christian parents well, a Muslim system Muslim parents, and so on. So, in order for most parents to educate their children in line with their beliefs, they are required to pay twice, once in taxes to the state system and once in fees to their private school.

“The crucial point was that when the government now provided an education which was suited for only one part of the populace, it violated the conscience of all others: “Wherever we recognize a fundamental right for our citizens to provide their children with an alternative means of ‘enlightenment,’ then it becomes clear that requiring those citizens to pay for education twice, while others only have to pay once, is unjust.” (p37)

With this approach to school choice, Kuyper was not advocating for a partisan school system, he was advocating for a system that would provide choice for all beliefs and socioeconomic levels where it would be possible to honor the rights of all parents. 

“Some men…want to work to expand freedom for the middle class but…they leave unmet the need for freedom of conscience among the poor…. But it seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that there is no nobler struggle than for the freedom of conscience, particularly for the poor. Government money is well spent for that.” (p36)

In addition, this approach to education helps the development of the child. Personal growth and academic growth happen concurrently and are interconnected. It is not helpful for the child to have one foundational set of rules and morals at home and a completely different set at school.

“Life itself requires that both the personal formation and the academic learning happen at the same time. Both are so interconnected; and thus not only the family, but also the school is called to help complete the general formation of the child as a unity. The child is not divided into compartments; an intellectual compartment, a moral compartment, a religious compartment, a compartment of character, and a compartment for practical skills. The child is one, and must be formed in this unity. Otherwise the left will tear down what the right has built up and there develops in the child the hopeless and unnerving confusion which prevents the development of all firmness of character.
From this comes the requirement that there be agreement between the nurture in the school and the nurture in the home, and that they fit together. The school must not only build on the foundations that have been laid in the home, but also stay connected with the nurture that continues to happen in the home.” (p23)

We can move towards greater national unity when schools and parents work together to ensure a child’s personal and academic growth happen in unity, with the same foundations.

National Unity

That school choice could promote national unity may be perplexing to most Americans. Many of us have only seen how school choice is divisive. How it has been used to promote segregation by race and class. Like any tool, school choice can be abused in these ways. But, do we really want to pretend that our traditional public schools are great integrators? That public schools do not create their own significant divisions between various races and classes? 

I’d rather not lie to myself.

According to Kuyper, what makes public schooling divisive is that its “neutrality” actually picks a side and causes inequitable outcomes as mentioned earlier. This creates a “winner takes all” atmosphere, making only one group happy with the system’s philosophical approach. As he put it, 

“When an elite clique is allowed to impose a worldview on all schools, is it any wonder that a deep animosity and anger results? Kuyper argued that the strongest kind of national unity was one which made room for a multiplicity of communities of faith. Pluriformity, not uniformity, must be the goal, the beauty of a natural forest with all the variety of vegetation and species, rather than that of a garden in which poplar trees were uniformly planted in straight rows.” (p39)

With pluriformity, Kuyper is getting at an old way of seeing diversity, he is emphasizing diversity of thought. Later in the book, he has another, more succinct quote, “Unity must not be sought in uniformity.” (p346)

Echo chambers are no friend of critical thinking.

School choice for all could achieve this because there would be schools for people of different faiths and beliefs. In Kuyper’s theory this would bring about greater national unity because the children would receive an education much more inline with what their family believes and values. This would reduce the bitterness that develops between parents and children because it is removing a likely source of tension. It would also reduce bitterness between parents and the state because the parents would not feel that the state is actively against their deepest beliefs.

“Unity of the nation is not brought into danger by having children attend different kinds of schools but by wounding the right and limiting the freedom so that our citizens are offended not in their material interests but in their deepest life convictions, which is all-determinative for the best of them. That sows bitterness in the hearts and that divides a nation.… Instead of asking what the state school will receive and what the free school will receive, as sons of the same fatherland we should commit to raising the development of our entire nation. Then … the feeling of unity will grow stronger and more inspired.” (p38-39)

Kuyper isn’t advocating for some sort of siloing of society where everyone hides out with their own like minded clique. According to Wendy Naylor and Harry Van Dyke, Kuyper demanded that children communicate with people of other beliefs. He demanded that they both talk and listen to each other. This helps make it apparent that differences in political or social views needn’t be moral failings, but that the differences are caused by different starting points (p34).

Questions to Ponder

“Ask them, he declared,
•​whether the moral calling of the Netherlands allowed us to remove religion from the national schools,
•​whether requiring teachers to teach historical facts devoid of interpretation was an acceptable methodology for schools,
•​whether the Netherlands, known for the strength of its domestic life, should now exclude the family’s identity from the school,
•​whether a free and self-governed nation like the Netherlands could tolerate the complete state control of how children were educated,
•​whether the Dutch people could, in good conscience, deny the lower classes the freedom of conscience that the upper classes enjoyed?” (p40)

Quotes are from “On Education” which is a collection of writings and speeches by Abraham Kuyper. It was edited by Wendy Naylor and Harry Van Dyke. If you are interested in Kuyper, a Christian approach to education, or school-choice, I would highly recommend this book.

Book Review: Cognitive Science for Educators by Robert G.M. Hausmann, PhD

This book provides the teacher with a smooth entry into the somewhat intimidating world of cognitive science. The strength lies in its intentional brevity. Most chapters can be read in around 5 minutes.

Each chapter is written in language that is accessible for those of us with little knowledge of cognitive science. In addition, each chapter follows the same format.

The Formats

It starts with Learning by Doing. These sections simply give you a chance to apply the chapter’s content before you read (Don’t worry, you can attempt this activity without knowing the cognitive science behind it.)

Then it shifts into the main body of the chapter. Here you are served a good midwestern dinner of meat and potatoes. You are introduced to the concept with everyday examples. Often, he will introduce key terms with definitions and examples and then weave them together, showing you the part and whole. This section is all killer, no filler. 

After introducing the topic, Hausmann writes about the Classroom Connection. This section is important. For teachers, research is no good if we don’t understand how to apply it. He gives us some ideas for application. 

Finally, each chapter ends with a section called Going Beyond the Information Given. This section is simply a fancy name for footnotes. But I like it because he cites his sources and gives some of his own thoughts.

Final Thoughts

I do wish that some of the sections had more detail, especially for the Classroom Connection sections, but, his goal was to write a brief introduction and he certainly succeeded. If you want a good primer on cognitive science, here is a good place to start.

Rating (out of 5):⭐⭐⭐⭐

Cognitive Science for Educators (Amazon Link)

Book Review: Powerful Teaching

This book was written by two powerful educators.
Pooja K. Agarwal, Ph.D., a cognitive scientist and founder of RetrievalPractice.org
Patrice Bain Ed.S., a veteran K-12 teacher with more than 25 years of teaching middle school social studies.

In chapter one, they introduce “power tools”. These are research backed, classroom proven strategies that lay the foundation of all powerful teaching and then they spend the rest of the book unpacking the how-to’s and implications.

Power Tools

  1. Retrieval Practice
  2. Spacing
  3. Interleaving
  4. Feedback-Driven Metacognition

They translate the research-ese behind each power tool into lived, teacher-friendly examples that go beyond explaining the academic benefits you would expect research based strategies to yield.  For students, the beyond academic benefits are significant. Students who are taught with power tools remember more and get better grades. Importantly, this includes SPED, ADHD, and ESL students. In addition, students taught with these strategies show a decreased level of anxiety. Us teachers benefit from using power tools as well! If you utilize these free strategies, you will be able to spend less time grading, and more time refining your practice.

What’s not to love about this? All students learn more and are less anxious while we spend less time grading. Win-win. And while all of this is super valuable, the best part comes next, where they apply the research to their own classes. 

Powerful Tools in the Classroom

Agarwal, Ph.D. applies each strategy in a university classroom while Bain, Ed.S. applies each strategy in a middle school classroom.

For the busy teacher, this is a goldmine. When you read through this book, you will not have to think too hard about how to use the power tools because the authors have already shown the way. What is important is for you to understand the framework the book develops. Once you understand this, you are ready to rock and roll.

Final Thoughts

Powerful Teaching has had a significant impact on my classroom because it has helped me refine my practice. It has confirmed some things I knew subconsciously, allowing me to move forward with confidence in what I had already been doing. While also surprising me with new information. Helping me “redeem” some of my more ineffective practices. 

This may be the best education book I have ever read. I cannot recommend it highly enough. You should buy this book. You will benefit from it.

Rating (out of 5):⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Powerful Teaching (Amazon Link)

Book Review: Bringing Words To Life

Authors: Isabel L. Beck, Margaret G. McKeown, & Linda Kucan

Rating (out of 5): ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

To put things simply, this book should be considered required reading for teachers. Its strategies and concepts are applicable for every subject at all grade levels. The authors do a tremendous job of accessibly distilling research into a book for teachers. As you read through the book you will notice that it is well researched and builds towards a common theme: In order to learn new words students need multiple exposures in multiple contexts with multiple opportunities to use the words in multiple contexts.

This may seem obvious, and hopefully it is. However, the reality is that in many classrooms, this does not happen. The book gives teachers numerous strategies to remedy this educational malady.

The book is divided into 10 chapters. The first walks you through the rationale behind “Robust Vocabulary Instruction”. While the rest give ways to apply the approach in the classroom.

I found chapter 2 to be particularly insightful. This chapter walks teachers through how to choose vocabulary words. It guides the teacher through a vocabulary selection process involving the somewhat vague but still very useful word tiers (Tier 1, Tier 2, & Tier 3). Essentially, Tier 1 words are common and used often in both reading and writing. Tier 2 words are common in writing, but not as common in speaking. While Tier 3 words are content specific.

Tier 1

Tier 2

Tier 3










The authors argue for teachers to focus on Tier 2 words because they are widely applicable, used in many situations, and Tier 1 words tend to already be known while Tier 3 words tend to be taught as part of the standard course content.

Chapter 3 answers the questions of when?, How many?, and How? to introduce vocabulary words. It found that, teachers can introduce the vocabulary word as it appears in the text, provided the word can be immediately understood when accompanied by a short explanation (a phrase or a sentence). The explanation must short because, when reading a text, the focus ought to be on comprehending, not vocab building. Words should be taught before they come up in a text when those words essential for understanding the text’s message. It is also important to limit the amount of words introduced to avoid overwhelming students’ working memories.

The authors recommend teachers teach between 6-10 words spread over 5-9 days. To implement this, regardless of which Tier the words happen to be in, they promote introducing half of the words on day one, and the other half on day two. Throughout this timeframe, It is important to repeatedly have students refer back to and use the words.

As far as how to introduce new words, the authors recommend avoiding asking students, “Who knows what word ‘X’ means?” The reason is that, a student may give an unclear/incorrect answer which can lead to other students learning an incorrect definition/association. Instead, teachers should provide student friendly definitions and an immediate chance to apply the word in a simple context. Over time, as the students are using the vocabulary, their teacher should ensure that they use the vocabulary in situations that offer both different contexts and difficulties. This will help ensure students are able to know, understand, and apply the word and it increases the chances of the word becoming part of their used vocabulary. The rest of the book digs further into the “how” of how to teach vocabulary.

A lot of the insights from this book may appear to be commonsensical because the ideas are so simple (Ex: multiple exposures helps students learn). But consistently applying them well is a challenge.

Buy it here: https://www.amazon.com/Bringing-Words-Life-Second-Instruction/dp/1462508162

Book Review: Inside American Education by Thomas Sowell

Rating (out of 5): ⭐⭐⭐

Inside American Education provides an in depth look at the American education system from kindergarten through university. Thomas Sowell is at his best when it uses personal anecdotes to provide color and context for the data gathered by researchers.

Inside American Education

A strength of the book is when he shows that America draws her teachers from the “dregs” of the university. Education majors, on average have low SAT scores when compared to, well, every other major. Below is an extensive quote that illustrates the “quality” of educators at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. I have bolded the particularly pertinent parts.

“…hard data on education student qualifications have consistently shown their mental test scores to be at or near the bottom among all categories of students….students majoring in education have consistently scored below the national average.11 When the U.S. Army had college students tested in 1951 for draft deferments during the Korean War, more than half the students passed in the humanities, social sciences, biological sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, but only 27 percent of those majoring in education passed.12 In 1980-81, students majoring in education scored lower on both verbal and quantitative SATs than students majoring in art, music, theatre, the behavioral sciences, physical sciences, or biological sciences, business or commerce, engineering, mathematics, the humanities, or health occupationseducators are drawing disproportionately from the dregs of the college-educated population. As William H. Whyte said back in the 1950s, “the facts are too critical for euphemism.”

Sowell, Thomas. Inside American Education (pp. 24-25). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Another strength in this book is found in describing the discrepancy of educational outcomes between America’s various ethnicities. He goes in depth to explain affirmative action’s impacts on both minority and majority populations using large amounts of data from research while using anecdotal evidence to provide color and context to the data generated by researchers.

He shows that affirmative action created new inequalities without effectively giving African Americans and other minorities the leg up that was intended. He argues (I think convincingly) that universities used affirmative action to brag about their commitment to diversity while neglecting to care/educate their students.

“The mismatching problem was dramatically demonstrated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where the average black student scored in the top 10 percent, nationwide, on the mathematical portion of the Scholastic Aptitude Test—and in the bottom 10 percent at M.I.T. Nearly one-fourth of these students failed to graduate at M.I.T., and those who did had significantly lower grades than their classmates.” 46

Sowell, Thomas. Inside American Education (p. 144). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

“M.I.T. is not unique. At Berkeley, where black students’ average composite SAT scores of 952 were above the national composite average of 900, though well below the Berkeley average of 1181, more than 70 percent of the black students failed to graduate.48 Again, these were artificial failures, on an even larger scale than at M.I.T., in the sense that these black students’ academic qualifications would have been more than adequate for the average American college or university, though not adequate for competing with Berkeley’s white students who scored 1232 or Berkeley’s Asian students who scored 1254.49 Despite a rising number of blacks admitted to Berkeley over the years—the great majority under “affirmative action” standards—fewer blacks graduated in 1987 than graduated eleven years earlier.50 What was accomplished by admitting more black students and graduating fewer? The benefits are far more obvious for Berkeley than for the students. The racial body count enabled the university to proclaim that its student body is “wonderfully diverse” and that “we are excited that the class closely reflects the actual ethnic distribution of California high school graduates.”51

Sowell, Thomas. Inside American Education (pp. 144-145). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Mr. Sowell then goes on to explain that this mismatching of students at top tier schools cascades down, causing larger problems.

“As Professor Clyde Summers predicted long ago, this mismatching problem has not been confined to the top echelon schools. As each tier finds its normal pool of minority students pre-empted by a higher tier, it must in turn pre-empt the minority students who would normally qualify for the colleges in a lower tier… The problem starts at the most selective institutions, because that level is where there is the most extreme shortage of minority students matching the prevailing academic standards.

As for the minority students themselves, many—and probably most—of their academic failures throughout the various levels of colleges and universities can be traced to the systematic mismatching resulting from preferential admissions policies. Certainly that seems clear from the statistical data from those colleges and universities which release data by race and ethnicity—and the secretiveness of other institutions suggests that they have a similar story to hide. Certainly the graduation rate of black students is generally below that of their white classmates at numerous institutions where this information is available.65 Nationwide, black students’ graduation rate is about half that of whitest.” 66

Sowell, Thomas. Inside American Education (pp. 146-147). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

“Nowhere has the moral bankruptcy of academia been more blatant than in its racial policies, which have managed simultaneously to damage every racial or ethnic group involved—with the worst damage being done to blacks, the supposedly most favored beneficiaries.”

Sowell, Thomas. Inside American Education (p. 282-283). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

Mr. Sowell argues that while it is important to increase minority access to higher education, there are more effective and just mechanisms to increase this access than affirmative action. He shows how there is evidence that the primary limiting factor to minorities enrolling in higher education was not academic, but financial. When the G.I. bill was introduced there was a 64% increase in nonwhite student enrollment.

What was at issue, then and now, is not whether there should be larger or smaller numbers of minority students attending college, but whether preferential admissions policies should be the mechanism for making a college education available to more minority students… Between 1940 and 1947, for example, there was a 64 percent increase in the number of nonwhite students attending post-secondary institutions 6due to financial aid under the G.I. Bill for veterans returning from World War II. This made a college education available to the black masses for the first time.7 During a corresponding period of the 1960s—from 1960 to 1967—there was a 49 percent increase in the number of black students attending college…. Money is the crucial factor, given the lower incomes of blacks and some other minority groups.

Sowell, Thomas. Inside American Education (p. 134). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.


While I cannot speak for the book versions, the Kindle version contains a surprising number of spelling and numerical errors. Sometimes two words are jammed together, other times one letter is mysteriously replaced leaving the reader to deduce the correct word by context. This weakness is small however, because the message and meaning of the book is not harmed, just the ease of access.

A larger weakness is when Mr. Sowell overly relies on anecdotal evidence. I believe that this is done where the data is lacking due to the difficulty in scientifically defining and studying topics such as “classroom brainwashing and dogmas”. That being said, he takes efforts to source a variety of anecdotal evidence from various geographical locations and academic levels in order to make an attempt at showing that the problem is not localized, but systemic. His arguments provide ample reason to believe that American education has systemic problems common at all levels and locations.

Overall, I would strongly recommend this book for anyone wanting to look into part of the ugly underbelly that is American education. If you are interested, you can find the Kindle version in the link below.



ESL Teaching

The following is a summary of Chapter 9 from Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction by Isabel Beck, Margaret Mckeown, and Linda Kucan. If you teach young or ESL students, I highly recommend this book as it is immensely practical and backed by research.

English as a second language (ESL) students must go on a journey before they can find academic success. They tend to have a smaller vocabulary, weaker semantic connections, and less word part knowledge than native speakers (Verhoeven, 2011). This creates a hindrance and barrier to learning academic content. It generally takes ESL students between 1-2 years to become conversational on everyday topics. But it can take 5-7 years for ESL students to pass the “lexical bar” of cultural and academic language (Cummins, 1994).

It has been proposed that when students are at the early stages of being conversational (a simple, everyday conversation) that they should be exposed to explicit teaching with tier two words. A key qualifier is that students must already understand the underlying concept. For example, all students will understand the word, ‘hungry’. So, you could teach students the meaning of ‘famished’. One key reason we should teach our ELL students tier two vocabulary is that they are unlikely to be exposed to it in oral conversation. Another is that a lack of vocabulary drastically inhibits reading comprehension (access to knowledge).

The good news is that what research has shown to be effective for native English speakers is equally effective for ESL students.

This means that we should strive to

  1. Provide multiple encounters with target words in multiple contexts involving analysis and target word use in both a written and oral format
    1. Improves word knowledge (Snow, Lawrence, & White, 2009)
  2. Promote active processing
    1. Supports depth of word knowledge (Carlo et. al, 2004)

ESL students and native speakers can improve their vocabulary at similar rates. However, this will not help close the vocabulary and corresponding comprehension gap (even with interventions) since ESL students start with smaller vocabularies. But, interventions are very helpful nonetheless because studies have shown that without them, gaps in vocabulary, reading comprehension, and test scores expand (Kiefer, 2008).

In order to further supplement the vocabulary development of ESL students, consider teaching lexical morphemes. Lexical morphemes are the root of the word. For example, with ‘press’ we have depress, compress, oppress, etc. By looking at the root of the words, it may improve students’ semantic connections. This could be furthered by teaching students about the morphological relationship between English and Latin. This could prove beneficial as many English words have their root in Latin.

In order to further help your ESL students (and every other student) make sure that your classroom procedures are clear and known. This follows not just for transitions, but also for instructional patterns. For example, students should know what to do when asked to identify and explain a word’s prefix. If students have this procedural knowledge, then their working memory will be freed up to focus on learning the content instead of how to perform the task.

Book Review: The Reading Mind by Daniel Willingham

This book is designed to introduce the reader to the reading process. And it succeeds. Professor Willingham’s book is extensively researched and presented in a way that a layperson or average teacher will have no trouble assessing its contents. I would highly recommend it if you are a teacher, or a parent trying to learn about reading or how to encourage children to read.


In Chapter 1 he sets out to tell the story of reading by explaining its purpose. He writes that writing is both an extension of and more objective than memory. It is an extension of memory because we can write something to do down and look at it later to remind ourselves. Writing is more objective than memory because it is a physical representation and cannot be easily changed.

Chapter 2 jumps into the code of reading, phonics. Letters are made up of a set of shapes/stroke patterns, some are more easily confused than others, yet it is imperative that each letter be correctly identified because each letter is a cue for a sound. Put together, the sounds make words that have meaning. One misstep along the way can drastically change the word’s  meaning. For example, a child might be reading a story that says, “The man digs a hole.” but the child may mix it up and read, “The man pigs a hole.” In order to correct him/herself, the child must have knowledge about both what a pig and hole are, highlighting the importance of vocabulary for reading comprehension.

Chapter 3 finally gets into the reading process. Students who are accomplished readers have 3 distinct representations for words: the sound, the spelling, and the meaning. For all learners, the sound and spelling of the words a closely linked. If a student is better at hearing the sounds within a word, they will be better able to spell the word and vice versa.

Chapter 4 digs into words and their contexts. We all know that some words mean different things in different contexts. This, then shows one large limitation of having students look up words in a dictionary because dictionaries strive to be context independent (due to space constraints). An implication for teachers, since word meaning depends on context, is to explicitly teach students the word’s meaning while exposing them to the word in a variety of contexts.

Chapter 5 looks at reading comprehension. Willingham concludes that teaching reading comprehension strategies has limited value. The limiting factor in teaching reading strategies is that they are easily and quickly learned (a good thing). Students should be taught reading strategies as the strategies will improve their comprehension and make them better readers, but the instruction should not stay on strategies. After students understand the reading strategies, they teaching should be focused on increasing student knowledge because reading comprehension depends heavily upon background knowledge (see the famous study on background knowledge and comprehension at Reading Rockets website).

Chapter 6 is really interesting in that it looks at the psychology of readers. It finds that readers read because they enjoy it. Hardly groundbreaking, but it is a more revealing finding than it appears. Those who read do so because of emotional reasons, not logical ones. The implication being that telling students, “You should read this to learn more and become smarter.” will not be helpful. We instead ought to incentivize reading to create situations where students are likely to have positive experiences when reading. Another practical finding in this article was that students are interested in reading, but only if the effort of obtaining the book is minimal to non-existent. Put books in the classroom and draw attention to them.

Chapter 7 looks into how the digital revolution has impacted reading. In large part, it hasn’t. Students do read a bit less with television, internet, and video games but the amount children read was already so low, it couldn’t drop much. Another interesting finding was that when using digital books, our comprehension suffers. Even seeing a hyperlink without clicking on it slightly reduces our comprehension. Professor Willingham posits that the digital revolution has not impacted student attention span so much as it has reduced their capacity for boredom. For example, students can still pay attention to an entire movie because it interests them, but they cannot pay attention for an entire class because it bores them.

Check out the book here.