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What if there were reading police in schools?

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One popular program on television is “The Fashion Police.” It involves examining fashion trials and triumphs for celebrities. After watching an episode with my daughter, I began to wonder what it would be like it there were such things as reading police in schools. If the reading police monitored literacy practices and patrolled the classrooms, would they find any offenders?

To better explore the idea of evaluating reading practices in the classroom, I turned to the reading response criteria provided by the writer Frank Serafini. The criterion includes ten questions to consider in the process of strengthening students reading response. In general, the questions range from reflecting on the purpose of the reading activity to the impact of the literacy activity in promoting life-long readership. Building upon the checklist of questions, I propose the following action steps to help educators enhance their reading activities and thus avoid receiving a ticket from the reading police:

  • Use tools to help manage and track time dedicated to reading. Preparation time should exceed the time that the students actually spend reading because  getting the assigned reading ready involves planning needed literacy supports, organizing reading activities and comprehension checks. As  Serafini notes, it is critical to keep in mind the ratio of student reading time to reading activity time in order to strike the appropriate balance to facilitate learning.
  • Focus on making the reading material relevant. Take time to incorporate the thoughts and opinions of your students when assigning reading materials. Involving student perception in instruction serves to increase interest and engagement. In addition, help students connect the reading to the real world by encouraging them to deconstruct themes (power, injustice, transformations, good vs. evil etc.), and identify problem-solving techniques embedded within characters’ behaviors.
  • Include a universal design approach. Layer reading response questions (visual, expressive, interpretive, critical etc.) in order to welcome the participation of readers with different abilities. In addition, diversify the reading content to include themes, characters and conflicts related to individuals with disabilities.  Finally, enforce the use of person-first language when discussing literature characters with disabilities.

If implementing these action steps seems like it would present a challenge, below are three resources to help:

  1. Review the actual 10 item checklist for evaluating reading response activities in Serafini’s book, “When bad things happen to good books.”
  2. Rely on graphic organizers to show how reading material is relevant to your students. Graphic organizers for making text-to-self and text-to-world connections are available on Similarly, graphic organizers for creating a “decision making tree” and “dissecting conflict” are available on and
  3. Learn more about including all learners in classroom activities by reviewing universal design principles and application of these principles on the Center for Universal Design website

Jennifer Davis Bowman is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and a licensed school counselor in Ohio. She has a doctoral degree in special education and has worked in the education field for almost 15 years. She contributes to an ASCD EDge blog and currently serves as an academic journal reviewer.