MAT Blog

Literacy Circles: The Oprah Winfrey Effect

Posted by Dreu Adams on Jun 28, 2011 9:00:00 AM

literacy circlesOne of my Facebook friends posted a question in light of the final episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show. He asked,

"Oprah is seen as having great influence and impact on our world. I’m interested, how has Oprah impacted your life?”

Now, as you can imagine, there were several smart-aleck comments to follow, but I found the question pretty interesting. By influencing so many, how had she impacted me personally? And then I thought about her contribution to reading, book clubs, and how it helped encourage literature circles in schools.

Oprah Winfrey and Chicago author/teacher Harvey Daniels have been instrumental in getting student-led book clubs started in schools and elsewhere. Literature Circles are small groups (usually four or five students) that select a book to read, establish an independent reading and meeting schedule, and then get together to discuss the book. Many teachers have indicated that it has worked wonders for their classes, in terms of establishing good reading habits.

Literature circles are a great reading comprehension strategy if you’re looking to accomplish the following with your students:

  • Improve reading comprehension, comfort and appreciation of literature.
  • Improve student ability to think critically about their reading and articulate those ideas in various ways.
  • Convince students that reading is a life-long, acceptable activity in our society and that books actually exist that they’ll enjoy.

So as Harvey Daniels has said himself, we all owe great thanks to Oprah for making “…a lasting contribution to our national literacy.” Teachers can find information and support at Daniels’ website at

Marygrove’s Master in the Art of Teaching (MAT) K-6 Reading Comprehension Best Practices offers Literature Circles as one of a dozen strategies you could implement in your classroom today.

Download K-6 Reading Comprehension Best Practices and find out what every teacher could be doing to foster better reading and comprehension strategies.

-Dreu Adams, Director of eCommerce Marketing
Marygrove College, Detroit

Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B

Tags: Literacy Circles, reading comprehension, Classroom Reading Strategies, Literacy, Urban Literacy

Literacy is as much a state of mind as anything else.

Posted by Dreu Adams on Jun 23, 2011 7:48:00 AM

marygrove college literacyEven as teachers, the lessons of literacy are not always easy to comprehend. We like to think of ourselves as responsive literacy rangers—stamping out literacy fires as they erupt. But as Dr. Vivian Johnson, Associate Professor of Education, Marygrove College has seen in her urban practice, it doesn’t always work that way. Because of daily pressures that consume inordinate time and energy, teachers may not see the forest for the trees when it comes to engaging struggling readers. We can help.

Take a look at your beliefs about literacy. Are they aligned with your practice? Then take a look at your students' beliefs about their own abilities to read. 

  • Do they enjoy reading, or find it boring or a chore?
  • Do they prefer writing over reading? Writing, even nonsensical scribbling is a great way to get basal readers reading and writing.
  • What is their reading interest? Soccer? History?
  • Are they reading at home?

“Finding what works can be a game, but literacy must win.”

One parent remarked that after several months of her struggling second grader consistently bringing home books about dogs on Library Day, she began routinely engaging her in conversations about the animals. She then subscribed to dog magazines, and downloaded grooming tips and information on breeds from the Internet. This parent nurtured her daughter’s interest, and reinforced her belief about literacy. Soon, her reading improved, and she began writing fantasy text about “super hero dogs.”

That’s a great example of a parent aligning her child’s literacy practice with her belief. Teachers can do the same thing in class, with little effort. It might be through a literature circle or a homework journal.

The following article explores a unique way that gets urban writers, in particular, writing and reading more on their own time— by providing a forum for them to express themselves in any way they choose. It is a positive way to move toward greater literacy in a place like Detroit, a district that is rebuilding from serious economic and social trials, over many years. There can be a happy ending to this story—Johnson believes, as long as everyone—teachers, parents and students, community stakeholders and even media, keep working together, and never give up.

Download this article now and see how one Literacy Mentor and Coach seeks to transform the literacy belief—and practice for students in urban schools. It will inspire you to come up with uplifting ideas of your own.

It’s easy. Download our free article on Urban Writers Speak: Giving Literacy a Virtual Life of its Own, featuring Dr. Vivian G. Johnson.

Click me

Tags: Writing, Literacy, Urban Literacy, virtual writing gallery

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