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The Reading Specialist: Leadership for the Classroom, School, and Community

reviewed by Susan Randow - 2005

coverTitle: The Reading Specialist: Leadership for the Classroom, School, and Community
Author(s): Rita M. Bean
Publisher: Guilford Press, New York
ISBN: 1572309822, Pages: 213, Year: 2004
Search for book at Amazon.com

I was very excited to read and review Rita Bean’s book on the leadership of reading specialists in schools. In my three year, grant position as a reading specialist in a public middle school, identified at risk students struggled to succeed in the program developed for the grant. People in supervisory positions who lacked knowledge and expertise in reading development and pedagogy designed this program for at risk students without input from district reading specialists and reading teachers. In those years, the school failed to implement an effective middle school reading intervention program. The reading specialist role was only to identify, evaluate, and implement district chosen interventions (appropriate or not to the needs of the identified students) and support and develop the knowledge and skills of the classroom teachers in strategies for improving reading in the content areas. Bean’s book attempts to address this duel role. I hoped that the book would be a great research based resource to help to improve that program and provide insight into how to develop the reading specialist role into a leadership position.

Bean’s description of the develpoment of the reading specialist role over the last two decades was very informative and much like I have experienced the role over the past twenty years. The first chapter was a very accurate portrayal of how ideas of effective reading instruction have changed over the last two decades. The rest of the chapters are divided into three “big” topics: the reading specialist as instructor, the reading specialist as a leader, and development of a reading program.

The book is a very thoroughly researched and detailed discussion of every possible aspect of teaching reading. In each chapter, Bean effectively places breaks titled “Think about this” to help the reader stop, digest, and reflect upon her very detailed discussions. At the end of each chapter the reader will find a chapter summary, reflection questions, and activities to help the reader extend his/her knowledge-base and read personal reflections from experienced reading specialists.

The text is extremely detailed, and at times this causes the text to drone on with the author telling us much about how the reading specialist role could and should be developed. All of this, I think, is also effectively summarized in Appendix A. - “Building the case, why specialist?”

This is a viable text for an introductory class for students interested in possibly specializing in reading. It effectively conveys the complex and often-frustrating role the reading specialist plays in a school. As stated in one of the personal reflections by a specialist active in the field, “the reading specialist’s time is always divided between several roles and often not focused on doing one role effectively. Finding a satisfying balance is difficult. ”

I think the book effectively matches one of the purposes for which it was written as stated by the author on page vii – an introductory text. As a specialist in the field, I did not find this to be a quick resource for practical ideas. I do think, however, that the book is a helpful resource for investigating research to assist in the development of an appropriate researched based program for a district. However, The

Reading Specialist: Leadership for the Classroom, School, and Community, does not address key information that would be helpful in constructing a leadership role, as stated in the title.

A true leadership role is addressed somewhat in Chapters 5 and 6 where Bean discusses the reading specialist role in professional development and coaching. In both chapters, Bean discusses the importance of and the elements of staff development and coaching but she skims over effective implementation in both of these areas. For this to be a book about the reading specialist as a leader, Chapters 5 and 6 should be the major focus of the text.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 107 Number 7, 2005, p. 1561-1562
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 11412, Date Accessed: 11/29/2021 9:58:14 AM

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About the Author
  • Susan Randow
    Queen Anne's County Public Schools
    E-mail Author
    SUSAN RANDOW is a teacher specialist in Queen Anne's County, MD, and an adjunct education professor at Salisbury University, Salisbury, MD. She wrote a 2004 Maryland ASCD Journal article on collaboratively looking at student work to improve instruction and is currently conducting action research on development a professional learning community using Dufour's model of PLC's at Work.
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