The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Some Good News for the New Year

on December 16, 2015

Today’s post will be my last one for 2015.  We are going on vacation with our youngest son and his family in a warm and sunny climate–Maui.  Along with my bathing suit and a sexy dress I am taking the past three issues of Education Week, which I haven’t had time to read, confident that I will find some things I can write about in 2016.  But in the meantime I am posting a bit of good news about Professor Gay Ivey at the University of Wisconsin, the same place where I did my graduate work  and strengthened my faith in the wisdom of teachers and the abilities of children.

Although the article I am quoting from focuses on Ivey’s election to the Reading Hall of Fame and her role at the U.W, I was much more impressed by her teaching experiences and her reading philosiphy because they are a lot like mine. So, I trimmed the article down to highlight only those things.


UW-Madison’s Gay Ivey had an amusing initial reaction in November upon learning she had been elected to the Reading Hall of Fame:I didn’t think I was old enough,”

The Reading Hall of Fame was established in 1973 in an effort to contribute, from the collective experiences of its members, to the improvement of reading instruction. To be elected to the Hall, one must have spent at least 25 years actively involved in reading work and be widely known and respected by his or her peers in the field.

Ivey has spent the past 25 years trying to better understand students’ motivations for reading –- and what happens when their reading is feeding their interests and curiosities. She started her career in education as a middle school reading specialist in Albemarle County, Virginia.

“What has driven all of my research is my initial experiences as a classroom teacher,” Ivey says of those early years working in her home state of Virginia.  “I wouldn’t have paid attention to what I now believe truly matters in reading without those wonderful experiences teaching kids from really interesting communities and with really interesting lives that enriched my own life and way of looking at the world.”

While many scholars today are examining how to better motivate children to read, Ivey explains that is not her area of scholarly focus.  Instead, she is taking a closer look at the benefits students receive when following their own passions and reading for their own purposes. To examine this topic, Ivey has spent the past six years studying English classrooms in which teachers prioritize engaged reading, instead of specific, assigned readings.

“I’m studying what happens in those classes with individual kids, and between kids, that shapes instruction in those classrooms and the goals of instruction,” says Ivey.

When students are exploring their own reasons for reading and are really engaged with a text, Ivey explains, there are numerous consequences. Reading engagement is linked not only with developing competence as a reader but it also has intellectual, social and emotional consequences, she says.

“It’s not the volume of reading that matters most, but the quality of those engaged reading experiences,” says Ivey.  “I’m less interested in finding ways to produce higher test scores and more interested in studying engaged reading and its relationship to the development of the whole person. I’m studying reading as a tool for helping students make sense of their lives and each other and the world.”

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