Books are Enough

The Power of Free, Self-Selected Reading

Carol Jago’s Common Core Folly

Carol Jago wet her beak early and often on the Common Core gravy train. Recently she said that the greatest fear that new college students have is “writing” and that they are not getting enough practice across the curriculum. Let’s break down that remark.

1. I have never had a college bound student tell me that “writing” was their greatest fear. I am not saying that for some it might not be but I have not heard it in 25 years. After reading the comment from Jago I contacted three students I had in class last year and asked them about their greatest fears going into college in a few months. Here are the responses.

A. “Paying for everything and being away from family”

B. “Managing my time”

C.”Making friends and fitting in”

2. Jago falls into the common trap of thinking that “more writing makes us better.” Actually, we have much evidence that this is not the case. Good writers are avid readers. Avid readers have a rich vocabulary and have acquired the mind of a writer by reading a lot. Developing and encouraging students (from early on) to be book loving citizens is our task. The students I see who are avid readers NEVER have problems with writing. Of course, they refine and continue to grow. Amazing- the power of reading!  I recently saw a Common Core reading/writing assessment that expected kids to compare a 17th century poem with a Greek Myth. Based on a cold reading- students were going to be judged on this timed nightmare. Is someone below grade level because they do not rate as “proficient” on these tests? Hell no!

Let me tell you a little secret. So called “reading levels” change constantly for all. It depends on what you are reading and when you are reading. “Level” depends on many things. Interest, experience and complexity are all factors in “level.” One of the lies out there is that scoring “below grade level” on a reading test ( or below proficient on NAEP- a VERY high standard) means you “cannot read.” This lie comes from politicians who want more darts to throw.

Common Core gives students even fewer chances to engage with comprehensible text and develop reading habits at school. Poor students, with little access to books at home, are put at a greater disadvantage. Common Core focus is based on the non evidenced idea that there should be an emphasis on informational text and text that students are forced to read.

Can you imagine being forced to read some 17th century tome over and over in the name of “close reading?” Well this is the Common Core way. There is nothing wrong with repeated readings of text but Common Core takes it to a mind numbing extreme. I have students who read the same YA novels several time and come away with new feelings and ideas all the time. They read what they enjoy and develop as readers, writers and thinkers.


If students are given the time to read and access to books over a long period of time- they naturally increase the complexity of text they read. And guess what? If they want to read a comic book in 12th grade- so the hell what! One of my former students is a Doctor in Atlanta and reads comics and graphic novels.

Common Core is based on a relentlessly false idea that there needs to be a daily push to rigor. Of course students should read academic text daily -but it is a waste of time if they hate to read due to years of “close reading” skill-drill-kill.

From early on we teach students that reading is simply a task that needs to be done to pass a grade, test, or get an A. This is criminal. Under Common Core students are reading Dr. Seuss in early grades and looking at text structure (another waste of time) and spending days on one story. Intent on sucking the love out of reading- some want to put our students on a path to rigor….mortis.



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