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Review of  The Texts in Elementary Classrooms

Reviewer: Luna Beard
Book Title: The Texts in Elementary Classrooms
Book Author: James V. Hoffman Diane L. Schallert
Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
Issue Number: 16.707

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Date: Wed, 09 Mar 2005 16:11:23 +0200
From: Luna Beard
Subject: The Texts in Elementary Classrooms

EDITORS: Hoffman, James V.; Schallert, Diane L.
TITLE: The Texts in Elementary Classrooms
SERIES: A Volume in the Center for the Improvement of Early Reading
Achievement (CIERA) Series
PUBLISHER: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
YEAR: 2004

Luna Beard, Department of Afro-Asiatic Studies, Sign Language and Language
Practice, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

In their preface to the volume, Hoffman and Schallert (vii) point out
that they assume a more contextualized and less controlling view of the
texts used in classrooms than that held by twentieth century
educationists. The editors of this book take the stance that "the texts
in classrooms offer students a range of opportunities to engage in
literate activity".

This volume of articles written by researchers based in the United States
is divided into four sections, namely:
I Basic Processes and Text Features
II Considering the Forms of Texts in Classrooms
III Some Issues Surrounding Text Selection
IV Assessing the Text Environment

The articles in section I relate processes such as comprehension,
motivation, word recognition and fluency to features of texts. In the
first article in this section, Purcell-Gates and Duke discuss significant
dimensions of words, sentences, discourse and illustrations in texts for
beginning readers. These include aspects such frequency, meaning/content,
decodability, predictability, familiarity and genre. Each of these
characteristics are defined and then its relevance to beginning reading is
described. After that the way in which texts for beginning readers vary in
terms of the given characteristic, is discussed. This contribution is
concluded with suggestions concerning beginning reading instruction and
text dimensions.

In the second chapter in this section Cunningham, Koppenhaver, Erickson
and Spadorcia discuss the relationship between word identification
instruction and the characteristics of texts that are most likely to
support successful word identification learning. In terms of their
discussion, the term 'word identification' consists of two subcomponents;
namely, decoding and word recognition. They identify five reasons why word
identification cannot be successfully taught to most children without
meaningful and interesting texts that support the development of automatic
word recognition and efficient decoding. They explicate these five reasons
as five needs that children have during their word identification

In the other two contributions in this section, Stahl and Dougherty Stahl
consider the role of text in the development of fluency, while Paris and
Carpenter examine children's motivation to read, at school as well as at

Section II comprises five articles. In the first one Keehn, Martinez and
Teale discuss appropriate literature for three aspects of an instructional
program; namely, the read aloud component, independent reading and
literacy instruction. The discussion focuses on making good book choices
given the vast number available to teachers throughout the United States.
In their exposition of the first component, they (87) refer to research in
which it is claimed that there is no substitute for a teacher who reads
good stories to children. Furthermore, research (88) shows that books
that are read aloud to young children are frequently the ones they pick up
to read themselves when they visit the classroom or school library. The
following article by Hoffman, Roser and Sailors takes a critical look at
the accessibility and instructional design of levelled texts - that is,
texts aimed at nurturing early reading development. The third article, by
Duke and Tower, is entitled Nonfiction Texts for Young Readers. They
(128) point out that while "once there were few quality and engaging
nonfiction texts for children, there are now countless such texts, many of
high quality and great interest". Informational texts of this type are
particularly important for building comprehension skills, according to the
research quoted (126). Ample research still needs to be conducted in this
regard, as well as about texts of the type identified in the last chapter
of this section; namely, electronic texts. The penultimate article in
this section provides a very practical approach to local texts, which the
authors say (155) invariably bring about conversation, enthusiasm and
depth of understanding.
Section III expands on the previous section in its focus on the selection
of classroom texts. Issues such as bilingualism, linguistic diversity and
the role of teachers as censors are addressed in the two articles in this
section. The section is concluded by a list of considerations
or "ponderables" (205) for classroom book selection.

Section IV consists of one chapter only. Here the preceding ideas are tied
to together and summarized. It also provides assessment tools such as
checklists and inventories that teachers can use.

This volume of articles is well-organised and well-structured. It makes
for captivating reading and also provides a wealth of references for
further reading.


Luna Beard is a researcher in the Department of Afro-Asiatic Studies, Sign
language and Language Practice at the University of the Free State in
Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Format: Hardback
ISBN: 0805843884
ISBN-13: N/A
Pages: 264
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