Deep reading is complete stupidity

There is a movement, among people who love the idea of locking kids up in school all day, to add deep reading to the national curriculum. Supposedly, kids don’t read well enough anymore. The Internet is making kids stupid. Or bad readers. Or lazy. Or all of the above.

But to be clear, the movement to address these problems is from the people who make teaching standards in this country, which are, as Lisa Nielsen points out, the testing companies and publishers who make money directly from the new standards.

I love this movement because it’s a great example of how the people who establish our national educational standards are out-of-touch with reality.

1. Deep reading pushes teachers to undermine a child’s ability to learn from reading.
When you “teach a text” you destroy the student’s ability to learn from the text. Instead, you spoonfeed them. Take, for example,  The Butter Battle Book being part US history units in school. If you tell kids that Dr Seuss is writing this book as commentary on the Cold War then you take away a kid’s ability to make inferences on their own. There is no space left for the kid to discover the connection. So teaching deep reading actually undermines the students natural ability for deep reading.

2. Deep reading assumes kids are not interested in what they are reading.
The standards proscribe how a kid should go about asking questions of a text: “What’s the main point? What are the underlying motives of the writer?” and so on. When my son reads the Time magazine article about Minecraft, no one has to teach him deep reading. The article has a walk-through of how to stay alive the first night in survival mode. My son did research and came up with a better method that he announced he was going to send to the author of the article.

3. Supporters of deep reading are focused truly on their job security.
A college professor, Karen Prior, writes in the Atlantic that she supports the deep reading standards because she wants better students. Her students don’t read the assigned texts. They just want to pass the tests. I am shocked that she is shocked. The kids got into her college by learning how to study for the test. If she wants to know where the kids are who read to learn instead of reading only to pass a test, she should look at the the kids who skip college to do what matters.

4. People who make national standards undermine motivation to learn.
Sometimes I can’t even believe I’m addressing the people who write national standards because it’s so misguided and stupid that I feel like I’m addressing one of those topics that are over, like, whether we should allow interracial dating. But here’s Kathleen Porter-Magee, who, from her perch at The Forham Institute, leads the establishment of state and national curriculum standards: “The reality is that the Common Core challenges us to help students (and teachers) understand that reading is not about them.” Really?

Adults read what they want to learn. Adults look at their life, decide what will make their life better, and that’s what they read. So why can’t kids do that? Who made the rule that reading cannot be about us? Why else do we read? If you want to understand an author you will naturally meet that author from his or her perspective. You don’t need Common Core to tell you that.

David Coleman, presenting att the New York State Department of Ed, says that teachers don’t care what you personally feel about the text. That’s probably true. That’s why kids spend more effort when they write in social media than when they write for class.

5. The common core exists in a time vacuum.
Who cares if there’s no deep reading? The only people who were really doing it well, according to academia, were other academics. Have you noticed that there are no jobs for academics? They are an anachronism and their way of life, including their reading standards, belong in the Smithsonian.

Those of us living in reality know the biggest threat to reading is that Generation Z uses YouTube instead of Google. Which means Generation Z reads and writes very little. They make their strongest arguments orally,  and they receive the information they want orally as well.

Deep reading fanatics should consider addressing the problems of baby boomers. They are, undoubtedly the deep readers of the world, since, if nothing else, they have a lock on tenure-track professorships and high-power positions at publishers, if that term is not an oxymoron. Baby boomers don’t know how to make a YouTube video because they can’t speak in front of people without worrying that they’ll look bad. Baby boomers can’t talk into the tiny camera on their laptop screen. Baby boomers should focus instead on teaching kids how to make solid, well-argued statements using YouTube.

But of course, they can’t because they don’t know how to do it.

57 replies
  1. Julie
    Julie says:

    Thank you. I read my daughter the butter battle book so many times. Not once did I point out that it is about the Cold War. I thought about it but I KNEW that would ruin it and then she would never want to read it again.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      I am not a fan of the book club type questions about books, and don’t think they much promote thinking about content. But why would a historical perspective spoil the content of a book? I am just curious.

      • Julie
        Julie says:

        Because she was all about enjoying the story and the wacky Suess rhymes and illustrations and, for her, going into an explanation of the Cold War would have been like raining on the parade. I felt like I should point it out but I knew it would be bad in terms of her pleasure in the story. I can’t explain it any other way. And nobody explained it to me and I figured it out, so why shouldn’t she? It is more powerful to make connections yourself than have them pointed out by others.

      • mh
        mh says:

        So funny about book club questions because I rip them out of our books, if they happen to be published in the back. Nothing kills a book like a book club question.

  2. Cindy
    Cindy says:

    Most of the reading I remember in school was geared toward “answering the questions at the end of the chapter” type stuff. What do intelligent children do? They go to the end of the chapter, read question one, and scan the text for the answer. No one told us that anything beyond that was important. For “reading,” you still answered “comprehension questions.” It was always about creating a measureable product. I did my meaningful reading outside of school. I always wished someone could be reading whatever I was reading so I could talk about what feelings it conjured up in me.

    As an adult and recent author, I read a lot of books to gather research and understand the current state of thinking. As I read books, I would question things I read, ponder them, agree with them, or need to mull things over and gather more information. Interestingly, I had to give myself permission to write in books. In that way, I could write my ideas, notes, questions, etc., as I read to go back and consider.

    I’m afraid that whatever schools try to do to encourage real, meaningful conversation about reading, they will either provide leading questions, like you mentioned, or create a list of points to consider, which ruins the point. Real discussion doesn’t allow for measurable products. It’s an exciting process.

    And, finally, yes, today’s generation has access to lots of different ways to express themselves, and to respond back. Pen and pencil is just one way to express your ideas. YouTube videos is another way, and so is theater, a sculpture, or a piece of music. This is the natural way right-brained people have expressed themselves for a long time, but weren’t validated for it. With the information age, the right-brained creators finally get their focus…but schools fall far behind and continue focused on left-brained expressions. (

  3. Editormum
    Editormum says:

    I don’t know that deep reading is “complete stupidity.” But teaching every kid to read in the same way certainly is.

    I homeschool two boys. Reading means sitting still and focusing on something that doesn’t move or interact for hours at a time, so they have never liked to read. (I often couldn’t even get them to let me read to them!) But both of them read well. And they DO read when it’s something important to them.

    I couldn’t get one of my boys to read even the most adventuresome classics, but when he discovered Jurassic Park, he was hooked. And when I gave him a couple of books about fishing, I didn’t see him for hours. My other one will read if coaxed, but prefers to play Minecraft. However, when he found the Percy Jackson books, he ate them up, and then started digging into more traditional mythology.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last couple of years. I read like most people eat. I am never without a book, and the perfect day for me would be in a hammock outside, reading a good book. It’s been hard to accept that my sons are never going to be voracious readers like I am.

    I’ve had my best success with their reading work by giving them books on CD and MP3. They actually have a broader knowledge base than they would have if I’d not taken this step. I could never have gotten them to sit down and read Moby Dick or The Odyssey. But they know both books (and many others) because I’ve let them listen to them.

    • Karen
      Karen says:

      I also have 2 boys who resist reading plain text books. Have you tried graphic novels? So many classic books are available in this format now. My 11 year old devoured Henry V just last night.

    • another mom
      another mom says:

      Deep reading, I fear, will lead to more young children being deemed inattentive, and have have lack of focus. In other words, they will be candidates – yet again – to be identified as ADHD.

  4. Anita
    Anita says:

    Teaching deep reading may be crap however when I see my youngest, Noah, who is 7 , pick up the I pad instead of a book I cringe internally. I love reading. Going to the library with my dad growing up was the best part of the week. I have 3 sisters and we are all avid readers my oldest is 22 and he reads a lot. We weren’t ever taught to deep read but growing up with 3 channels there wasn’t much else to do! I also believe My oldest reads a lot because the Internet wasn’t so readily accessible in his early reading years. Handheld video games were not that interesting yet either.

    Noah loves to make videos of himself doing stuff and yes, he loves you tube. Getting lost in a book is one of my favourite things to do! Getting lost on you tube or Netflix in Noah’s favourite thing. Teaching deep reading may be a useless skill but if Noah doesn’t ever develop a Love for reading or patience to get through a really good book because he’s grown up with the instant gratification of you tube and google search I will feel like I’ve missed the boat on teaching him something valuable.
    IF deep reading can be taught while surrounded by technology. To be honest I don’t think it can.

    My other friend that homeschools her children has no cable and her children have very limited access to the Internet. Her oldest son, Leo, is 7 and he loves his books. When our boys get together Noah will play on the I pad and Leo gets out a pile of books.

    Penelope, I will take the pile of books any day and when I see that and I get this desperate urge to cut off the cable, Internet and introduce Noah to books for entertainment.

    • Melissa Davies
      Melissa Davies says:

      It’s funny that you mention the instant gratification of YouTube. I often feel like I don’t have the patience to watch a video.

      When I’m looking for tutorials on-line, 99% of the time, I prefer a blog post. Mostly so I can just skim the text and get the information I want.

      And this is coming from someone who is a size queen when it comes to novels. “Infinite Jest” is probably my favorite book of all time.

    • Becca
      Becca says:

      My boys would also prefer a video game, but we limit screen time so much in our house that just isn’t an option. I’d encourage you to take away the screens and see how that works. My kids get 15 min of screen time for every 30 min of extra chores they do (limited to 1 hr/day). Also, my oldest son didn’t become the voracious reader he is until about age 7 or 8. And then only because there’s not much else to do when it’s cold or rainy outside.

  5. Betsy
    Betsy says:

    “…the people who establish our national educational standards are out-of-touch with reality.”

    Absolutely true. When is America going to learn this? So frustrating. But then we wouldn’t have as much to talk about, so there’s that.

  6. Sarah Fowler
    Sarah Fowler says:

    So true. I was an English major, but I dreaded some of the questions professors would make me answer, even though I got very good at answering them.

    I’m teaching a 7-week summer writing class for elementary school kids, and their moms kept asking me if I was going to assign reading. I am requiring them to read, but they can read whatever they want. You should see the moms freaking out. lol

    • mh
      mh says:

      Are these homeschooled kids in your writing seminar? I like the sound of it.

      “Read whatever you want” but does it have to have a plot? Because so far this summer, my son is busy memorizing steam railway routes, load capacities, and construction methods for bridges and tunnels. He’s what you call an independent learner.

      However, when he dives into reading book-books, he’ll cram through all the Harry Potter books in two weeks. And when we take a long road trip, he’ll read a couple thousand pages in the back seat.

      Pretty much as long as I don’t tell him what he must read, he reads 3 hours a day.

  7. karelys
    karelys says:

    Friday I was swamped with work. I have all week. And my boss walks in and he says all chirpy “remember the key for today?!”

    I was like a deer in the headlights.

    He says patiently “breaks. Take breaks!”

    And it hit me. I still think in terms of “the right answer” so when he sprung the question I thought I was being tested and there was one right answer.

    In school I had such a hard time enjoying the reading because I felt like all I learned from the texts wasn’t good enough. I mean, there was what I learned but had I learned what was going to be in the test? Did I learn the right things?

    So through school I normally would read and learn shooting to get the right answers for the test and sometimes, if I had enough brain bandwidth or time or interest I would think of my own things and extrapolate to my own life.

    We read My Antonia when I was in high school. I don’t know if it’s deep reading or not. I bombed the test but the booked affected me so much I kept it. We read American Son. I don’t remember doing particularly well in the classes but the book helped me work out the kinks of assimilating to the American culture.

    Had the test asked what I learned from the book I would’ve probably gotten an award and a scholarship! ;)

    • mh
      mh says:

      Yes. One of the greatest things that happened to me in high school was a long hospital stay and recuperation at home.

      My lit class in school were studying Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Tale of Two Cities, and Pride and Prejudice. I missed all the class discussion, of course, but I read the books. It was a pleasure to read them WITHOUT input from my teacher and classmates.

  8. karelys
    karelys says:

    ps. The bit about Gen Z being more comfortable orally than communicating via written word sounds very dramatic and exciting. As if eventually we’ll move towards the oral tradition again. Maybe it will. In a different way.

    I mean, it will be recorded oral tradition probably. It’s like aaah! the future is almost here!!!!

    • Paxton
      Paxton says:

      karelys, I also concur with Melissa. That is such a great observation about moving towards an oral tradition again. It is interesting to see things come full circle and I will think of youtube in a new light thanks to you!

  9. redrock
    redrock says:

    Academia is different from other professions, but it is nonetheless the real world. It is as much part of the real world as the life of a high end blogger (there are probably more academics out there then high end bloggers). Academics oddly enough have the same concerns about happiness and life and food and driving around and schooling as everybody else. It is a specialized profession as much as plumbing is a specialized profession. They are real people, with family and spouses, and they are a highly diverse group. You can always find academics in favor of the core curriculum, much the same you can find academics not in favor of the core curriculum.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think academia and blogging are analogous in that the odds of being able to support a family doing those jobs is so slim that you shouldn’t think of it as a career path. It’s great that it works out for some people, but it’s not as much a path as a prayer.


      • redrock
        redrock says:

        that is definitely correct – a tenure position at a resonably ranked university is a rare commodity. I am not sure why many graduate students use this as a guide to their career – just looking at the numbers should tell one otherwise. But, there are many people who try a big acting career, or a musician career with the idea of aiming for carnegie hall and the Hollywood blockbuster – equally not suited as a career path, nonetheless many try. The same with the academic tenure position…

        • Robin K
          Robin K says:

          But at least a try at an acting career that is failing will fail (or succeed) pretty obviously within a handful of years. And most likely the aspiring actor has had to work other jobs simultaneously and has learned a lot about the real world through that experience.

          As PT points out in other posts, as a career academic, one can waste all of their youth in an artificial ‘work’ setting that doesn’t teach skills necessary (or pay well) if the plan doesn’t work out. My husband is 37 and just finished his PhD. He took one year off of school to travel, and one year off to work in a lab. Other than that, he’s been in school his whole life. He just got a tenure-track professor job, but the pay isn’t great considering the cost of living in the city we will live in and I often wish he would get a job as an industrial scientist instead of risking not getting tenure in his mid-forties and having far fewer options.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            Yes, but then why did you decide to take the risk if it is such a stupid move? The salary and the chance of getting tenure is known beforehand – it is not a secret. And working in academia is real life- just a different one.

        • Robin K
          Robin K says:

          I guess to me (I can understand how my comment sounded dismissive) real-life jobs are ones where you answer to a boss and/or have employees or reports, have to deal with all sorts of personalities as both clients/customers and coworkers, stuff like that. My husband hasn’t had a proper boss, supervisor or a coworker ever in his career.

          It’s not that it’s a totally stupid move, it’s just not motivated by money and there is that potential threat of not getting tenure. He has been on this path for a long time with an academic job as his goal. Long before we even met. He has to try, or else he’ll always wonder what if.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            Then being self employed is also not a real life job. In the vast majority of academic jobs there is constant evaluation- promotionand tenure, annual assesment, peer review and student evaluations. While nobody tells you exactly what to do you better do.whatever you choose in research and teaching very well.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            Funny enough academics remind me of unschooling: focus, choose where you want to excel without being prompted to do so. Or being told to go in a certain direction…

  10. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    Cultural movement “x” causes cultural problem “y” to be revealed in more plain sight.

    Culture blames movement “x” for problem “y.”

    Culture doesn’t realize that the “problem” existed prior to movement “x” and that it simply wasn’t within consciousness then.

  11. mh
    mh says:

    We don’t have cable or satellite TV.

    We do have library cards.

    My kids read.

    Havaing said that, my kids do a TON of learning in visual format — computer games (physics), roller coaster development (popular mechanics for kids), David Macaulay videos. Also comic books, why not?

    I think probably THE BEST RETAINED learning they have had in the past twelve months was the weekend family getaway to a resort hotel. They watched Mythbusters all night and memorized it. It’s funny, it’s funny, it’s funny, and stuff gets blown up.

    But they use that information all the time — when they are working on their Lionel track layouts or building a history display or etc.

    And please don’t forget Khan Academy. . Visual kids lock onto those videos and absorb.

    I think there’s room for any kind of learning. Sitting next to an old person learning how to play checkers or bridge is also very educational. Going to a dance lesson with a family of little girls. Building a robot with some guys as a prop for a theater production. Memorizing lines from Julius Caesar. Spending 20 minutes in the water learning how to do flip turns from your friend. Kid Triathlons. Hanging out with a neighbor in their vegetable garden.

    Homeschool is freedom.

  12. channa
    channa says:

    Someone tell They require a writing sample before doing in-person job interviews. Meetings typically start with 15-20 minutes of reading. No PowerPoint allowed because they think the visual elements skew objective evaluation of the ideas. There are better and worse ways to teach it, but focused reading is a skill that helps in a lot of areas of life.

  13. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    We’ve hs’ed our kids from the beginning, so I’m not entirely sure how schools do it now, but my opinion is that my kids–homeschoolers– have the best of both worlds. When I was in school, there was minimal (less than 10%) emphasis on technology other than typing up reports, and a once a semester (?) movie in a class.
    My kids get to watch documentaries, cartoons, and tv shows (How It’s Made–my 6 yo’s favorite!), use the computer for playing games, learning a second language, and learning to read. They get to bond with my husband by trading off the iphone every night trying to beat bad guys on the video games they’re playing. I read to my kids over 40 books a week, because that’s (generally) how many we check out from the library, not to mention their favorites they come and bring me that we own.
    So, they do a lot of both. We try to make time for everything, not just reading. Reading was and still is my thing (English major, bookseller, etc.) and I love to share it with my kids. They love other things (see: video/computer games, documentaries), that I try to get involved in to share it with them.
    Even though I grew up with the internet, I still remember a childhood free of video games…which was my own choice because I thought they were lame time-sucks.
    All that to say, I totally loved this post. I feel like it needs a “Bam! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!” at the end. Every point is so right on and makes instinctive sense to me. Even when I share this kind of thing on facebook, no one reads it or comments on it. It surprises me (everyone loves a snarky read, right?) but it shouldn’t.
    Sarah M

  14. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I really enjoyed this thought provoking post with many good links. However, the ending (#5) soured this post for me with a rant on the baby boomers. It wouldn’t matter what generation was lambasted. I think it was a distraction from the main theme of the post – deep thinking.
    I support deep reading. I just don’t know how you would teach it to a bunch of kids in a rigid, curricula type format and then test for it with meaningful and accurate results. Deep reading seems to me to be a very customized and individualized pursuit. It’s possible to show someone the tools and how to use them but the motivation to yield results really has to come from the reader. The reader has to have the desire to discover what the words mean to themselves, pursue the author’s meaning, and what the words may mean for other people in order for deep thinking to take place.

  15. Heather Sanders
    Heather Sanders says:

    Until I read this post I had never heard of “deep reading.” Maybe that should embarrass me, or maybe it should thrill me, but regardless, I looked it up.

    “The term deep reading was coined by Sven Birkerts in The Gutenberg Elegies (1994): “Reading, because we control it, is adaptable to our needs and rhythms. We are free to indulge our subjective associative impulse; the term I coin for this is deep reading: the slow and meditative possession of a book. We don’t just read the words, we dream our lives in their vicinity.”

    So…apparently someone took an enjoyable, natural process and thwarted it by trying to control it.

    Am I close?

  16. Ann N
    Ann N says:

    I think you’ve made a large leap in logic – or, the schools in your area are really lacking. There’s nothing wrong with dedicating some time to help kids who need it slow down so that they don’t miss nuances in text. Only a knuckle-headed or lazy teacher would substitute spoon-feeding for guided literary discussion.

    I do share your opinion, though, that curriculum standards are largely profit-driven. My family is fortunate to have some alternatives for schooling, including the option of choosing process- over content-based instructional programs and the congregated instruction for advanced students. Otherwise, we’d be homeschooling.

  17. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    What they’re now calling “deep reading” (and used to be called, from what I can tell, “losing yourself in a book”) is great, fabulous, wonderful. I hope every kid is so fortunate that their parents can help create the conditions for them to enjoy it. I feel bad for kids whose parents are so caught up in futurist speculation and generational hype, or have their kids’ lives so over-scheduled, or are themselves so functionally illiterate, that they don’t create the conditions for their kids to read deeply.

    Deep reading is also utterly incompatible with school as we know it.

    There is no way to make losing yourself in a book cooperate with having to take a test for comprehension. As soon as a kid is no longer reading the book just for pleasure, but is reading it in order to get a grade on a test, write a book report, or answer a series of questions, the depth is yanked right back and it become what you might call “strategic reading” instead.

    Strategic reading is shallow; it’s a special technique akin to speed-reading. It goes back and forth and finds the salient points. When I was a kid, I could speed-read a book enough for an A book report or test in a matter of minutes. I even amused myself by ad-libbing an A oral book report without having cracked the book before the class. This is the antithesis of deep reading.

    You can’t sit a bunch of kids down in a classroom, hand them the same book, and say “now we’re going to do deep reading for the next forty minutes until the bell rings again.” You can’t give a kid a book and say “deep read this until Thursday, when there will be a test.” That’s complete nonsense, and will not result in appreciation of literature or exercise of imagination.

    From the article by Karen Swallow Prior, it seems like it’s actually this “strategic reading” that her students lack: they can’t understand a paragraph sufficiently to come to the simple answers to simple questions she poses them. Her students, seemingly, can’t actually read the words and understand what they mean. That’s a darn shame, and it should be something the Common Core can help with. Getting away from the “reader response” style of reading training (where every answer might begin with “I feel…”) is a good start. She’s right about that. But she’s not really talking about deep reading. She’s just talking about reading. She likes to call it deep because it makes it sound special, but that just confuses the matter.

    I do find it sad that reading for pleasure or deep reading is a minority pursuit. But the truth is that it always has been. This is not a new fact created by television or YouTube. It’s not shocking that very few Millennials or Generation Q or whatever one wants to make up for the fetuses of today are deep readers. Few of their parents were, or their grandparents, or great-grandparents. And college is no longer a minority pursuit for the academically oriented, so you’re going to find fewer and fewer deep readers at college each year.

    The Common Core is irrelevant to the minority of people who read deeply; these people are and have always been uncommon. They did not learn to read like that in the classroom, and they will alway be frustrated if they think they can teach kids to read like that in the classroom.

    Reading for comprehension (what I call “strategic reading,” and Kathleen Porter-Magee calls “close reading”) can be taught, however, and should be. The common kids who get Common Core deserve that much, and this is an improvement over what they were doing before.

    My boy doesn’t have to go to school, doesn’t have to read things he doesn’t like, and has the liberty to lose himself in books of his choosing for hours at a time on any given day. This is a big advantage of not going to school.

  18. Sandy
    Sandy says:

    I find Kathleen Porter-Magee’s comment that “reading is not about them” puzzling. Who is it about then? If kids can’t read books, magazines or other materials they are interested in, then how will they ever develop any desire to or enjoyment in reading? Better for a kid to read a comic book and enjoy it and want to read more than to be spoon-fed the classics and equate reading with punishment. Sure, we all have to read things we don’t like as we grow up, but let kids develop their desire to read and the building blocks to comprehending more complex reading by reading what they like. For each person, reading should be about “them”!

  19. Sheela
    Sheela says:

    A friend invited me to attend her Kindergartener’s ‘Author’s tea’ yesterday. There were word lists on the walls, definitions of Nouns, Adjectives, Synonyms and Antonyms.

    Each kid had ‘published’ his or her own book, which they read aloud. The scene of trotting out little kid ‘authors’ and then giving them all prizes- books with morals specially-tailored to their personalities- felt so wrong. The underlying assumption with this stuff and with the ‘deep reading’ requirements for older kids is that kids won’t read anything deeply, or write anything entertaining or useful, if left to their own devices. They need compulsion and bribes.

  20. Darlene
    Darlene says:

    I love your content Penelope and think you’re a creative and inspiring genius but your editor uses way too many commas. The sentence “They are, undoubtedly the deep readers of the world, since, if nothing else, they have a lock on tenure-track professorships and high-power positions at publishers, if that term is not an oxymoron.” in this column has finally driven me crazy enough to reach out to you. I work for a publishing company and I wonder what style he uses, certainly not APA or AMA style. The sentence would flow so much more easily if written “Undoubtedly they are the deep readers of the world because if nothing else, they have a lock on tenure-track professorships and high-power positions at publishers, if that term is not an oxymoron.” That removes 3 commas and seems so much more relaxed yet perky and flows more smoothly.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      That is such a good edit, Darlene. Now I want you to go through every post and take out commas! I also want to make the change in this post, but I think it’s valuable for everyone to read your edit, so I’m leaving it.

      Hopefully you’ll notice, in the future, that I’m not so comma heavy.


      • Darlene
        Darlene says:

        You are too cute. But you’re kidding with the two commas in the final sentence of your reply, right?

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      I was amused by this, because the edits make the sentence worse. It was wordy before, but it’s cringeworthy now.

      The sentence as modified does not flow smoothly but runs on without direction. At the very least, one should add commas after undoubtedly and between because and if. It is normal practice to use a comma after an introductory sentence adverb.

      The ideal solution for an overly wordy sentence in casual English is not to strip it of its punctuation, but to break it into two sentences:

      “Undoubtedly, they are the deep readers of the world. If nothing else, they have a lock on tenure-track professorships and high-power positions at publishers, if that term is not an oxymoron.”

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        I had the impression that the editor is german (or german speaking as a first language with some high school in german). The way the commata are used is exactly as the german comma rules (my nemesis in school) prescribe.

      • Darlene
        Darlene says:

        Redrock is right. It is improved by breaking it into two sentences. That is typically a better solution. Except when one wishes to maintain the style of the person who is writing.

          • eden
            eden says:

            I think Darlene’s edit is perfect for Penelope and for blogging. The commas seem to correspond and flow with the breath it would take to speak the words. Great blog writing like Penelope’s is most akin to speaking.

  21. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    Why do deep reading in school when every test used to judge a students comprehension is multiple choice/true or false questions? And just like the person above stated, we were required to read to answer the questions in the back of the chapter so we read the question and find the answer in the text without the “deep reading”, hell, some books had the “odd” questions answered in the back of the book.

    Looking back, I really only needed teachers for Algebra, Trig, and Chemistry….everything else I could’ve learned on my own past 3rd grade.

  22. Christina Hank
    Christina Hank says:


    I hardly feel compelled to respond to many posts to which my blog has been linked, but in this case, I thought a short reply was required. I’m not sure you either read or fully-comprehended my Butter Battle post for several reasons 1) this was an HS English class (not a social studies class) in which we were studying satire (hence the Cold War reference), 2) the central argument in my post is that we have been spoon feeding kids and deep reading encourages just the opposite by allowing kids to make their own meaning from a piece.

    To be honest, I actually ignored the rest of your posting mainly because if you failed to take the time to read and understand what I said, I failed to see the need to read or understand the rest of what you said.

    Perhaps some deep reading on your part in the future (rather than links to blogs paired with your own misrepresentations of the author’s point and purpose) would’ve been beneficial.

    I apologize for my brashness, but I am offended that my own writing could be taken so far out of context.

    • Lisa Nielsen
      Lisa Nielsen says:

      Are you kidding Christina? I’m concerned that you are an educator / administrator and you come on a blog to attack a mother doing the important work of trying to understand the common core and deeper reading. You knew this was wrong, and you apologize for your brashness, but you couldn’t help yourself.

      Christina, your job is to HELP parents understand. It is not to attack them!

      How hypocritical and unnecessarily patronizing of you to say that you ignored the rest of this mother’s post because she didn’t understand what you said. Our job as educators and administrators is to help parents understand and try to bring them along. Not to try to belittle and humiliate them.

      Now let me give you a few lessons.
      1) Penelope was not talking about YOUR class. She linked to you in relation to the idea behind your post about you taking all the joy out of reading from your students because you unlocked the secrets of The Butter Battle Book for them and did all the work of dissecting the piece as part of my lesson planning,
      2) If you had acted professionally by taking your fingers out of your ears and opening your eyes to read Penelope’s post, you’d see that she made the point you indicate is your central argument.

      I am an educator, administrator, and a writer who read your post deeply. You are not only wrong about Penelope taking your post out of context, but you are also behaving in a way no educator should ever behave toward a parent. You are an embarrassment to my profession and your school district.

      If you have a meaningful and helpful contribution, please join the conversation, but no one needs educators like you ruining our reputation and attacking parents. Shame!

    • Robin K
      Robin K says:

      PT didn’t take your writing out of context. She made an observation of your approach and made her own conjecture about that approach’s impact on students. She is looking at the concept of “deep reading” through a lens that is so radically different from your own that you seemingly can’t comprehend it being valid. I suggest reading the rest of the post, and poking around this blog a bit more. You might learn something.

  23. Robin K
    Robin K says:

    Forcing kids to read is counterproductive. I know that from my own experience. In years since I’ve been out of school I’ve re-read (or truly read for the first time) a lot of the required reading. To say I get so much more out of the classics now than I did then is an understatement. I actually enjoy them instead of viewing the reading as punishment. Some of the books I’m reading now were ones I read the cliffs notes for in high school. It’s kind of funny, and also pretty sad.

  24. Mominvermont
    Mominvermont says:

    I can’t believe you’re trash talking Deep Reading!

    As a Deep Homeschooler, don’t you believe in specializing and finding your child’s passion and enriching the learning with outside input?? Deep Reading allows us to do that with stories.

    Would you mock Deep Movies? Or Deep LARPing? We call those Unit Studies:)

    I agree that one-size-fits-all institutional Deep Reading done at the government school level could be atrocious…but Deep Reading with your own curious homeschooled child is altogether different.

  25. Tori Reid
    Tori Reid says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I stumbled across your blog on a Google search and have been here for about 10 minutes now. Before this I’d never heard of it.

    I thought I would give some constructive feedback, which is something I don’t typically do but wth.

    While you are a good writer, and a lot of the points you make are valid, they’re written in such a bitter way that the content is really filled with put-downs rather than uplifting statements. This is evident not only from the content itself, but also the headlines of your posts. For the one tips list post I saw, I read about four others, aside from this one, that included the use of the words “stupid, hate” and one that even blamed the reader, quite harshly, for their own problem.

    I have a habit of thinking everyone means well, and I don’t get any different of an impression here. It would be nice if you would be more welcoming to the newcomers on your blog by giving them something positive to think about. Misery loves company, and I see that you have a lot of readership, but think about the quality of that readership and what you are doing for one another. Is it pushing forward to fulfillment, or dwelling on negativities?


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