I have taught English in middle and high school for 32 years and am the associate director of the California Reading and Literature Project at UCLA. I served as president of the National Council of Teachers of English and chair of the College Board’s English Academic Advisory committee.
I have published many books with Heinemann including the recently published The Book in Question: Why and How Reading Is in Crisis. I am also the author of With Rigor for All: Meeting Standards for Reading Literature and Cohesive Writing: Why Concept Is Not Enough and published books on contemporary multicultural authors for NCTE. I wrote an education column for the Los Angeles Times, and my essays continue to appear in educational journals and online forums.
I edit California English the journal of the California Association of Teachers of English and worked on the planning committee for the 2009 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) Reading Framework and the 2011 NAEP Writing Framework. I am a consulting author on the new Into Reading and Into Literature programs from HMH.
In 2015 I was awarded the International Literacy Association’s Adolescent Literacy Thought Leader Award and in 2016 the CEL Exemplary Leadership Award. I have been named by the U.S. Department of Education to serve on the National Assessment Governing Board overseeing the NAEP assessments. I am the incoming president of ILA’s Adolescent Literacy group. For additional information, please download my full resume here.
When I was ten years old, I was in the car taking my mother to hospital to give birth to my youngest brother. The route to the hospital passed the library and I was unreasonably (according to my father) insistent that we stop so that I could take out another book. That story has passed into family folklore but it illustrates how I read as a child. I read anything: lives of the saints, romantic novels, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Huxley, Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald - anything and everything in print without discrimination. Did I understand all I read? Without doubt, I did not, but a childhood spent among books prepared me for a lifetime as a reader. The thrill of opening a new book has never gone away.
Below I have listed suggestions for your classroom library. It is not meant in any way to be a perfect list. Only you know what titles will be most appealing to your students and which books might be problematic in your school community. I have compiled here a list of books that I believe can open up the world to middle and high school readers. Some of these stories include scenes of violence and/or language that might offend. That said, I have read every one of these books and believe the scenes and language contribute importantly to the authors' intent and message. Thanks for all you do to bring books into your students’ lives. Reading helps us be more fully human.See the List
Creating lessons that invite students to engage with literature is one of my greatest pleasures. Unfortunately, poetry lessons too often progress something like this:
A teacher reads aloud with feeling a poem she loves. Because she is a good teacher, she doesn’t immediately start peppering students with questions about imagery and diction but instead gently queries, “So what do you think?” Silence. Not a raised hand in sight. But English teachers hate silence, so she starts talking, telling students about the poet’s life and influences, pointing out where the poem turns, explaining every allusion. In no time, the bell rings. Students shake themselves out of their stupor and whisper, “Phew! For a minute there I thought we were going to have to do something.”
Take a look at a lesson I designed in collaboration with The Poetry Foundation which I've found ends with a different outcome.See the lesson
While writing an educational column for the Los Angeles Times, I began writing books for teachers. Drawing from my own experiences in the classroom, these books include practical ideas for helping students become readers and writers. In many cases my methods and lessons were inspired by students’ work. One slim volume, Papers, Papers, Papers (Heinemann) suggests ways to handle the paper load.
See below for more detailed information or to obtain any of my publications.The Book in Question
After working with students for many years, it is now my great pleasure to work with teachers. I have spoken at many conferences, provided multi-year professional development, and assisted schools and districts with curriculum development.
For booking inquiries please email Michelle Flynn or go to my speaking pageMy speaking page