As an edited volume, Steps to Success: Crossing the Bridge between Literacy Research and Practice is unusual in being comprehensive and concise without sliding into shallowness or superficiality. It addresses many of the most compelling topics being debated among literacy professionals right now, providing a welcoming but not overwhelming introduction to the field for newcomers. Each contributing author has conducted recent original research in the area(s) about which he or she writes, lending credibility and currency to each review of the existing knowledge base (as well as refreshing candor about where that knowledge base remains incomplete). Authors write invitingly, with accessible examples, and offer well-crafted questions and activities to cement and extend readers’ understandings of the content.
Each chapter is designed to stand alone, allowing higher-education instructors or school-based leaders such as principals, curriculum coordinators, or literacy coaches in charge of professional development to assign one or more selections aligned with a particular topic. That said, the volume is most powerful in my view when multiple chapters are read in conversation with each other, as numerous threads—the importance of high expectations for all, the need to expand what counts as literacy and for whom, the key role of teachers as decision makers—cut across various contributions. Although different authors employ different theoretical lenses, they share obvious core commitments about literacy, pedagogy, and equity grounded in their common preparation at Syracuse University as teacher educators and researchers. This shared background creates coherence across the collection, while the contributors’ wide range of interests and current professional affiliations offers diversity of perspective. Each author represents a distinctive voice within a predictably structured chapter outline.
The book would have represented an important contribution to the field in a print-based volume offered by a traditional academic publisher. That it is available online, via Open SUNY Textbooks, extends its reach and makes it all the more important.
Kelly Chandler-Olcott is Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor for Teaching Excellence in the Reading & Language Arts Department at Syracuse University. A former high school English and social studies teacher, she now teaches English methods and content literacy courses to secondary and K-12 education majors. With support from the National Science Foundation, the International Reading Association, and the Spencer Foundation, she has published five books and more than 60 chapters and articles, including in such venues as Reading Research Quarterly, Journal of Literacy Research, Journal of Teacher Education, and Teacher Education Quarterly. Her research interests cluster in three areas: classroom inquiry by teachers, literacy across the curriculum, and preparing professionals to teach writing in diverse, inclusive settings. In 2015, she began a six-year appointment as co-editor of Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy.