Book Review

Narrowing the Literacy Gap: What Works in High-Poverty Schools

by Diane M. Barone, Guilford Press, New York, N.Y., 2006, 181 pp. with index, $25 softcover

Use research to drive decisions. Use research to improve instruction. Use research to evaluate programs.

These are common gambits in today’s educational world, yet educational research is often difficult to read, boring and lacks application to the real-world school. Narrowing the Literacy Gap: What Works in High-Poverty Schools by Diane M. Barone, professor of educational specialties at the University of Nevada, Reno, captures the essence of using research to improve instruction and much more.

A qualitative research study that followed 16 students in a high-poverty elementary school from their first day of kindergarten to their last day of 6th grade, this book looks into the quality of their literacy instruction. In an easy-to-read genre, the book gives principals much to share with their staff about the significance of positive teacher-student relationships.

Barone identifies traits of turnaround teachers — those who made a difference working with at-risk learners. As readers, we get to look into the hearts and minds of this cohort of students and teachers, gaining insights for self-reflection and self-improvement.

While the title suggests the material focuses only on literacy, the book actually examines thought processes, teacher accountability and student uniqueness.

Reviewed by Donna S. McCaw, associate professor of educational leadership, Western Illinois University, Macomb, Ill.