Reading Upside Down: Identifying and Addressing Opportunity Gaps in Literacy Instruction

Reading Upside Down offers a paradigm shift from achievement gaps to opportunity gaps in literacy instruction. Drawing on the author’s rich experiences working one-on-one with challenged readers, this book presents case studies illustrating the complexities of student learning experiences and the unique circumstances that shaped their acquisition of literacy. Wolter explores eight key factors that contribute to reading challenges in developing readers, including school readiness, the use of prescribed phonics-based programs, physical hurdles, unfamiliarity with English, and special education labeling. With a focus on the differences that educators can make for individual students, the text suggests ways to identify and address early opportunity gaps that can impact students throughout their entire educational career.

Reading Upside Down will help educators to:

  • Shift from identifying deficit-based achievement gaps among students to addressing opportunity gaps in literacy instruction.
  • Move beyond student labels, categories, or placements to provide true opportunities for children to explore and develop literacy.
  • Take a strength-based view that students are in multiple places of exploration of language and literacies and all children can succeed in becoming readers.
  • Develop a strong sense of ownership and expertise in order to foster inclusion and assure authentic and engaged reading within their classrooms.

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“In the light of current concerns over the achievement gaps, Wolter’s work serves as a powerful wake up call for all of us who are troubled with problematic literacy practices and hope to rethink the ways we see and treat our young students and the systems that perpetuate these practices.” — Book Review by Yanty Wirza

“Each chapter of Reading Upside Down presents a new group of students who are misunderstood, misclassified, and placed in arrangements where they have fewer opportunities to develop in literacy. Wolter supports her assertions with research studies that reveal the dysfunction of the current identification and referral structure. Readers of this book might wonder if this broken system can really be fixed, but Wolter challenges us to act. Among her recommendations, one is that educators need to recognize how ableism and racism fuel deficit-oriented explanations for students’ reading problems.” — Book Review by Althier Lazar, Saint Joseph’s University

“This book not only challenges the status quo but offers a rational alternative that would benefit every struggling reader. I hope that Reading Upside Down initiates a widespread movement to undo so much of what we have done in the name of ‘helping’ children who struggle with learning to read.” — Richard L. Allington, University of Tennessee

Reading Upside Down is a powerful tool, an eye-opener, a call to arms, and a plan for action. Wolter does a superb job not only identifying and addressing opportunity gaps in literacy instruction but also providing ways to begin fixing them.” — Patricia A. Edwards, Ph.D., professor of teacher education, Michigan State University, and past president, International Literacy Association.