Inspectional Read: Raising Kids Who Read

Author: Daniel T. Willingham

Rating: 3.0 / 5.0

Here are my notes from my Inspectional Read of Willingham’s book. My upshot take away is this:

  • Support learners learning to decode with zeal
  • Give them many books that provide familiarity with many, many contexts inch-deep, mile wide
  • Promote this as a primary means of acquisition, promote books as a resource, promote ignorance as an excuse to explore books and reading (not asking Siri or Alexa); they must “work through” the knowledge gain to etch the cortical pathways; nothing wrong with memorization of “scaffolding” facts
  • Fight teens apathy toward reading by:
    • Having established that we all (mom, dad, you) are readers
    • Making other low-drag pathways (phone, TV, games, etc) higher-drag so that reading is a means for addressing boredom, curiosity, etc. It’s not the devices per se, it’s what the devices consume (time) so effortlessly against higher-payoff experiences


  • Teens read about six minutes per day; most parents dislike this, but don’t know how to change it.

  • Key activities to stimulate Reading

    • Have fun
    • Start now
  • The desire to read rests on the following foundation

    • Facility with decoding: Raw symbols unto sounds
    • Comprehending what’s read
    • Being motivated to read
  • Raising reading children is a parent / school collaboration

    • Raising a reader cannot be done by school alone
    • Reading has many practical benefits, but to stress them at the exclusion of pleasure is to miss an important proposition and to confuse the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards that it provides
  • Support Decoding

    • Translating the sounds of the letter to the symbol presented is decoding’s greatest challenge
    • Comprehension depends mostly on general knowledge about the topic
    • (!) Help them discern the chaos of sounds, they can’t hear word boundaries well. [sgh] Coding is like this, they don’t see the seems where functions “break” the chaos and complexity
    • Help them associate the sounds to the chaos
    • Practical Steps:
      • Teach them to find the boundary
      • Use prosody (baby-talk, “motherese”) to help them find the boundaries and learn rhymes
      • Learn the letters
        • Both the letters name
        • Both the letters families
        • But more importantly the sounds, general support for blended method (phonics + whole-word in mixed ratios)
  • Supporting Comprehension

    • Detecting connection and background knowledge assumptions therein contained creates many problems. In many ways reading for comprehension assumes that the child has the background, requisite knowledge. In this sense reading exams become comprehension exams.
    • To be a good reader we need a low-depth scan in a huge area. This is what primes us in order to move forward in depth.
    • The best general knowledge comes from reading. If you can’t get bootstrapped past decoding, you can’t read simple books which provide you with the general knowledge you need in order to be ready for the reading-cum-cultural-literacy exam.
    • This is called the “4th grade gap” and it hits the impoverished especially hard
    • Practical Steps
      • Teach the thirst for knowledge as gained by books
      • Dialogic reading
      • Read aloud
      • Answer questions in a way that shows language is for communication
  • Supporting Motivation

    • Particularly problematic in the teen ages
    • Attitudes about reading are largely emotional and non-rational
      • Positive attitude toward reading
      • Self-conception as “a good reader”
        • Speaking of “us” or “our family” “we read”
        • Curate opportunities to respect and learn from books
        • Always make reading an attrctive form of pleasure
    • Motivating the former can be done by parental modeling
    • Motivating the perception of the latter can be done by the parent, praising work, etc.
    • Teen motivation
      • Likelihood of pleasure
      • Cost to engage in reading
      • Perceived opportunity cost of choosing something else
      • The internet / web / social media probably have their most pronounced effect in this latter space: they’re always presenting an easier, more instantly pleasurable promise of satisfaction; an inability to tolerate boredom

JSON Notes

  "title": "Raising Kids Who Read.: What Parents and Teachers Can Do",
  "author": "Daniel T. Willingham",
  "highlightCount": 8,
  "noteCount": 0,
  "annotations": [
      "highlight": "readers need to know about 98 percent of the words for comfortable comprehension.",
      "location": 542,
      "annotation": ""
      "highlight": "To be a good general reader, your child needs knowledge of the world that’s a million miles wide and an inch deep",
      "location": 554,
      "annotation": ""
      "highlight": "If you give a lot of commands, you’re showing your child that the purpose of language is for communicating one’s wishes to others. If you ask a lot of questions, you’re showing your child that the purpose of language is the acquisition of new knowledge.",
      "location": 1031,
      "annotation": ""
      "highlight": "The consequence of long-term experience with digital technologies is not an inability to sustain attention. It’s impatience with boredom.",
      "location": 3312,
      "annotation": ""
      "highlight": "be gracious when things come easily and determined when they don’t.",
      "location": 3528,
      "annotation": ""
      "highlight": "What I really want is for my children to experience reading pleasure.",
      "location": 3545,
      "annotation": ""
      "highlight": "Only reading elicits your contribution",
      "location": 3559,
      "annotation": ""
      "highlight": "Only fiction demands that you live with the characters as long or as deeply.",
      "location": 3560,
      "annotation": ""