________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 17 . . . . April 18, 2008


The Literacy Principal: Leading, Supporting, and Assessing Reading and Writing Initiatives. (2nd Ed).

David Booth & Jennifer Rowsell.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2007.
159 pp., pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 978-1-55138-216-6.

Subject Headings:
English language-Rhetoric-Study and teaching.


Review by Kristen Ferguson.

**** /4



As we noted in the original Literacy Principal, educators face several challenges in promoting a strong literacy program in their schools: test scores; the public sharing of test results; literacy difficulties with students; class sizes; the increasing role of technology; resources for students with diverse needs; and parents’ demands and expectations for their children. We hope that this revised edition supports some of these developments. A constant is that literacy is at the heart of the learning process. There is no quick fix to a literacy concern – literacy is as individual as each student, and no one test or published program is the answer. Nonetheless, there are ways to contemporize leadership and build capacity in our schools based on what we know and what research has to offer.


Much has changed in literacy research and literacy education within the last decade. The first edition of The Literacy Principal: Leading, Supporting, and Assessing Reading and Writing Initiatives was published in 2002. Just five years later in 2007, David Booth and Jennifer Rowsell have written a revised edition to address these changes. In this second edition of The Literacy Principal, they have expanded the book and included new literacy initiatives and research, but they have also maintained the quality and depth of information about literacy found in the first edition.

     The second edition of The Literacy Principal contains four chapters. In chapter one, Booth and Rowsell outline the leadership role of the principal in literacy-based school change, and they discuss how shared leadership and a professional community are key in implementing literacy initiatives. A new school leadership position that has emerged since the first edition of The Literacy Principal was published is that of the literacy coach. Chapter one includes sections about the role of the literacy coach and how the principal can work collaboratively with the coach. 

     Chapter two is a general overview of key literacy concepts and research that are essential knowledge for principals. Stages of reading, balanced literacy, English Language Learners, reading interventions, and models of effective literacy programs are explained in a clear and easy-to-read style for any principal regardless of his or her background in literacy. Now included in chapter two of this second edition are sections about boys and literacy, the New Literacy Studies (literacy as a social practice), critical literacy, cultural literacy, multiliteracies and digital literacies, and new genres of texts (such as graphic novels), all of which constitute important current information and research that principals need to know.

     Chapter three, entitled “Creating Literacy Success in your School,” highlights the integration of technology in a school-based literacy program and explains how to work with the entire school community to support literacy initiatives. Another valuable element of chapter three is the inclusion of reading and writing observation schedules, which are a series of questions principals can ask themselves as they conduct informal assessments of the literacy program in their schools.    

     The final chapter of The Literacy Principal is devoted to student assessment. In this chapter, Booth and Rowsell discuss standardized testing and its role as well as many different methods of assessing student work, such as reading interviews, running records, and portfolio conferences.

     This revised edition of The Literacy Principal is current and timely. With so many new initiatives and research about literacy emerging over the past few years, Booth and Rowsell will help keep busy principals up-to-date. A strength of The Literacy Principal is that it teaches principals not only “what” but also “how.” Booth and Rowsell explain important research and information about literacy, but they also describe how it can be implemented in a school literacy program. Infused throughout the book are practical and inspiring ideas for principals to start a school-wide literacy initiative. Booth and Rowsell state that “we see this book as a series of conversations,” and, indeed, many voices can be heard throughout the book. Snippets of wisdom from researchers and other educators in each chapter help illuminate the topic Booth and Rowsell are exploring. At the end of each chapter, there is a section titled, “Leadership and Literacy in Action” which is made up of a number of short articles written by both American and Canadian researchers and educators. I found the articles “Literacy-Based Change in Schools” by Carol Rolheiser and Karen Edge, as well as “Being a Literacy Coach” by Lea Pelletier, to be particularly helpful and engaging. The Literacy Principal is also likely to create even more conversations among principals and teachers in schools, as schools strive to create a school-wide approach to improving literacy.

     The Literacy Principal is highly recommended for any principal or school administrator. Not only will it provide a good general background on literacy research and initiatives, but it also offers an inspiring and practical approach to create schools that value literacy and are implementing literacy changes. This new and expanded revised second edition of The Literacy Principal is a definite “must read.”

Highly Recommended.

Kristen Ferguson teaches Language Arts at the Faculty of Education at Nipissing University in North Bay, ON, and is a doctoral student in Education at York University.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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