An Overview of “One Child at a Time” by Pat Johnson

Students enrolled in the spring 2011 section of READ 6323 worked together in small groups to read and discuss a professional book related to struggling readers. As part of their project, they wrote a post for our blog.

By Melissa, Sonia, and Mary

My fellow classmates and I just finished reading an excellent book by Pat Johnson, titled One Child at a Time. She explains how we as teachers can help those students that struggle in reading. She takes us step by step into the lives of several students that she is working with. We get to see what the child does and how she helps them. Her book also shares different strategies that proficient readers use as well as how to observe and assess students. Johnson is a reading teacher that works side by side with classroom teachers. 

The first thing that you learn in this book is that reading is a process. Proficient readers have a whole network of strategies that go on in their heads. We cannot put the reading process into a child’s head; they must be the ones to assemble the process. Many students are able to notice when they get confused while reading. They will even stop and try to fix the problem. But for struggling readers the process doesn’t come easily. They can’t figure out how to solve the problem in their reading. They need teachers that will teach them the strategies. Pat Johnson also gives all the different reasons why a child might have become a struggling reader in the first place. She shows educators how we should observe the student to see what that child does and compare it to what a proficient reader does. After we have observed the child, we need to then analyze what we saw, plan what the child needs to learn and then teach them. Johnson goes into great detail explaining what we might see the child doing or not doing and what it means.

She also explains to us all the different strategies that proficient readers use. As you read the book you begin to have a bag full of strategies that you can go back and teach your students and children. Throughout the book she is working with different students in a school. She allows us to hear how the child reads. She explains to us what she hears and what the child is doing. She then goes on to teach that student a specific strategy that they need to learn. She also explains the strategies that she hears the students using. Usually as teachers, we tend to hear what the student is doing wrong. But she encourages us to notice what the student is doing right.

Johnson discusses different ways to acquire information from a struggling student. This includes running records and individualized reading conferences. She also teaches us how to analyze the running records and how to use their information to help our students. There are several reasons why struggling readers become confused and stop comprehending. The more we understand these reasons the better equipped we will be to plan instruction for them.  Johnson shares reasons on why students get stuck in reading.

 Not only does she help individual students but as she works with individuals she helps the teacher develop a whole class lesson. Not only do these strategies help individuals but they are important to the class as a whole.

Johnson concludes her book by encouraging all educators to be lifelong learners, continue to read professional literature, and work with other educators to help all students. She gives several ideas on how teachers can help one another share ideas. Overall this book was rich with practical ideas and real life examples that will be helpful to anyone that is looking for ideas on how to help their struggling readers.


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