Starting Strong is a practical resource for preservice instructors and experienced professionals of early-development classrooms looking for ways to more effectively build foundational literacy skills. As an easy-to-navigate compilation of research-based strategies and the theoretical foundations that support them, it is designed to be adapted for various classroom settings: whole groups, small groups, play-based centers, independent practices, etc. The authors also acknowledge an imperative to provide resources especially for instructors of struggling readers and of children living in poverty, and Starting Strong’s utility certainly extends to providing strategies for instructors of multilingual classrooms. Four bases of instruction serve as the rationale for the suggested strategies—illustrating how Starting Strong is based on the realities of many teachers’ situations. For example, the authors cite Common Core in order to discuss how state standards can contextualize classroom practices in a meaningful way. They also discuss how evidence-based techniques save instructors time by avoiding experimentation with classroom strategies that do not have a strong record of making instruction more effective. Finally, the authors’ choice to construct the book around student-based instruction is a primary example of why the book works. Thus, Starting Strong is written for instructors who know (or want to know) their students and want to find ways to use researched techniques to work for their readers.
Starting Strong’s organization is functional and comprehensible. Each chapter begins with a description of the literacy skill in focus and a discussion of its importance for the reader, followed by several research-based strategies targeting that particular skill. This includes charts that break down activities, lists of suggested books, and samples of materials. There is a classroom vignette, demonstrating a real situation of a strategy in practice using a real dialogue to give instructors an impression of what to expect in a classroom. This is especially useful for preservice instructors who have little classroom experience. It is followed by “technology integration,” which presents web-based applications/tools that can be used specifically for that target literacy skill. Each chapter concludes with “connecting with families,” homework recommendations for fostering literacy at home and engaging parents in the process; formal and informal assessments for that skill; and a brief summary. Blamey and Beauchat are experts in the field, equipped with years of experience in preschool and primary classrooms, and teach preservice instructors: clearly, they know their audience. For novice literacy instructors wanting to peruse a library of strategies that have worked for seasoned practitioners, this book is a must-have. For veteran instructors wanting to keep up with research that informs their practices, this book is for you.
Valerie Osegueda is earning an MA in English with options in TESOL and literature at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, where she teaches multilingual composition. Her interests include literacy research and ESL or multilingual writing.