Years ago I read two books (well really three) that inspired by teaching and writing. I was a newly minted six grade teacher and the language arts coordinator at the time was Mildred Middleton. She quietly mentored me, and after a few months she was bringing visiting teachers through my classroom. Later she told me it was because I had taken to her suggestions and my sixth graders, which included a small group of incorrigible learners, were thriving. They were, but I was too naive to know that the success was anything other than what it was supposed to be. During my own educational experience I had not been taught phonics per se, but these students knew every single rule there was. They had had special help from the time they had entered school. However, they could not read. Lucky to be on a second grade level they struggled. But I taped social studies texts for them, created spelling tests that they took independently, and encouraged them to read, read, read. We read aloud, we read in pairs, we read alone, in short any chance we got we read. We did some extensions to the poems and stories we read but never over-kill. Some of my colleagues were using literature but sometimes the activities/extensions were much longer than the book itself. We had fun. We talked about books and played with illustrations. We used one book to inspire us to read another story or poem. When we had a question about something we read, we searched out the information we needed.
The inspiration for this approach came from a book discovered by Mildred Middleton. As the district's language arts coordinator she purchased a copy for every single elementary classroom in the district -- at the time probably over 400 classrooms. The title of the book: Easy in English: An Imaginataive Approach to the Teaching of the Language Arts by Mauree Applegate (Harper, 1960). The ideas shared simple response to add a hands on connection to many poems, folkstories, and other literature related activities. At the time the book shaped much of my teaching, later when I began to write, the book shaped the way I thought about teaching reading and writing and how I would share that thinking.