Who's Doing the Work? Readers as Thinkers in a Balanced Literacy Classroom

This year I made a goal to read one professional book a month.  That's a tall order, but I really want to rededicate myself to growing professionally all year and not just in the summertime.

This post contains affiliate links which means Amazon tosses me some change whenever someone makes a purchase through one of these links and allows me feed my book habit! 

Who's Doing the Work? was a great book to start with.  At only 144 pages, it meant I was only committing to 36 pages a week.  Totally doable, and it was well worth the effort.

Help your readers learn to be thinkers in a balanced literacy framework with Who's Doing the Work?

So, who is doing the work?  Spoiler alert: you are.  The subtitle of the book is how to say less so readers can do more.  I love the analogy one of the authors shares at the beginning of the book.  She was traveling more, and her house was looking like it.  She taught her boys how to do more household chores-laundry, running the dishwasher, etc.

When she arrived home from a trip (surprise!), none of it was done.  She realized she had taught them HOW to do the chores but had not taught them how to recognize WHEN to do them.  We're doing the same with our readers.  Ouch.  This is one of those books that you see yourself in at every turn.

Here's the run down:


The title really grabbed my attention.  I feel like I have poured my heart into struggling readers but there is not always a correlation between the amount of work I'm doing and the success of the students.  This seemed like it would answer that constant worry of 'if I could just do more'.

Aha Moment

"Beware of mini lessons that become maxi lessons. . ."

This is me.  I talk way too much.  I just want to tell them all that they might need to know.  However, the reality is that spending more time talking does not equal more success.  Kids need time to practice.  It might not look as good as when I'm guiding them the whole way.  But if they walk off and fall flat on their faces, it's not really helping.  Scary part?  The lower the reader the more time we spend teaching and compounding the problem.  Gulp.

I Wish

I wish (totally unrealistically) that this was a snap your fingers book.  You know, do this/say this/use this anchor chart, and your kids will be fine.  It's a shift in thinking and those are usually a little messy.  It definitely brought a huge awareness to me and is a great resource for guiding you through a new way of thinking about supporting our readers.


This book has a secret strength.  I wasn't expecting this book to be an awesome resource for explaining the four components of balanced literacy.  While this is about how to teach your kids to think themselves, it was done through the lens of each component of balanced reading.  The authors did a great job quickly but thoroughly explaining the benefits of each component of balanced literacy and what it looks like at different grade levels.

Good For . . .

Anyone who feels like they are plateauing with their struggling readers.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a clearer understanding of balanced literacy (especially for upper elementary which usually doesn't get near as much attention).  Shared reading for older kids?  Yep.  They nailed it.  If you need to defend any of your balanced literacy practices, this book will provide you with the ammo.

Wise Words

I hope you'll add Who's Doing the Work to your to be read list.  It helped me reflect on my interactions with students and what I was doing to create learned helplessness without ever meaning to.  This would make a great selection for a professional book club to address how we guide our students and also as a thoughtful overview of what balanced literacy looks like and how valuable each component is.