Seeing the Matrix: The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo

There is a scene in the movie The Matrix, where Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, sees the “matrix” for the very first time. The codes and numbers that govern actions become transparent to him, and with ease he is able to deflect punches, fight bad guys, and gaze handsomely into the distance while doing so. (30 bonus points for anyone else who knows what “Keanu” means in Hawaiian.) The rules of the world have become visible, and with access to that knowledge, Neo becomes invincible.

There have been countless times when we have claimed to “see the Matrix,” learning to knit, figuring out a tricky yoga pose, finally assembling that blasted piece of ikea furniture. For many, “seeing the matrix” has become shorthand for suddenly understanding an underlying principal that had seemed magical, or in more common vernacular, for finally “getting it.” Now we have Jennifer Serravallo’s new book, The Reading Strategies Book (available here) to demystify what makes for powerful reading instruction, and make “the matrix” of teaching reading accessible to us all.

The cover and a sample from the table of contents

The cover and a sample from the table of contents

Jennifer’s book is as visually stunning as it is accessible. She outlines thirteen goals of reading instruction, from engagement to fluency, word solving to comprehension for both fiction and nonfiction, and lays out many many many many strategies to help any child, K-8, achieve each goal. Each strategy has its own page with tips on whom it might help, how you might teach it, prompts you might use, and even a visual cue for a child. Every. Single. One.

Have you wondered how to engage kids whose minds wander?

~There are strategies for that.

Have you wondered how to help emergent readers make sense of books when they can’t yet read   the words?

~There are strategies for that.

Have you wondered how to help children wrap their brains around the idea of synthesis?

~There are strategies for that.

Goal 2

We have been fortunate enough to work alongside Jennifer when we were colleagues at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. The depth of her knowledge about readers and the art of reading always blew us away and left us often to exclaim, “I wish I could borrow your brain!”

That is exactly what reading this book is like: borrowing the brain of a master reading teacher, one who has an idea for every challenge, a possible answer for every question, and a good idea when you have none. Better yet, Jennifer’s book teaches you how to develop your own expertise. Jennifer’s book doesn’t just teach you about reading, it teaches you how to think about readers.

~The strategies are sound teaching.

~The suggested visuals are clear and engaging.

~The lay out is practical and accessible.

~The book is pretty much genius.

sample pages

Kristi says: I am entering my fifteenth year of teaching (while never aging a year–it’s miraculous, really) and I am a confident teacher of reading. Within the first 15 pages, I had already used 15 post-its to mark pages, jot thinking, and reflect. New teacher, seasoned teacher, teacher of reading, teacher of humans, this book is important and valuable for every single one of us. See the matrix, become a better teacher for the kids you see every day.

Marjorie says: As I read each strategy I thought of a child who would benefit, not only from the language of the lessons, but the visuals Jennifer has included as well. This book is going to become a permanent part of my conferring toolkit. The organization by goals also helps focus attention on readers, not levels, which makes this book a powerful teaching tool.

Once you have had the pleasure of reading The Reading Strategies Book, leave your thoughts in the comments below. We give it four thumbs up!

Happy charting!

Kristi and Marjorie


(Keanu means “wind over the volcano” and it must be true because I read it in Seventeen magazine 25 years ago ~Kristi)


9 Comments on “Seeing the Matrix: The Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo”

  1. Pam Moriarty says:

    My book just arrived today. I only glanced at it because I have a project that needs to be finished this evening. I can’t wait to read the book and put the strategies to work in my second grade classroom.

  2. Love the analogy to the Matrix! That’s exactly how our teachers feel after working with Jen. Her ability to deconstruct the complicated work of teaching reading into a hierarchy of development along with transferable strategies with gorgeous visuals (I noticed the Chartchums’ signature graphics! ) is nothing short of brilliant. We love her work so much, we purchased a copy for every K-5 teacher. Our students will soar under such personalized instruction. Thanks for sharing this outstanding review. I ALWAYS appreciate your honesty and humor!

  3. fournierc says:

    Just got my copy. What a treasure!

  4. […] Click through to read the full review at the official Chartchums web site. […]

  5. traci matturro says:

    My book came last week! I LOVE IT!!! It is going to be such an awesome resource! She is amazing! On another note, I have your Smarter Charts (and I LOVE it) and I am taking your class at the digital campus at Heinemann this summer! I would love a Smarter Charts for 3-5..any plan for that in the VERY near future? No pressure. 🙂

  6. Loralee says:

    Your blog is a favorite go-to for me! Thank you!
    One of the things I have picked up from you is your “brain” talk (growing stronger, neurons,…) …Is this something you created? Is there a book(s) you use?

  7. So you’ve been a Keanu fan for a while now, eh 🙂 Off to order this gotta-have book! Thanks. Kathleen

  8. Bonnie says:

    Is this book recommended for parents? Or is it best suited for teachers? If best for teachers, any suggestions for parents.

  9. […] post on the Two Writing Teacher’s blog here and Kristi and Marjorie’s post on Chartchums here. You can also hear Jen herself describing how to use this book in this […]

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