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Text Complexity: Raising Rigor in Reading

Authors and Bios

Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Diane Lapp are professors in the College of Education at San Diego State University (SDSU) and Teacher Leaders at Health Sciences High and Middle College both located in San Diego, California.

Douglas Fisher has received numerous awards including the Celebrate Literacy Award from the International Reading Association (IRA), the Paul and Kate Farmer English Journal Writing Award from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and in 2003 was a member of the SDSU teaching program that won the Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. He’s written numerous literacy articles and books including a 2009 publication with the same two co-authors, Nancy and Diane titled, In a Reading State of Mind: Brain Research, Teacher Modeling, and Comprehension Instruction.

Nancy Frey was a former special education teacher for elementary and middle schools in Broward County, Florida public schools before moving to San Diego. Along with Doug, she was part of the SDSU teaching program that won the Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award. A finalist for IRA’s Outstanding Dissertation of the Year Award, her research focused on literacy, assessment, intervention, and curriculum design. She’s written many articles and co-authored many literacy books including Scaffolded Writing Instruction: Teaching with a Gradual-Release Framework (Scholastic, 2007, with Doug).

Diane Lapp has taught in elementary and middle grades and continues to teach English/literacy and peer coach at a high school in San Diego. Her major areas of research and instruction focus on struggling readers and writers. Diane has authored, co-authored, and edited many publications and currently serves as the coeditor of the NCTE’s Voices from the Middle with Doug and Nancy. Diane has won many awards and is a member of both the national and California Reading Halls of Fame.

Summary of Book

In the context of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English/Language Arts, Text Complexity provides the quantitative and qualitative factors of text complexity and ways readers can be matched with texts and related tasks. By synthesizing the research and providing clear examples, the authors provide practical applications for engaging and preparing students in a wide range of reading and writing.


Some teachers believe that the CCSS goal of having students read complex text is simply covered by providing students with more difficult text. Many have concern for the type of texts they will be using, are unsure of how to judge or qualify a text as complex, and more importantly, lack direction/understanding of how to develop students’ ability to comprehend challenging text. As Thomas Gunning, the author of the book’s foreword points out, “Developing the ability to read complex text is hard work for both the teacher and the students. Teachers must choose texts that lend themselves to a close reading and need to plan lessons that delve deeply into the text.”

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