Dr. Deborah Vriend Van DuinenDr. Deborah Vriend Van Duinen

A new book co-authored by Dr. Deborah Vriend Van Duinen of the Hope College education faculty provides a resource for beginning and preservice middle school and high school teachers as they strive to support their adolescent students’ literacy development.

“Widening the Lens: Integrating Multiple Approaches to Support Adolescent Literacy” is being published this month (Feb. 24) by Teachers College Press.  Van Duinen, who is the Arnold and Esther Sonneveldt Professor of Education at Hope, co-wrote the book with Dr. Erica R. Hamilton, who is assistant vice president for academic affairs at Grand Valley State University.  Both are former high school teachers who have focused on adolescent literacy throughout their careers.

The book is landing at a time when student literacy is on the decline.  For example, the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress, administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, found that reading scores for 13-year-olds during the 2022-23 school year were 4 points lower than during 2019-20 and 7 points lower than a decade ago.

Intended for secondary teachers across all content areas, “Widening the Lens” considers varied perspectives and research findings when engaging in multiple and often competing initiatives, issues and pedagogies. Using examples from their own and others’ classroom experiences, Hamilton and Van Duinen explore numerous theoretical and practical understandings of literacy to inform classroom instruction. They discuss different theories of literacy instruction and the ways that sociocultural and cognitive approaches to literacy like the Science of Reading and Whole Language can work together.

“In many ways, we wrote the book we wanted to have in the field,” Van Duinen reflected. “For over a decade, Erica and I have taught adolescent literacy courses at our respective institutions. In our collaboration together, we’ve used a variety of approaches, texts and activities — including creating a two-season podcast, ‘All About Literacy.’ We learned a lot from this and from the teachers we’ve been privileged to work with. This book is the result of what we’ve learned and continue to learn.”

In the book’s foreword, Dr. Julie Bell, associate professor of teacher education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, affirmed the authors’ approach and the result. “This is a book I wish I had owned as a preservice teacher and in my early years of teaching, and it is a book I’m excited to share with the teachers I work with now,” she wrote.

Reviewer Dr. Hiller A. Spires, who is executive director and professor emerita of the College of Education at North Carolina State University, agreed. “This timely book provides an integrated, multifaceted approach to adolescent literacy instruction,” she wrote. “Chock full of strategies for preservice and beginning educators, the authors create a much-needed guide for navigating the complexities of adolescent literacy, including skill development, engagement and motivational factors, as well as disciplinary demands that cross subject areas.”

Van Duinen writes and teaches in the area of English education, adolescent literacy and young adult literature, and is founding director of the Hope College NEA Big Read Lakeshore and Little Read Lakeshore. She joined the Hope faculty in 2010 and was appointed to her endowed professorship in 2021. She serves as Hope College’s Senior Seminar director, leads the secondary education program in the Department of Education and has served as the campus’ faculty moderator.

Earlier this year she was awarded a Lilly Faculty Fellowship by the Lilly Network of Church-Related Colleges and Universities.  She also recently started a three-year term as a Fulbright Specialist.

The NEA Big Read Lakeshore has received a grant from the national NEA Big Read every year since 2014, and the Little Read Lakeshore has received a grant from Michigan Humanities every year since 2019. The two programs were named the Statewide Community Impact Partner of the Year for 2021 by Michigan Humanities.  Van Duinen received the 2016 Michigan Reading Association’s Individual Literacy Award for her leadership with the Big Read and with English education. In 2013, Hope presented her with its Towsley Research Scholar award.

She frequently collaborates with English education students and area English high school teachers on research projects and conference presentations. Her publications also include “Teaching Graphic Novels to Adolescent Multilingual (and All) Learners: Universal Design, Pedagogy, and Practice” (2024) as co-author, and “Young Adult Literature and Spirituality: How to Unlock Deeper Understanding with Class Discussion” (2022).

Van Duinen has been on the board of editors for Reformed Journal since 2012 and serves on the board of Opportunity Thrive. She is a past member of the Michigan Council of Teachers of English Executive Committee. A 1998 graduate of Calvin University, she taught high school English for five years before pursuing her master’s at Calvin and her doctorate at Michigan State University.