An Interview with Dr. Mary Moore Nance : Up , Up and Away

Feb 16, 2013 by

Up , Up and AwayMichael F. Shaughnessy –

1) Dr. Nance, first of all can you tell us a little bit about your education and experience.


1. Older sister taught me to read before I started public school.
2. Redden, a 1-room country school, Grades 1 – 5
3. Two-hour one-way commute to Arnett, Oklahoma in Grades 6-12.
4. I had $1 when I graduated from H.S. with a small college scholarship –(half of tuition). Attended Oklahoma Baptist University — 3 years while working full-time at Bell Telephone Co.
5. Marriage …. moved to N.C., attended Meredith College at Raleigh (Baptist Girls School) — 1 year –worked at Bell Telephone.
6. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary — Wake Forest, N.C. — 1 year as a full time certificate student.
7. Took courses from Texas Tech., Hamline Univ., Univ. of Mn.; Winona State U.; Rochester Community College.
8. Graduated magna cum laude from Bethel University, St. Paul, MN –1983 — Major: Biblical Studies with minors in Psychology and History.
9. University of Calgary: M.A., Teaching English as Second Language, 1992 (57 years old).
10. University of Calgary: Ed. D. — Reading, 2000 (65 yrs old) — all A-s.


1. Taught Vacation Bible School to 9-12 year olds when I was 15 years old. Taught regularly since.
2. Taught ESL Sunday School, ages 6-8 year olds, in Singapore.
3. Taught ESL piano to Indonesian girl and played piano for Indonesian worship while I was in Indonesian Language School.
4. Taught Sunday School and piano in Indonesian language in Surabaja, Indonesia.
5. Formulated curriculum and taught ESL birthing instructions, on the phone, to Taiwanese wife of a professor at ETBC.
6. Taught ESL, in person, to Portuguese-speaker ETBC student wife from Brazil.
7. Received North American Mission Board TESL training and taught for 7 years in a church program in Rochester, MN.
8. Served on the Rochester Mayor’s International Affairs Committee for 3 years.
9. Active keeper of the International Student Office, Rochester Community College for 3 years.
10. Taught ESL in Rochester Public Schools — 5 years.
11. Was a part of the Curriculum Writing Team and taught at Rochester’s International Mutual Assistance Association job program – 1 year.
12. In Rochester, Minnesota, I was volunteer friend, confidante, advisor, procurer of household items, clothing and medical help, for approximately 90 refugees from southeast Asia for seven years: Laotians, Lao Tinh, Lao Hmong, Cambodian and Vietnamese.
13. Served for three years on the Board of Directors for the Calgary Immigrant Aid Society.
14. Made linguistic presentations to the Alberta TESL Conference two times.
15. Member of the Calgary Chinese Baptist Church (Cantonese speaking) for 7+ years–played piano and taught ESL Sunday School.
16. Served as the Literacy Coordinator for local Baptist Association in Alberta, Canada for 14 years.
17. Founder and Director of TESL Academy at Cambrian Heights Baptist Church for 10 years –students from China, Hong Kong, Philippines, and Middle East.
18. Taught TESL methods at Alberta Bible College for 4 years.
19. Taught TESL methods Seminar at Rocky Mountain Christian College, Calgary, Canada.
20. National Director of Literacy Missions for the Canadian Southern Baptist Convention for 8 years. Established Baptist Literacy work across Canada.
21. Taught College English and Remediation at Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary for 6 years. Developed curriculum basis for my book, Up, Up, and Away.
22. Recipient of the Lillian Isaacs Literacy Missions Service Award for 1998, granted by the North American Mission Board.
23. Made presentation in Tokyo, Japan, at Canadian Teachers’ in Japan TESL Conference.
24. Trained TESL workers in Japan for three years. Taught TESL in Japan for 3 years.
25. Served as Director of Literacy Missions for the Colorado Baptist General Convention for 9 years.
26. Received Lillian Isaacs Grant for Literacy Missions from the Women’s Missionary Union in 2006.

Listed in Outstanding Young Women of America in 1964. I have been listed in Who’s Who sometime in the past ten years.

2) Now, tell us about your textbook, Up, Up and Away.

Up, Up, and Away is a remedial reader progressing from grades 5 through 22. There are three stories per reading level for a total of 54 stories. Thirty-four, or 63%, of the stories are by, or about, well-known people. Students should be tested to determine their language needs prior to the first day of instruction. The teacher can move up a grade level as s/he sees fit. My students completed all of the levels in one semester. The class is not bound to reading all of the 54 stories. On the first day of class students declare their interests among categories of Adventure, Biography, Children and Family, Church History / Religion, Cross Cultural Stories, History, Human Problems and Challenges, Human Relations or Missions, checking three or more stories in each category.

There are Reader Response Questions at the end of each story. These two thought questions and life experience questions meet the students where they are living and thinking. These “up close” questions associated with the assigned story ask for student thought and response. These questions do not ask for simple recall of events in the text, but they are associated with the living of life. They kindle background thought for participation in class discussion.

The students are asked to bring three original questions they have formulated to class for free class discussion. These questions do not seek objective answers, but trigger implications and life applications students would like to explore. Each student is encouraged to participate in the discussion (which is not teacher dominated). Class members and the teacher sit around a table facing each other for the free discussion as an “interpretive community”. As the students participate in the discussion they are bolstered by the validity and value of their own individual viewpoint as they present their own reasoned perspective. Then, as homework, they write a summary statement of their conclusions concerning the reading and discussion about this story and submit it them to the teacher at the next class. . With time, teacher dominance evaporates and students come to the fore in carrying the ball in discussion. Each student’s summary statement assignment overlaps the beginning of the next story assignment for the class.

3) What exactly is a reader response curriculum?

The reader response theory was formulated by Louise Rosenblatt, who had previously served as an American Intelligence officer in World War II. Her intelligence team looked for “holes in the text” to find hidden meaning in enemy radio texts and their published documents. She applied this approach to enable classroom readers when she returned to the reading classroom after the War. She felt that readers needed to enjoy and to assimilate literature. She fostered human interest discussions. Students brought their life experience to the text, transacted with it, and made meaning through a lived through experience. The reader response approach allows an integrated class of students who grew up speaking English and of students who learned English as a Second Language. Students can rely on their life experiences for making meaning from material which they are reading. In this approach, students read the assigned text and then formulate class discussion questions. The students use these formulated questions in the next class meeting for unstructured free discussion. After that second class each student writes a summary statement regarding individual experience with a the text and discussion and then submits it to the teacher at the subsequent class session. Thus, this approach uses reading of the text, formulating class discussion questions, participating in free class discussion and then writing a summary statement. The teacher need not dwell on a particular level until all of the stories on that level are read, but uses wisdom to know when a reading level is conquered and the class can move forward. The students find holes in the text to make it whole in their own minds as they respond.

Several people have developed reader response theory books to help educators meet the needs of their students, such as Nicholas J. Karolides, Editor of Reader Response in Secondary and College Classrooms, Second Edition, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, Mahwah, New Jersey and London, 2000.

As far as I know, there was not a Reader Response curriculum already developed which met the needs of my students. My husband encouraged
me to enter the doctoral program at the University of Calgary in order to develop the remedial reading curriculum which would best meet the needs of my students. This book is the fulfillment of that effort. Several times my remedial reading class completed reading levels 5 through 22 in one semester. In the front of the book there are six pages of Instructions to the Teacher on How to Use This Book. There are an additional 16 pages of Tables and Appendices in the back of the book that also help the teacher. Appendices A through E provide Instructions for Classroom Procedure.

4) Now, we hear massive statistics about entering college students who require ” remedial reading ” or ” developmental reading “. Why are these students allowed to graduate, and why do they get promoted grade, after grade after grade? Is there no accountability?

These are profound questions! I wish I knew the answer. I did not have the position which required making promotion decisions when I was teaching in public schools. Your questions need to be pondered seriously.

My experience has been in trying to meet needs of persons to whom I am teaching English as a Second Language, as well as native speakers’ needs, and to “mop up” and repair the slights dealt out to my students who desired higher education but lacked the reading ability needed in order to achieve. This book was developed to help students who were in a graduate level program but hated to read and could not read on the level required. Their needs evidently had not been taken seriously enough along the way.

5) I thought students were monitored to make sure that they achieved ” Annual Yearly Progress”?


6) Some students are identified as having a ” learning disability in reading “. Do you work with such students and does your program work? Or do you try to make sure that they get counseling and accommodations and modifications?

I work with those who need help! There is no glossing over deficits. These needs must be met head on. A part of my responsibility at the higher education institution was to test all incoming students on their language skills and provide remediation as needed, in addition to teaching Basic College English. Many of the students had reading disabilities and could not spell. Students with these disabilities were required to avail themselves of the opportunity I offered in order to overcome their deficits.
The Master’s Degree students with linguistic needs participated in the English Language classes as a non-credit course. Some of the incoming grad students needed basics, like the parts of speech, because they anticipated studying at least two new languages. The Bachelor’s degree level students received credit for the course. Students with grade level ambitions were in this class because they needed it. Curriculum was specifically planned to meet the deficits indicated in the entrance exams obtained from the University of Wisconsin. I also tested them on the most often misspelled words at the institution where I was teaching. Then we also worked on those deficits.

7) What about others who may be in the country illegally and have poor reading skills?

I have not asked people whom I teach whether or not they were legal.

My curriculum has enabled
a) poor readers to become reading lovers,
b) non- first language English students to learn more about English language and culture, and
c) improvement in their self image as they gain language and cultural fluency in their new country.

8) Now, some students seem to lack general knowledge and world information—they do not know who William Faulkner is, and don’t know Lincoln, unless they have seen the recent movie. How do you approach these students?

I provide background information to the story as needed. My students had a thirst to know these things. Maps in my room helped me show the students the countries or regions where these story characters lived. Sometimes we had a historical sketch, depending on the backgrounds of my students.

9) What is this ” validity of self ” your staff talk about?

“Validity of self “is the feeling of self worth that students need in order to achieve. This curriculum approach helps develop that self worth. It teaches the student “I CAN do it!” and “My thoughts and opinions really matter!”

Does the curriculum in my book work? YES. One of my Canadian students was the first person in his family to graduate from high school. He had casually read a few books. He was hoping to get a two-year Certificate. He was a minimalist with simple “Yes” or “No” answers and didn’t fully enter into class discussions. My remediation course changed things for him — he went from a reading hater to become a reading lover. Let him tell it in his own words:

“Dr. Nance did not see a ‘truck driver’ who could not read or write well — she saw potential. And as I reflect back, I must say I am not sure I can do justice to the difference her work has done in my life. I cannot really comment on the technical side of what she did, and I cannot tell you what she did — but whatever it was — it obviously worked. For she transformed a ‘truck driver’ who had done little reading into someone who finished his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and has now completed a doctoral degree! What I do know is that her kind spirit and gentle encouragement spurred me onward towards a thirst for reading and learning all I can.

The simple reality is this: the work Dr. Mary Nance has done … works! I am living proof.” — Dr. Ashley Olinger.

10) For today’s students who are texting, playing video games, and surfing the web and NOT reading fiction or non-fiction- what suggestions do you have for policy makers and parents?

Parents very early need to set the example of the importance of reading. Infants three months of age can begin learning the importance of reading as they are lovingly held and read picture books with one object on each page. Following this pattern, we discovered that our daughter could read when she was four years old! We had not consciously “taught her to read”! Parents need to continue daily reading with their children all the way through high school. New technology can be purposefully and productively used to broaden the scope of the children’s interests. Classic books are now available as e-books!

Policy makers in early education can encourage broad interests, rather than early specialization in narrow niches. This is popularly called the “liberal arts” approach to learning. Students DO need to learn how to solve problems. In today’s world, however, it matters little in the long term if they can “win” at the latest computer game! Policy makers need to take seriously the old basic premise of education: “The needs of the student is first and foremost in education”. If we have not met student needs we have not educated. Let’s do what we are supposed to do: meet needs!

We adults need to consciously present ourselves as role models as we take real responsibility for those learners entrusted to us.

11) What have I neglected to ask?

Maryiana Haynes, in the April, 2011 issue of the Education Digest article “The Federal Role in Confronting the Crisis in Adolescent Literacy,” stated that among twenty-two million American secondary students, six million struggle to read and write. We need to meet this long-standing crisis head on. Up, Up, and Away: Helping Reading Haters Become Reading Lovers can help meet that challenge!

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