Reader, Teacher,
Writer, Speaker

My name is Carol Jago, and I'm a reader. I taught middle and high school English for 32 years in Santa Monica, California, and served as president of the National Council of Teachers of English. I am also Associate Director of the California Reading and Literature Project at UCLA.

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Carol Jago

Reader, Teacher, Writer, Speaker

About me

I have taught English in middle and high school for 32 years and am the associate director of the California Reading and Literature Project at UCLA. I served as president of the National Council of Teachers of English and chair of the College Board’s English Academic Advisory committee.

I have published many books with Heinemann including the recently published The Book in Question: Why and How Reading Is in Crisis. I am also the author of With Rigor for All: Meeting Standards for Reading Literature and Cohesive Writing: Why Concept Is Not Enough and published books on contemporary multicultural authors for NCTE. I wrote an education column for the Los Angeles Times, and my essays continue to appear in educational journals and online forums.

I edit California English the journal of the California Association of Teachers of English and worked on the planning committee for the 2009 National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) Reading Framework and the 2011 NAEP Writing Framework. I am a consulting author on the new Into Reading and Into Literature programs from HMH.

I have been awarded the International Literacy Association’s Adolescent Literacy Thought Leader award and the NCTE Exemplary Leadership Award along with the California Association of Teachers of English Career Achievement Award. I served on the National Assessment Governing Board and am the incoming president of ILA’s Adolescent Literacy group. For additional information, please download my full resume here.

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My Life as a Reader

When I was ten years old, I was in the car taking my mother to hospital to give birth to my youngest brother. The route to the hospital passed the library and I was unreasonably (according to my father) insistent that we stop so that I could take out another book. That story has passed into family folklore but it illustrates how I read as a child. I read anything: lives of the saints, romantic novels, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Huxley, Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald - anything and everything in print without discrimination. Did I understand all I read? Without doubt, I did not, but a childhood spent among books prepared me for a lifetime as a reader. The thrill of opening a new book has never gone away.

Below I have listed suggestions for your classroom library. It is not meant in any way to be a perfect list. Only you know what titles will be most appealing to your students and which books might be problematic in your school community. I have compiled here a list of books that I believe can open up the world to middle and high school readers. Some of these stories include scenes of violence and/or language that might offend. That said, I have read every one of these books and believe the scenes and language contribute importantly to the authors' intent and message. Thanks for all you do to bring books into your students’ lives. Reading helps us be more fully human.

See the List What I'm Reading


For the love of literature

Creating lessons that invite students to engage with literature is one of my greatest pleasures. Unfortunately, poetry lessons too often progress something like this:

A teacher reads aloud with feeling a poem she loves. Because she is a good teacher, she doesn’t immediately start peppering students with questions about imagery and diction but instead gently queries, “So what do you think?” Silence. Not a raised hand in sight. But English teachers hate silence, so she starts talking, telling students about the poet’s life and influences, pointing out where the poem turns, explaining every allusion. In no time, the bell rings. Students shake themselves out of their stupor and whisper, “Phew! For a minute there I thought we were going to have to do something.”

Take a look at a lesson I designed in collaboration with The Poetry Foundation which I've found ends with a different outcome.

See the lesson
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Sharing what I’ve learned

While writing an educational column for the Los Angeles Times, I began writing books for teachers. Drawing from my own experiences in the classroom, these books include practical ideas for helping students become readers and writers. In many cases my methods and lessons were inspired by students’ work. One slim volume, Papers, Papers, Papers (Heinemann) suggests ways to handle the paper load. I wrote a blog post titled "We need to talk about book bans".

See below for more detailed information or to obtain any of my publications.

The Book in Question
My Heinemann Books
My HMH Books
My Macmillan Books
My NCTE Books


Working with Teachers

After working with students for many years, it is now my great pleasure to work with teachers. I have spoken at many conferences, provided multi-year professional development, and assisted schools and districts with curriculum development.Currently I have been delivering virtual professional development in the form of webinars, study groups, and classroom visits. Please feel free to contact me to discuss online possibilities.

For booking inquiries please email Michelle Flynn or go to my speaking page

My speaking page
Carol, I was at your presentation today in Las Cruces, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart! I have been teaching long enough that I have seen a great many professional development workshops. Usually these are nice breaks in the day, but rarely do they provide even one thing that is actually useful in my classroom. But you -- you were positive and persuasive, thoughtful and thorough. I left with energy, book suggestions, and ideas for lessons. I am ever so grateful, and wanted to let you know that you made a difference in the life of this teacher.
When I grow up, I want to be you. Seriously.
Juli Stricklan
Centennial High School English
Please extend our thank you to Carol today for coming and presenting to our coaches today. She was absolutely wonderful! The coaches raved about her and her "common sense" approach to the common core. It was such a treat to be able to hear her expertise and perspective on things like close reading, narrative writing, and the importance of informational text in our classrooms. Again, I can't say enough about how wonderful she was. Thank you again for providing us the opportunity. It exceeded all expectations:)
Tracie Bergman
Pinellas County School District
Dear Carol, The evaluation forms say it all..."Carol Jago is brilliant...I am inspired beyond belief...Thank you, thank you for introducing me to this incredible educator...I am a Carol Jago fan forever..." Needless to say, the response to last Thursday's presentation has been outstanding! We are so thankful that the teachers of ESC North had this opportunity, and I know that many students will benefit from the learning and discovery that took place. Thank you for all the thoughtful time and effort you put into all your presentations, articles and books. You always ring true as you speak to the hearts of classroom teachers, and those of us who hold the special role of supporting them. This does not come without great research, planning, revision and more revision. You are a gifted presenter and communicator, and you have helped calm the fears and frustrations of many teachers, while inspiring them to embrace the CCSS with enthusiasm.
Jina Virtue
Los Angeles Unified School District
Carol Jago understands the challenges and complexities of today's teachers. She came to St. Croix Prep and worked with all of our teachers K-12 and brought them closer to the Common Core. She worked through our challenges and assisted us with our own thinking about what needed to change and how best to be successful with our kids. Carol is a veteran teacher who has lived in the classroom, but she also helps shape the national conversation on teaching and learning. The insights and experiences that Carol brought to our faculty were excellent. Members of faculty now understand, not only the shifts in expectations that the Common Core demand, but also how we can teach to those demands in the classroom every day.
Andrew Sachariason
St. Croix Prep
Dear Mrs. Jago: I have been thinking about you recently. My oldest daughter started kindergarten this fall, and it's made me think back to my own education, and the teachers that made an impact in my life. I'm not sure that you would remember me. I know you've had many students pass through your classrooms. I graduated Santa Monica HIgh School in 1992. Although now married, my name is the same, Amber Howell. You definitely stand out as a high point in my education. I wanted to let you know you were a great and inspiring teacher. I credit you with introducing me to a whole host of authors that I love to this day, and also nurturing an emerging creativity in me. Today I make documentaries, and also work in television and the world of "branded content." I still live in Los Angeles, have 2 kids ages 6 and 2. I see that your work has now expanded behind the classroom at Santa Monica High School. I hope you are well!
Former Student