Peter H. Johnston

Peter Johnston grew up and taught elementary school in New Zealand before coming to the United States to earn his Ph.D. at the Center for the Study of Reading at the University of Illinois. At the time his plans did not include staying in the United States let alone getting married and raising a family. Professor Emeritus at the University at Albany, he lives in Albany, New York, with his wife Tina. They have three children and two grandchildren on which to dote.

Peter's research and writing spring from his fascination with children's learning and, no less, teachers' teaching. His research explores the relationships among classroom talk, engagement, and children’s social, emotional and literate development. This focus is reflected in his books, Opening Minds: Using language to change lives and Choice Words: How our language affects children's learning. Perversely, he believes that education is not simply about delivering information to children. He thinks it is as much about building a just, caring society as growing intellectually, socially and emotionally healthy human beings and that attending to this larger goal will not detract from more pragmatic academic goals. Quite the reverse in fact, he believes that intellectually healthy classrooms cannot be achieved without there also being socially and emotionally healthy. His newest book, co-authored with six remarkable classroom teachers - Engaging Literate Minds, K-3: Literacy Teaching That Grows Children’s Social, Emotional, and Intellectual Lives - reflects this conviction. 

Asked to describe himself as a writer, Peter says that he "binges." While not recommended, this approach has resulted in a dozen books, some in multiple languages, and about eighty research articles. Recognition for his research includes the Albert J. Harris Award from the International Reading Association for his contribution to the understanding of reading disability and the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research. Most recently, the Literacy Research Association honored him with the Oscar Causey Award for outstanding contributions to reading research and the P. David Pearson Scholarly Influence Award, citing his book Choice Words (now in four languages and over 250,000 copies in print) as having “demonstrably and positively influenced literacy teaching in classrooms and districts nationally.” Some of this, of course, along with grandchildren and his election to the Reading Hall of Fame merely reflect his antiquity and certify his "old fart" status beyond a reasonable doubt – a fact that is not lost on his children or his wonderful wife of 40 years, Tina.

Beyond his family and friends, research, reading, writing, singing, and humor sustain him. Failing that, a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc helps enormously.

 

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