I am so thrilled to be a part of this book study on Donalyn Miller's book, The Book Whisperer. I finished this book in a week, no small feat when you've got two littles and your school year just ended! But it was THAT good and many of the things she writes about had me highlighting whole pages, jotting notes in the margins, and nodding my head.
Miller is truly passionate about inspiring students to love reading. Her dedication to this ONE goal is contagious. Although this book seems, at first, to be geared towards intermediate students, I found myself being inspired to use some of the strategies she describes with my firsties.
This quote, from the introduction, had me hooked. I bet we can all relate-
"The only groups served by current trends to produce endless reading programs for teaching reading are the publishing and testing companies who make billions of dollars from their programs and tests. It is horrifying that the people who have the corner on getting children to read- children's book authors, parents, and teachers- get the least credit monetarily or otherwise." -Donalyn Miller
On to my chapter:
This chapter begins with a quote by Maya Angelou- one of my personal heroes.
"When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young." -Maya Angelou
In this chapter, Walking the Walk, Miller describes, what I believe to be, her most effective strategy for inspiring her students to read: the fact that she is obsessed with reading. By creating a culture in her classroom where reading, of any type, is discussed daily, practiced in every free moment, and central to every activity, Miller is not just instructing her students on 'how to read' she is a role model for what a REAL reader is. She says, "When my students think about me in the future, I want them to remember me as a reader with a book in my hand and a recommendation on my lips."
Miller makes the case for teachers to become more "visible" readers. We often blame parents when our students don't read but do we, as educators, make the time for them to really read? Do we show them that reading is fun and enjoyable? That it is not just another chore or assignment to complete? Do we give them freedom to choose what they read?
So many of these questions resonated with me when I think of my first grade classroom, with my scripted curriculum and district created and mandated schedule. No. No, I don't give them choice. No, I don't have the time. No, they don't see me read, for fun, ENOUGH. Thanks to this book, these things will change.
Miller recommends that teachers find their "Inner Reader". Luckily, I have always been an avid reader. Before children, I was the type that constantly had some novel in my purse or on my nightstand. I was constantly looking for and giving book recommendations. Reading kept me up way too late at night and took precedence over boring household chores. Kids- they change everything. I just don't have the "time" anymore. Dondalyn Miller would NOT accept that answer. And she's right, I should MAKE the time for it. I do miss it. It is important to me.
These are her tips for improving your own reading:
-Commit to a certain amount of reading per day.
-Choose books that are personally interesting to you.
-Read more books for children.
-Take recommendations from your students.
-Investigate recommendations from industry sources.
-Create your own reader's notebook.
-Reflect on what you are reading.
My take away from this chapter was that I just need to dedicate classroom time to sharing the ENJOYMENT of reading. In the past, I've read a few classic children's chapter books, here and there, when time alowed. My students enjoyed them but it was more of a time filler. It wasn't dedicated and I see now that the enthusiasm and passion just wasn't there. If I do one thing differently, it will be that. There will be dedicated time for students to read to themselves for pleasure and for me to read to them, for pleasure, for no other reason. Because modeling a passion for reading is maybe the most important thing I will ever "teach".
I hope you'll follow along as we continue to study the last 2 chapters of The Book Whisperer.