Jul 26, 12
Read in June, 2012
“The Book Whisperer” by Donalyn Miller was amazing! It is not a teen fiction book, but one of the many “teacher books” I hope to read this summer. Throughout the book I felt affirmed, validated, and (on more than one occasion) guilty. But, as a reading teacher and bibliophile, it was wonderful to find a book that spoke my language!
In “The Book Whisperer” Donalyn Miller, a 6th grade teacher from Texas, shares her experiences and insights related to independent reading-based reading instruction. Mrs. Miller states that her primary goal as a reading teacher is to create life-long readers, children who will fall in love with books now and become adults that remain in love with books. She is adamant that the way to do this is NOT through basal reading series, drill-and-kill comprehension worksheets, reading incentive programs, whole-class novels, or standardized test practice. She believes that allowing/requiring the students to read self-selected novels from a wide variety of genres everyday in class is the way to accomplish this goal. The added bonus is that, with a little purposeful instruction, students will become proficient readers who are able to meet the requirements of standardized tests.
First, I was blown away when this woman said that she has a classroom library of 2,000 books!!! 2,000 books, I just can’t imagine it! I felt like I had a pretty good-sized library in my room until I read this book. I feel quite inadequate now. On top of that, this full-time teacher and mother still manages to read a book a week during the school year – she reads extra over breaks and says she reads about 100 books total each year!!! I thought the 70 (total) that I hope to have done by the end of summer break was impressive… again, I feel inadequate!
I’m not sure whether my students will be glad I read this book or not. Mrs. Miller did advocate against booktalks (which many will be happy to hear), but she advocates for book reviews (which many will NOT be happy to hear). She believes in giving students time to read EVERY DAY in class for 20 – 30 minutes (which many students will be happy to hear), but that is because she requires her students to read 40 books each year (which many will NOT be happy to hear). Mrs. Miller advocates for student-selected, independent reading (which many students will be happy to hear), but she also advocates for students to read a set number of books from each of a variety of genres (which many will NOT be happy to hear). I think my students would give this book mixed reviews.
What I am walking away from this book with are:
1) “You cannot inspire others to do what you are not inspired to do yourself.” I need to be more inspired to read every day, all kinds of books, so that my students can be even more inspired to read.
2) “We make time for what we value, and if we value reading, we must make time for it.” I need to do better at showing the students that I value reading by giving them time DURING CLASS to read.
3) Discuss more, assign less. Discussions about books are a natural result of reading and are what adults do when they finish a book. Worksheets, projects, and tests are not “real world” – they are not what real readers do at the end of a book.
4) Set expectations HIGH! Why not require the students to read 40 books a year? Why not bring back the genre reading requirements?
If you're a teacher who feels like your love for books may be bordering on a mental illness, pick up "The Book Whisperer" today. You'll be validated, uplifted, and renewed. What a great way to start another school year!