Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Book Whisperer Chapter 5

Last year I was looking all over for advice on how to improve my reading. And a lot of people suggested the Book Whisperer to me. I read it. And I fell IN.LOVE!

Which is why I am so excited that I get to participate in this book study! I'm Gina and you can usually find me over at Third Grade Tidbits. 
Donalyn Miller has some amazing points throughout this entire book. But I want to focus on just a few and give my two cents. Or maybe three cents.

There really were a lot of things that I could have quoted from the first section of this chapter, but I felt this summed it up pretty well. I love how Miller is always engaged in conversations about books with her kids. Even more, I love that she reads books that they suggest to her. I want my kids to suggest books for me to read too. Teaching third, their books wouldn't take me more than a couple hours (with a two year old running around, things can take just a little longer than necessary). Her students even take her recommendations because they trust her as a reader. Why do they trust her? Because they SEE her reading. They know she loves to read and she reads every single day. There have been days where I will intentionally be reading when my students come back from another class or I will have a book out and say "Oh just let me mark my page". A lot of students don't see adults engaged in reading for enjoyment, so they don't realize that reading is enjoyable. Especially my students. I want them to see that reading is a fun hobby. When I teach visualization I always tell them a story about how I laugh or gasp or say things like WHOA when reading and my husband always laughs. When they ask why, I tell them it is because I am imagining that what I am reading is happening right in front of me, like a play or tv show. They start to understand how into reading I really am.  (Can I just mention how much I relate to Miller when she says she staggers into class bleary eyed because she stayed up too late reading her latest book. That is me. All the way. There are days I fall asleep with my book on my pillow, having read the same page over and over because I am exhausted but just want to finish...this...chapter.)

Donalyn Miller also shared some very loooow numbers. Shocking numbers. From a 2007 poll- the average adult American read only four books in an entire year. FOUR. WHAT?! I read that in a month or two (depending on how busy I am). Reading is my hobby. And stress relief. Sometimes, I just have to read in order to relax. Even worse- 25% of the respondents to the survey did not read a single book. Another statistic says that of the preservice teachers they studied 54.3% were unenthusiastic about reading. Ok, I know not everyone loves reading. But every teacher I know loves to read. We are always talking about the next book we need to read or giving suggestions to each other. How can we motivate students to read if we aren't valuing reading ourselves. (If you don't find reading to be the best thing in the world, fake it for the sake of your students.) What happens to the child who has parents that don't read and then a teacher who doesn't value it? They may fall to the side of people that CAN read, but don't. Or can read enough to do what they need to do and that's that.
This is so important for people to understand. We can teach kids how to read all we want. We can teach them all the strategies in the world for comprehension. But none of that makes children lifelong readers. Think about it. I am sure all 100% of those people surveyed were taught all the skills necessary to read- yet they aren't readers. The teachers who do not value reading and do not engage in much "for fun" reading are the ones that will take what Miller calls the outside to inside approach. Teaching the skills necessary but not really showing their value of reading. The teachers who truly love and value reading and want to show students what reading really is teach the inside to outside approach. You will probably find a lot of free reading going on in this classroom. After-all, how can you begin to love reading if you aren't reading books that interest you instead of just the books that are mandated to learn a skill?

Donalyn Miller suggests you make your own reading plan to help you gain back that love of reading that you may have lost (or gain it for the first time ever). 

1. Commit to a certain amount of reading every day. Even just 15 minutes a day. You can make time for something you love. Read on the treadmill, read while blowdrying your hair (yep, I do this one), read while waiting for dinner to cook. Just carve out some time JUST for reading.  I try to read every day. And when I get so busy that I forget or just fall asleep, I end up feeling upset because I missed out on that time.

2. Choose books that are personally interesting to you. Not everything you read should be for work. Find what you love or are interested in. Reading for me is my thoughtless time. I don't like to have to think too hard about it. So I read a lot of light, fluffy chick lit. I know what I like and I stick to it. I like to laugh when I read. I have only read one book in the past year that wasn't fluffy but it was given to me and had some amazing recommendations, so I went for it and loved it. (Gone Girl if you are wondering.) Now, I have read a few "deeper" books. Still girly, but not as comical as most that I read. Just more of a deep, twisted, love story. (The Opportunist is the one I refer to here.)

3. Read more books for children.  There are a couple reasons for this. Children's books usually have happy endings and the story lines and characters are pretty innocent. I will admit I do read some Young Adult books still. I read the entire Gossip Girl series and most of It Girl (spin off from Gossip Girl) and have some of the Pretty Little Liars books sitting on my shelf. Why? Why not? ANother reason is because you may remember loving reading as a kid, and reading these books may get you back there. And last, you can then suggest some books to your students. 

4. Take recommendations from your students. You can find out a lot about your students by reading the books they suggest. It will also help you not in teaching them reading but every other lesson too. You can use these interests to get them engaged in any area.

5. Investigate recommendations from industry resources. I don't really use book lists (because as I said, I stick to one or two types of books) but what I do use is the recommendations from amazon and goodreads. If you purchase a book from amazon, they will give you suggestions of other books that are similar. And if you are just browsing and scroll down, you will see the same idea. I have a lot of wishlisted books because of that feature. 

6. Create your own reader's notebook. Making a list of books you read or abandoned is a good idea. Especially for people like me who end up buying books you already have or have read. And if you abandon a book, you might reconsider and revisit it later on when you might be able to put your focus into it. 

7. Reflect on what you are reading. No you don't need to write a journal. But just think about it. What did or didn't you like about it? Would you recommend it to a friend? Why or why not? It will help you gain an insight to what types of books you really want to read. I used to have a feature on my personal blog What I'm Reading Wednesday and I loved being able to post those updates. It was my own way to write a book review and give others some ideas on what to read. It was always a new book. In fact... I may just bring that feature to my teaching blog... be on the look out!

Make sure to share your thoughts and hop on over to visit me at my blog!


  1. I love the last quote. So true. Teachers need to be readers! :)
    Creating Lifelong Learners

    1. I know not everyone loves to read. But we have to at least value it enough so the students see how important it is.

  2. One of the highlights of my year last year was a student who came in previously declaring that he hated reading and "I just don't like it!" By the end of the year he was getting in "trouble" for sneaking a book in between every math problem. The Book Whisperer really helped this to happen. It's a great book.

    Polka Dots & Teaching Tots

    1. I love that! I always feel bad when kids are reading during another lesson and I have to make them put it away. I always say "I love that you want to read and hate that I have to make you stop but right now we have to do..." which is why any time my students finish work early they are allowed to just read. No busy work waiting for them. Unless they have incomplete work.

  3. I have linked my blog post up to yours. This chapter hit me hard as I was the teacher last year who didn't really work to create life-long readers. That will definitely change for me next year. Thanks for hosting this awesome book study!

    Sixth Grade Tales

  4. I make sure that I carve out time within my class period for students to read. While they are reading I am doing the same. There were times this year I would just blurt out...I love this book! I just can not put it down! I know my students thought I was crazy..but as the school year progressed my students were trying to keep up with me. We need to be good role models for our students.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. I used to do this same thing but I am afraid to even do that now bc heaven forbid my admin walks in and I am sitting reading with kids in my room.

  5. Kudos to Jamie for making the change!! And Polka Dots..YES!!! I had parents last year say that for the first time their kids were choosing to read at home instead of video games and tv...that's something special!!!

  6. In the past, I have read books with my students reading as well . . . I didn't ever think to talk to them about the books that I was reading though. I always suggest books to kids, but I am really looking forward to writing letters to them each week about the books that we read together as well as the books that they read on their own.