Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Book Whisperer

I finished it!  Ok, I finished it the day after I got it.  I did want to go back through and pick out my favorite parts before I posted though.  Bare with me, though, as I try to sort out my thoughts.  I would really love to hear what you guys have to say too!

What does the author say?
Donalyn Miller is a 6th grade teacher, so the book is geared towards middle school teachers.  However, it still proved to be an inspiring read even though I teach 2nd.  

Her main focus is that students should read.  And then they should read some more.  And then read more.   And that they should enjoy it!  We are forcing students to not like reading but making them do so many "reading-related" activities.  Miller states that "every non-reading activity wastes precious minutes of reading."  So true!  I think that at the elementary level when students are still understanding the concepts of print and reading, we need to do some of those activities.  

We should really focus on the actual reading though.  And I think that using the Reading Workshop model, we are headed in the right direction (woohoo!).   We need to be teaching readers, not books (aka basal readers).  According to Miller, we should "look for ways to use the books {the students} do read to meet their instructional goals."  We should value the students' preferences and let them read what they want and work from there.

What isn't working?
Book logs.  Testing.  Worksheets.  All the boring stuff isn't working!  Why are we judging a student's ability to read by making them write down every minute they read?  I've been having my student's use book logs as homework.  I don't like it.  I never have.  They don't do it.  I don't look at it very closely.  The parents see it as a nuisance.  Something needs to change.  I don't test my students or use many worksheets in Reader's Workshop.  I use a Reader's Notebook but not to the best of it's ability.  That needs to change too.

What can I change?
As I was reading, I was thinking of ways that I could use Miller's ideas in my own classroom.

1. Student Book Clubs
I want to create a "special" book club for students who want to join.  I am going to hold it once a week (or once a month) on a Friday during lunch, cafe style.  I want the students to be able to talk with each other and with me about books that they have read.  I am hoping for a relaxed experience for students to build and share their love of reading.  Has anyone ever tried this?  Are students genuinely interested in joining?

2. Take Home Book Bags
My goal is to make at-home reading a family affair.  I want to create themed book bags for students to bring home once a week (for the whole week) to share with their families.  I would like to put a few books, activities, and a response journal in each bag.  I'm thinking of doing this instead of book logs.  Has anyone ever used take home book bags before?  Was it successful?

3. Reader's Notebook
I already do Reader's Notebooks but I don't like them.  I start them in January and the students choose a response question and answer it in their notebook.  That's it.  There's no connection with me and they dread it.  I might start them earlier in the year and have the students write me a letter instead that I could answer.  Miller suggests having the teacher create their own Reader's Notebook and discussing the contents of the notebooks during Reading Workshop conferences.  Great idea!  Do you use some sort of reader's response?  What is it and how do you feel about it?

One last thing...
My favorite line from the whole book is when she says "I wanted to pull out all of the desks and drag in couches and coffee tables turning my room into Barnes and Noble."  I have always wanted to do this!!  

Have you read The Book Whisperer before?  What were your thoughts?


  1. One of my favorite professional development books I have read since I began teaching! I have recommended this book to several different grade level teachers and also administrators! I would love to have a book study with this book. SMIILES

  2. I've been meaning to read this book forever!! Sounds great.

  3. I've got the book, but haven't started reading it yet! Looks like I should go ahead and start ASAP :)

    Miss V's Busy Bees

  4. I have this book and it is a great read! Lots of good ideas!
    Conversations in Literacy

  5. I loved the message of read and then read more. I also like the idea of inspiring students to read because they enjoy it not because it is required work. I was glad to see your perspective as another second grade teacher. Here are some of my thoughts.

    I also use a reader's notebook but it is a work in progress. Last year we decided to abandon the book log and I haven't missed it. That really gave some of my students more reading time. My goal is to create a mix of tasks, some that stay in the RN and some that go home to be shared with parents. I would like the RN to turn into a reference for students. I also use their RN for running records and recording notes during student conferences.

    In the past some student interns created a book bag as part of an assignment. It contained a science-based book and couple of theme-related activities. The students enjoyed it and most of the parents did, too. Our biggest problem was keeping track of who had the bag and reminding him/her to return it so others could take it home.

    I used to run a take-home library where students could check out books in addition to their weekly library book. When they returned a book, they could get another. I probably need to start this up again. It was tricky finding a good time for students to "book shop" for a book to take home.

    I am looking forward to your ongoing thoughts as you inspire reading in your classroom this year!

  6. I have seen this book around but haven't had an opportunity to read it. Thanks for sharing what you learned from it! Thanks for also stopping by my blog today! I have become a new follower of you as well!

    An Apple a Day in First Grade

  7. This is one of my favorite books! So much in there to underline, practice and master :)
    I dislike reading logs...very much! My reader's notebooks were a huge hit last year. Tons of modeling and different activities to keep them interesting.
    My Second Sense

  8. I'm really looking forward to reading the book tomorrow! Great synopsis of the book! Can't wait to check back here to read everyone's thoughts after I've read it. Take care!

    Teaching Is Love

  9. This book inspired me to read more this summer myself! :) I love your idea of a book club at lunch time. I do one for a larger group of students after school one day per week and they really get into it-we read a lot of quality literature. It's awesome to see kids give up their time to discuss books...purely for fun! :)


  10. I LOVE your last comment!!! I feel the same comfortable would that be?!?! I like your thoughts and now I am rethinking a few things. Speaking of changing your classroom. . . If you have time stop by my blog and join my "Classroom Tours Linky Party"! I would love to see your room!! :)


    Brigid's Daily Lesson Log

  11. I nominatated you for a blog award! Check it out.... :)

  12. I just found you on Learning is something to Treasures Fabulous Friday Blogger.
    You are right students need to read. If you haven't ready Daily 5, they teach how you to train you students to do just that with the Gradual Release model and muscle memory. It is completely geared for k-5. Any way, I am your newest follower. I would love for you to stop by and join my Classroom design and Bulletin Boards LInky party. I know a lot of teachers are not in their classrooms, so i have this open for a while.

  13. Wow, this sounds like a great book! I will definately need to check it out.

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