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The Book Whisperer

Book Review
by Holly Sorscher on 14 March 2011

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Transcript of The Book Whisperer

How can other teachers instill this love of reading in their own students? Reading is its own Reward Donalyn Miller wrote The Book Whisperer because it is “the book that I always wished I could find when I was learning how to teach.” She knew that she wanted to “connect [her] love of reading to [her] teaching of reading and [ ] to use what [she] already knew about being a lifelong reader to encourage [her] students to read.” (5-6) Miller’s challenge was in trying to figure out how to do this during her first years teaching. Speaking up About The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller
created by Holly Sorscher What methods does Miller use to create lifelong readers? Read in class every day because “students need time to read and time to be readers.” According to Stephen Krashen in his The Power of Reading “no single literacy activity has a more positive effect on students’ comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, spelling, writing ability, and overall academic achievement than free voluntary reading.” (51) Witness a teacher who reads daily because “you cannot inspire others to do what you are not inspired to do yourself.” (118) Read at least 40 books during the school year. This large requirement reflects the importance of reading and sets up high expectations for students. (77) Visit the school library on a regular basis. (59) Keep a reader’s notebook in which they converse in writing with Miller about the books they are reading so she can provide “encouragement, guidance, and validation for their reading development.” (36) Study in a classroom that houses a collection of over two thousand books. (59) Lead one or more of the classroom book groups How can the School Librarian Help? Teach unit on test reading as a genre Participate with students and teacher by presenting own book commercial or review. Record student commercials/reviews and post on a Wiki for students in other classes to view and find reading recommendations. Provide comfortable, welcoming, accessible library space where students can enjoy reading Model reading and share interests and struggles with the classroom reading community Prepare and implement a unit on oral reading Practice oral reading as a separate lesson Teachers must reexamine traditional practice and “consider alternatives that accomplish the same goals but are more in keeping with the habits of true readers and what matters most to students.” (122) Incentive Programs Reading Logs Book Reports/Talks designed to prove a student has actually read a book but tend to be boring summaries rather than engaging Taking turns reading aloud as a class from the same book Whole Class Novel Traditional Practice Practice Standardized Tests at the expense of reading time Book Commercials/Reviews that are interactive and provide student insight and connection Teach Reading for Standardized Tests as its own Genre just like map reading or reading charts and tables Form Book Groups around one theme or concept students should learn; select several titles and divide books among students based on both reading level and interest Alternative Practive Expand In-Class Reading Time Study in a classroom that houses a collection of over two thousand books. (59) “Toni Morrison has said, ‘If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’ (Jacobs and Hjalmarsson, 2002, p. 37)” (5) Miller, Donalyn. 2009. The book whisperer: awakening the inner reader in every child. San Francisco, Calif: Jossey-Bass. Why did Miller write this book? Why is reading so important?

“We teachers have more than enough anecdotal evidence that the students who read the most are the best spellers, writers, and thinkers. No exercise gives more instructional bang for the buck than reading.” (55) These methods provided some moments of success but it wasn’t until Miller let go of other educator’s plans and followed her own instincts that she was able to truly connect with her students over reading. Miller works hard to instill a love of reading in her students that will both inspire them as people and further their academic standing. She provides them with a vast resource in her classroom library. However, she seriously underutilizes the skills and resources of the school librarian. Whole class novel units during which all students in the class read the same novel regardless of reading level or interest and spend a great deal of time completing activities relating to the plot including comprehension questions, vocabulary, and extension activities. (11-12) Miller struggled these first few years trying to engage her students in reading by using many of the traditional teaching methods she had studied. Reading logs intended to encourage reading outside the classroom that were thought of as a chore by both the students keeping track of their time and the parents who had to sign them. Readers’ workshops and notebooks modeled by experts which provided strategies worksheets and reading response prompts that did not take into consideration the individual needs of each student. (17) Choose their own books within a framework of genre requirements because “Readers without power to make their own choices are unmotivated” (23)
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