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The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child 1st Edition
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Because she couldn’t find a book that showed her how to use her own love of books to imbue her elementary students with the same love, Miller, Teacher Magazine blogger, decided to write her own. She recalls her personal journey as a teacher and the surprise and disappointment of learning that book loving cannot be automatically passed on to students. No more having the whole class read the same novel. She gave her students questionnaires to determine their interests and personally selected stacks of books of possible interest to them, then allowed them to read independently—at least 40 books a school year. She recounts the experience of some students struggling and others exhilarated by the freedom to read. Miller’s tactics resulted in improvement in her students’ vocabulary, comprehension, and writing. She also saw students respect book suggestions that came from a reader’s passion rather than a teacher’s agenda. Miller includes reading lists, activities, questionnaires, and other resources. Although aimed at teachers, this book will also definitely appeal to parents interested in encouraging their children to read. --Vanessa Bush
[Starred review] Miller, a sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher and blogger, has enabled students of many different backgrounds to enjoy reading and to be good at it; her students regularly score high on the Texas standardized tests. Her approach is simple yet provocative: affirm the reader in every student, allow students to choose their own books, carve out extra reading time, model authentic reading behaviors, discard timeworn reading assignments such as book reports and comprehension worksheets, and develop a classroom library filled with high-interest books. Her students regularly read more than 40 books in a school year and leave her classroom with an appreciation and love of books and reading. Miller provides many tips for teachers and parents and includes a useful list of ultimate reading suggestions picked by her students. This outstanding contribution to the literature is highly recommended for teachers, parents, and others serving young students.—Mark Bay, Univ. of the Cumberlands Lib., Williamsburg, KY (Library Journal, March 15, 2009)
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You can find Reading in the Wild here: https://www.amazon.com/Reading-Wild-Whisperers-Cultivating-Lifelong/dp/047090030X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1490556181&sr=8-1&keywords=reading+in+the+wild
When I decided to switch gears and become an elementary teacher, I took a class on children's literature. This class, which required us to read and annotate quite a few books, had two effects on me: it made me realize that I was sorely lacking in the book-reading department, and it sparked my interest in reading again. However, soon after this class I started student teaching, and finding time to read after student teaching and my evening job was almost impossible, so again I became a dormant reader.
However, I did not get a full-time teaching job for the fall, so I had the free time to start collecting and reading children's books again. This time I started tearing through them, knocking out book after book. This was my state of mind when I picked up The Book Whisperer.
I think it was beneficial to read The Book Whisperer when I was in a reading "frenzy" so to speak, as it helped me connect to the author's passion for reading. I found myself nodding and saying "Yeah!" countless times while reading. And honestly, I think even if you're not much of a reader but are an otherwise sensible person, you can't help but react the same way. So much of her advice should just be common sense. I mean, how can people argue against letting kids read books as a way of getting them to be better at reading? If you're like me, basically everything Donalyn Miller describes just rings true as being so obvious that it makes you wonder how it is that we came to be in such a state that we need common sense spelled out for us.
That's not to say that this is 240 pages of "Make your kids read every day and everything will be fine," although that is certainly her main message. It also has very practical suggestions for how to present her reading "system", if simply reading books can be called a system, at the beginning of the school year; how to structure reading lessons; ideas on physical organization of books in the classroom; lists of top books as voted on by her past students grouped by grade levels; the importance of using conferences and questionnaires to guide children to literature that they can connect with; and more. Miller also backs up her personal success with citations from other experts and their studies on reading in children. I actually purchased several more literacy books based on these references.
Although I have not actually acted as a full-time teacher (yet), I feel that, given my other experiences teaching kids reading, this book is a must-have for anyone who plans on teaching reading.
The problem is, in most classrooms, it's not. Donalyn does an EXCELLENT job in this book showing the reader examples of how giving her kids time to read in class, building a community of readers, and letting them choose their own books makes them SO EXCITED about reading, and isn't that the goal? I loved the parts where she shows traditional strategies teachers are probably using and alternatives that will pump up reader's enthusiasm.
I'm not a reading teacher or a teacher of anyone at this point except my own daughter, but I'm a book lover, writer, avid reader, and bookseller. I loved learning from this book and found myself saying, "yes, yes, this is so true!" on nearly every page. I finished reading it and wanted to hug Donalyn for her very important work.
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Anita Farrow, Teacher