Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

Throw away the reading logs, novel reading unit activities, and reading comprehension worksheets.  Do not require your class to all read the same book at the same time.  Forget book reports. 
Allow your students to read books that they want to read and they will become life-long readers and have higher reading comprehension test scores.

The author of this book requires that her 6th grade students in a Texas school read 40 books in a school year - with a requirement that there be a certain number of books from selected genres. 
They do book commercials and write their own teasers for the books and communicate about their reading with the teacher through a journal and frequent book talks.
The author shares her enthusiasm for reading with her students and they share their enjoyment of reading with one another. 
It sounds so wonderful!
I really enjoyed this book! I think that the author is totally correct in her assertion that students should be allowed to read books of their own choice in reading class and should not have to answer meaningless questions about them and read class sets of novels that they may not be interested in.
I taught middle school in Texas for 13 years. For the first 9 or so years, I taught reading - 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. I also taught some remedial classes for students who had failed the reading portion of the state test. I was successful. Those students all passed the test after my class except for one who raised his grade from a 27 to a 57, which is still pretty goood. But, I did it by drill and kill. I was not allowed to let my students just read books the way the author does. I had a certain number of worksheets that my students had to do each week and I had to document it. One year, I was told that I could not even assign reading for book reports until after the state test - in May.  I finally begged to be allowed to teach social studies instead of reading.
I taught that for a few years before quitting to stay home with my own children.
I am currently substitute teaching in two Texas school districts.

I was amazed that so much of the research that the author cited that proves that students need to read actual books to improve their reading skills is from from years and years ago, yet none of the schools that I have been in have ever allowed teachers to do what the author does in her classroom. The author repeatedly states that she is sad that other teachers don't encourage free choice reading the way that she does. I think that she is in a unique situation to be allowed to do that. Her situation works well also because she only has 55 students. In middle schools if Reading is taught as it's own class rather than as part of Integrated Language Arts, teachers have about 130 to 180 students. If it is taught as part of Integrated Language Arts, they have about 80 to 90 students or so. That makes it a bit more difficult to do some of the things she does.
The author also has a huge classroom library of books that she has bought mostly with her own money.  I used to do that too.  It makes me sad to walk into a reading classroom that has very few or no books in it.

I wish that principals, superintendants and curriculum planners would read this book. I think it would be fantastic if all reading classrooms were libraries where children could choose their own books to read and learn to love reading and share it with one another.

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