Book Whisperer-Ch 1

I can relate to Miller’s account of her first year of teaching.  I would rush through the first part of the quarter using the reading basel to ensure that the different skill got covered.  Then, I would enjoy the remainder of the time in novel units.  I couldn’t wait to share favorite books, like Stone Fox or Because of Winn-Dixie, that always brought tears to my eyes.  But, like Miller, I was frustrated when students failed to match my excitement.  They would struggle to answer questions, write detailed opinions, or even complete the “fun” culminating projects.  What more could I do?

Then I remembered. When I was in elementary school, our television broke.  My parents decided no more television.  It was probably one of the best decisions, because I discovered my love for books.  I read The Little House on the Prairie series over and over.  I knew I’d grow up to marry a man like Almanzo.  I always had a book in my hand and enjoyed spending time in the library to browse.  I should have been the perfect reading student, but I wasn’t.  In fourth grade, I would hide out in the bathroom as long as I could during reading class.  In ninth grade, I distinctly remember thinking if only Mrs. Charkin would just leave us alone to enjoy the books assigned.  I loved the books, but the questions and essays killed me.  And here I was doing the same thing.

When my school started to emphasize self-selected reading for 30 minutes, I was on board.  This was the answer, and it was going to be great to see children with their noses deep in  books.  But it didn’t happen.  Students spent too much time switching books or hanging out at the shelves.  Others just went through the motions or stared out in space.  Why didn’t they want to just sit and read any book they wanted?

Can you relate?  Do you have similar frustrations?

I can’t wait to read more about Miller’s experience and how her program works.



Filed under The Book Whisperer Discussion

9 responses to “Book Whisperer-Ch 1

  1. I am so glad you have started this book. It has been life-changing. Sometimes I get mad at myself when I don’t apply the things I know about good teaching to all subjects. My philosophy of teaching writing is very similar to the concepts Miller discusses in her book. Why are we as teachers so afraid of student choice? I found literature so much more engaging this year. The excitement of our students was amazing. I still laugh when I think about how worried I was about students comprehension skills not improving…how on earth can comprehension get worse reading 40 books??

  2. Mollie Robinson

    Haven’t started yet. Hopefully will get the book tomorrow at the library.

  3. I am excited to find out more about how it works, too. I have found many things that work for many students but there are always a few students who I do not feel that I “catch” and they leave me still not reading much. That is discouraging. I am looking forward to reading this and learning more!

    • Scarlett C. Perry

      I was so interested in her statement on page 16 of chapt 1, “I realized that every lesson, conference, response, and assignments. I taught must lead students away from me and toward their autonomy as literatue people.” It is soooo true that the way reading was taught 20-30 years ago was different. Now Now, it

      • Scarlett C. Perry

        Now, we/educators allow students to navigate through their reading allowing for discovery and adventure.

  4. Katie

    Finally getting started! As someone who has worked in adult literacy and adult GED instruction, I’m interested to see whether these principles could apply to struggling readers who are 50…or reluctant 18-year-olds…

  5. Katie

    Also, Esther, your reflections on how YOU came to love reading made me think of my own experience. I think a sense of accomplishment motivated me at first, and then I just came to love reading. In 4th grade my teacher gave an award for anyone who reached 1,000,000 words–we had a formula to figure out the average number of words per page. It was a daunting and possibly even discouraging task for some, but I was always comptetitive, so I read a ton that year. And the rest is history!

  6. Donna Beck

    We were always encouraged to use the basal text plan when teaching reading, which included textbooks, workbooks, and a whole box full of assessments, additional worksheets, supplements, etc. They were always overwhelming and almost impossible to cover everything. I started to add novel units, with accompanying unit plans, but like Esther, I was disappointed when many students failed to really enjoy the book and projects, much less the worksheets. I also learned that boys often didn’t like the same type of books the girls did. I also reflected how awful it would be to try to sit down and enjoy a book, stopping after every chapter, and doing worksheets.

  7. Mollie

    I totally agree with Esther and Donna. As a first year teacher you come with all these hopes and dreams of how much your students will love reading and books as much as you do. You plan fantastic (or so you think) lessons and activities with a novel. You want the students to get all the joy and excitement out of books. But then reality sets in. Your lessons and activities don’t get the response you had hoped for. Most of the students don’t seem to care or can’t seem to get your points. I can relate to the author’s comments about the students being robots; doing the work, going through the motions, with little or no emotional connection with the books or stories. Like she said, the children were not engaged. There was no love of reading. She mentions that we build a reading program from “broken materials”, the reading textbooks with worksheets, vocabulary,etc. I liked her analogy of teaching a workshop, “where apprentices hone a craft under the tutelage of a master.” The teacher becomes the “reading master.” I am already hooked on this book. It makes a lot of sense.

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