The Book Whisperer-Ch 3



Donalyn Miller certainly proved there is a time and a place for reading, for free voluntary reading.  Better writing, richer vocabularies, and increased background knowledge in science and social studies are just a few reasons, not to mention the easy planning.  But how about the fact that when students are talking in class it is about the books they are reading and when they are asked to “come to a stopping place” there are moans of disappointment.  How exciting that her students steal reading moments (class interruptions) and find any place to read (the shower).


“Ah, libraries.”  I love them too.  Even with her classroom library of over 2,000 books, she makes a point to bring her class regularly to the library.  They need to know how to find book, be exposed to a larger collection, and be taught library etiquette.  “Part of wearing a reader’s clothes is learning how to navigate a library and feeling at home in one.”  She prepares her students for library day by talking about it, posting it, and giving it purpose.  Students must have a book to return, renew, read, or a plan to get one.  Then, while at the library, they are purposefully looking for a book and checking it out or they have found a place to read.  And she is working with her students to find books.  She stays with them, and it reinforces what her students already knows…reading is important.

Hopefully, at this point in your reading, there are points that you embrace and are ready to implement in your classroom, or there are practices that you already have in place.  Please feel free to share your thoughts.






Filed under The Book Whisperer Discussion

9 responses to “The Book Whisperer-Ch 3

  1. The library was a very important time for our class. We found that in order to take ourselves out of the equation as teachers and to not waste time with “unnatural schedules,” we allowed to students to go to the library whenever they needed to….I just feel it doesn’t work as well when students have to wait until library day on Thursday if they are in need of a new book. It always amazes me that kids usually rise to the level of responsibility that we give them.

    My favorite amusing thing this year was when we would have to chase, literally, one boy out of our classroom almost daily. He just kind of liked reading when he began, but my Lord we couldn’t get him to leave when he became engrossed in a book. I’m sure we annoyed his next teacher because he was late almost daily.

    Teressa and I have countless antidotes about the success of this philosophy. This was the most amazing year out of all 18 previous years of teaching literature. Absolutely life-changeing for me and most of our students.

    The hardest part was being humble enough to give up the notion that I needed to “teach” a book for kids to get something out of it or improve their comprehension.

    • Thank you for your informative comments, especially about the library. At our school we have worked hard to have a flexible and open schedule. Teachers & students are welcome anytime. We have kept K-2 on a regular 2 week schedule, but because I am fortunate to have an assistant students are still welcome at those times.

  2. Scarlett Perry

    As I was reading chapter 3, Miller’s open reading approach just makes good sense. On page 56 Miller states the beauty of promoting reading everywhere and anywhere, “Invasive reading helps student meet their reading goals for the class….contributes to their academic achievement.” This year I intend for my classes to begin with free reading time. I just need to attain more books for my classroom library–thanks to our library-I’m sure this will be no problem.

  3. Love her term invasive reading!! I want to raise the value of reading in my classroom with invasive reading! This makes so much sense to me!!

  4. Katie

    I had a GED student who was basically ready for the test. We had given her a copy of the Hunger Games and one day, she was reading it in class. I think the other teacher wanted the student to “stop reading and do some work” but we did let her read for a couple hours before doing some practice tests. I wish we let more students do that sort of thing–it is difficult on a time-constrained schedule where students are prepping for a test, but according to Miller this would help them do better on their tests. In fact, this student ended up getting an 800 on her reading test (perfect score)! And when I brought in the 2nd and 3rd books in the Hunger Games trilogy she was practically grabbing them from me before I could say anything. I hope she will keep reading as she heads on to college…

  5. Donna Beck

    Really am considering trying to give free reading for an hour in my class. I do not teach reading, but would love to be able to do this aspect of it in my room. The language arts teacher still uses the basal for reading, and teaches writing, so perhaps this will help her class. I have always thought that students needed more free time reading what they choose, with guidelines. I do wonder how the “very active” children, mainly boys, are going to do with this. It sounds good, it in reality, there are those students who will want to roll around on the floor, etc. when they mix with their friends, I’m not sure if peer pressure will help or not. I am anxious to try. I do agree that sometimes, all it takes is the “perfect” book. Also, with parents the way they can be, I wonder if they would complain at the beginning of the year about book reading requirements. I see it as perfectly plausible, but I also know how much parents love to complain and blow up things sometimes. Would fourth graders read the same number of books? Interested in what you all think is a good requirement for fourth graders.

    • Donna, I think 4th graders could have 40 books as a requirement. The books they choose will vary in length, especially as their skill and interest improve. If you find it is too high for some, just keep encouraging them, like Miller did, and remind them how far they have come. Always celebrating.

      • Mollie

        She did say there was not a consequence if they didn’t read the required 40 books. She works with them at their reading level and supports their efforts. So that all students succeed on their own level and their personal goals.

  6. Mollie

    Ms. Miller continues to focus on the teacher’s role of modeling the importance and love of reading. She shows the importance of showing the students by example the importance of reading in our personal lives not just in school. We set the standard and mood of the classroom. If we open up to our students about the love of reading, they will “catch” our enthusiasum. She emphasized the importance of uninterrupted reading time. She said that setting time for reading should be the first thing we write in our lesson plans. I loved her ideas of how many “extra minutes” there are in a day or year that we can squeeze in more time to read. Classroom interruptions rob us of precious time every day. I wish we could stop these or at least minimize them. I would love to see groups of students walking around every where they go with books in their hands. That would be awesome! I also love how she brings everything back to building relationships with your classroom. That’s what it’s all about!

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