Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

"Readers are made, not born!”
When I was in graduate school, one of my professors talked about the idea that we needed a goal as literature teachers.

After much thought, I decided that I wanted every student to love reading as much as I did. To this end, for the past eighteen years, I have been teaching literature with my whole heart with that goal in mind. I read and read and read always looking for books that I can introduce to my students. However, after reading this book, I have a new goal: to turn students into lifelong readers. People who don’t just read every now and then, but people who read to make sense out of life, to find the best deal on a car, for pleasure, and people who pass this love on to their children.

I can hear that same love that I have for reading in Donalyn’s book: The Book Whisperer. It comes across that Donalyn loves reading and was lucky enough to marry a man who loves reading as much as she does. I just love how Donalyn abandoned the idea of teaching one novel with tons of worksheets to talking to students about book, allowing students to be very honest about where they were as readers, doing authentic assessments, sharing some of her struggles with reading with her students, and basically fostering a classroom where students see the value of reading.

Nothing makes me happier than running into a former student, and she saying to me that she found her Teacake. Of course she is referring to Teacake from the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. With this book, I would talk to the students about ideas such as a woman finding her voice and how the message of this book was revolutionary for the time in which it was written. Oh, the teaching of this novel would make me so happy, and I hope that it made my students happy and want to read.

After reading The Book Whisperer, I wonder how many of my students actually loved Their Eyes Were Watching? I am wondering if this book turned some kids off? What if I had given the students choice in what they read, would I have reached more students? Caught up in my own love for this novel, I never stopped to ponder these ideas. I would give the assessments and move on to the next book that I loved.

This book made me eager to go back to my classroom and share my blog with my students so that they can see how much I love books. I can’t wait to hear about their experiences with reading and hear about the books that they love to read. I am looking forward to working with the school’s librarian to ensure that students know exactly what is available for their pleasure. A whole lot of things will be done differently this coming up school year.

Now, I must admit that while reading this book,  I thought that Donalyn must be a White, middle class teacher who teaches students very similar to her. She never mentions the importance of culturally, diverse books. She also does not mention much about grading, and we all know that those report cards go out four times a year and a teacher is suppose to give grades. Also, she mostly talks about sixth graders, and there may need to be some modifications for a high school classroom. (Look for my book for high school teachers.)

My People, I love this book soooooo much: it made me reflect on my love of reading and how to make sure that I convey my love for reading with my students and hopefully that love will spill all over them.

If you are a teacher, read this book. If you work with children, read this book. If you love to read, read this book. If you have children, read this book.


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