When I started reading this book I knew Donalyn Miller was going to capture the meat and potatoes of how to awaken the love of reading in every student. When I first read how she requires her students to read forty books during the year in her class I first thought “How the heck does she manage that?” but the fact is her students reach this goal or surpass it. She has also proved her methods by having her students pass the state’s reading assessment tests for the past four years. We’ve seen so many children read less and less in the classrooms and outside of the classrooms and many of them struggle in reading, as Miller states “they don’t see reading as meaningful in their life” (p 2). While everyone from parents and teachers scramble to find the magical answer on how to turn this around groups and companies are reaping the profits by special books and programs.
I admire how Miller points out “the only groups served by current trends to produce endless programs for teaching reading are the publishing and testing companies who make billions of dollars from their programs and tests” (p 3). We have implemented programs and worksheets to help teach reading but ultimately you still need a student to open up a book and read it. When I read this I thought “oh yeah, this sounds way too simple and surely there must be some type of trick”. The problem is so many school programs leave out independent reading in the classrooms. To build lifelong readers has to start in the classroom where they can find great books, and be able to discuss and build their own reading community. This book will outline the practical strategies on how to implement this type of curriculum in the classroom and how to get that love of reading and connection between self and book in each student.
In chapter 1 Miller reflects on her first year teaching and what a disaster it was. This gives me hope as a student teacher that it’ll be ok if my first year teaching is not as perfect as I am envisioning it to be. It’s during this year and after Miller starts to transform her classroom into a reading workshop. “Being the best reader and writer in the room is not about power and control instead, I must be a source of knowledge that my students access while learning how to read and write” (p 15). What a great concept instead of the teacher dispensing knowledge they should guide the students as they come near to their own understandings. In this workshop students need the time to read and look through the books , students need to choose their own books, respond in natural ways to books they are reading, and students will make a community where everyone will make meaningful contributions. Donalyn Miller had to become the role of “master reader” in her workshop classroom in order to inspire her students. She had to inform her students in some way that “reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten…helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education…shows you how to be a better human being” (p 18).