Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Book Whisperer - Intro to Chapter 1


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).


  1. When I saw 40+ books, I thought, "Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat?? I WISH!!" I would LOVE for my students to enjoy reading on their own. Every single Thursday is dedicated to silent reading time and my CT has her own class library for the students to choose books from, but I feel like a lot of the time some students choose books and just sit quietly until the class period is over. I think having small group discussions is a great idea how developing a passion to read, and really helps discovering their favorite genre. At the end of the semester students will get to choose from two different books for independent reading, and I think I will incorporate group discussions at that point. Great post!

  2. I'm reading the same book! So far (I'm up to chapter 2) it appears that Miller has only worked with elementary school students. I wonder if she has any experience at the secondary level, and whether or not her techniques would work with "older" students who have outgrown the "I want to be teacher's pet" phase?!

  3. I think that independent reading and talking about that reading and writing about that reading is important for secondary students and adults and all of us. In a world full of plenty, why are we not opening up possibilities for and joy in reading? I am a big fan of this book and look forward to seeing what you have to say about it.

  4. My school is only Pre-K to 2nd grade, so our main focus is reading. They do have various reading programs that we are required to use by a certain reading grant we have. Some have good parts, however I do agree that students need more opportunities to just read. I have time everyday after lunch were I allow my students to just read silently and for the ones that can't read, I read aloud to them. I'm really looking forward to hearing about what this book has to say about reading workshops.

  5. I like the way she presents the independent reading, discussing and then reflecting through writing. 40 books or more is a lot, but it seems that she is just creating a love of reading and sort of, kind of turning her back on the reading workshops and reading worksheets. Can't wait to read more from you!

  6. This book sounds awesome and I can't wait to find out her secret of having so much success in the classroom!
    I'll be reading your blog yo!
    I like that the author was honest that her first year wasn't that great. It makes us see that she's human. Sometimes when teachers write books and they sound like they have been perfect from day 1, I feel like I can't measure up to them. With her honesty, I look forward to learning what she did. Sounds like you picked a great book!