I’m not a grade school teacher nor do I have kids, but this book has crossed my path so many times over the years, most recently when I was browsing in the library for a new audiobook, that I decided I should probably check it out.
Donalyn Miller is a 6th grade reading teacher who advocates that the best way to get kids reading and keeping them reading is to give them in-class reading time, give them more control over what they read, and for teachers to use their own love of reading as a model.
Teachers, she says, should be “reading masters” who guide their students into reading and who challenge them, not test and worksheet givers who make kids slog through the same book at the same pace over way too long a time period. Most teachers go home and read what they love at night, so why not introduce students to the joys of that kind of reading, right? Makes sense to me.
I imagine her program might be a bit frustrating for teachers who are working within an inflexible school system (and I’ve heard about those), but Miller’s enthusiasm and ideas will inspire teachers by rekindling their own love of reading and teaching. Homeschooling parents might find this book helpful as well. And yes, she does also teach the required test prep that kids need to learn, but this is also a type of reading skill and she explains that to her students.
The main secret to getting and keeping a kid reading is to find out what interests the child and then recommending books along those interests. Miller also teaches kids how to preview books to see if it might be up their alley. Learning how to seek out their own books helps kids become proactive and enthusiastic readers and all around learners. Of course a big element of success is giving the kids time to read and so they have solo reading time in class everyday.
Miller requires her students to read 40 books during the school year. But not just any 40 books, she has quotas for various genres so kids get exposure to a wide variety of books, yet they also get to read their preferred genre(s). That made me think about my own reading and how I don’t often stretch myself as a reader. I might make some genre requirements for myself!
The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader In Every Child
by Donalyn Miller
Read by Hillary Huber
Originally published by Jossey-Bass, 2009
Audio version: Tantor Audio, 2012
Content rating: 4/5
Narrator rating: 2/5 (inconsistent tone & mood, occasionally robotic)