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Book Whisperer Book Study-Ch. 4

This book is one of the BEST I have ever read-TWICE! Yes, I read The Book Whisperer last year and have read it again! Our book study, however, is on chapter 4 this week: “Reading Freedom”. Hmmm, freedom, that is a term that you don’t hear too much of in the classrooms nowadays with all of the mandated “research based” scripted programs that are thrown at us. I, however, think that the states/nation need to start looking at “teacher research based” structures because that is where the true EVIDENCE is! 🙂

Donalyn Miller, the author of The Book Whisperer, is a dynamic 6th grade teacher who practices this reading freedom in her classroom each day. Choice is what it is all about!

I have to admit that last year (my first year in 6th grade with a mandated reading program) I did require the 40 book requirement and the genre requirement that Ch. 4 discusses, but I didn’t keep a check on it like I should have! I also didn’t give my students enough time to read EVERYDAY in the classroom so I only had 4 students who met the requirement out of 38!!! I was so disappointed, but now looking back at it I should just be disappointed in myself. You have to admit, most 6th graders are not lovers of reading by the time they reach me. In fact they are sick of it, and some even downright hate it! Sigh….. One thing that I DID do that really worked was to NOT implement the AR programs that the other teachers require. I told my kids they could read ANYTHING they wanted to-picture books, books below their grade level, books above their grade level. The restriction for that was that if the book was less than 40 pages they would have to read 5 of them to count as 1 book, while at the same time if the book was more than 250 pages it would count as 2 books.

The freedom of letting them read anything they wanted to did result in a few of my boys falling in love with a couple of books-Sounder, Hatchet, and Where the Red Fern Grows. I was extremely happy about that! 🙂

Rolling along to this upcoming year here is what I plan on doing:

1. Allow time for independent reading EACH day-I am going to implement The Daily 5 and CAFE this year so the kids will have plenty of time to read while I work with small groups and confer individually.

2. Encourage students to read during any downtime(in line and all waiting events)– They already do this when they finish with something before other students finish, but I am going to take it to the next level!

3. Create “rights of readers” list with the kids– My kids were astonished last year when I said-If you don’t like a book and just can’t get into it-TURN IT IN! They couldn’t believe that I had done that before and was giving them the “reading freedom” to do that! 🙂

4. 40 Book Requirement– I am going to require this again (with PLENTY of time to read in class). I am going to also let them know that I will be doing the 40 book requirement as well along with them. I am even going to keep my own notebook and do EVERYTHING that I require them to do with this requirement: reading log, genre tally sheet, response letters. What do you think they are going to say about this???? 🙂

5. Give them a genre requirement– I am going to alter Donalyn’s genre requirement a bit since poetry is not all over our state standards. Here is what my genre requirement will look like (I think). 🙂



Informational-2(They will probably meet this requirement by reading mostly children’s literature picture books so 10 of these will        meet the 2 required)

Traditional literature-2


Science Fiction-2


Historical fiction-3

Realistic fiction-5


Books recommended by friends-2

Choice- 14

6. Really have my kids study the genre characteristics– Donalyn does several things that expose her kids to different genres and teaches them the genre characteristics-check out pages 92-93 for her genre note sheet.


This chapter really hits the mark on “reading freedom” which is the backbone of getting the kids to read more, read often, and LOVE reading! I can’t wait to get to the next chapter (for the 3rd time :)) on the reading notebooks.


Book Challenge-Book#33


OK-Now that I have that out of the way, I can tell you a little bit about the book! I read this book last year, joined a book study on it this summer where we are reading a couple of chapters each week, and HAVE READ THE ENTIRE BOOK AGAIN!!!!!! It is so practical for the classroom. Donalyn is a 6th grade teacher who loves to read and instills that love for reading in her students each year. I really can’t say enough good things about this book-it is one of those books that you just have to read in your lifetime!

Go ahead and click on the picture above, buy you a copy, start reading, and jump into our book study!

If you want to join the book study all you have to do is go to this blog , start reading the posts about the book, and jump into the conversation! Lots of teachers involved in this book study are posting their reflections to the book and samples of what they are going to be implementing in their classrooms! 🙂


Book Challenge-Book#31

I have finally read a book that I disliked, and I feel guilty about it because it is supposed to be one of those “great reads”. I actually didn’t dislike it at the beginning, but began to the more I read. Please don’t hate me! And, shhhh, don’t tell anyone! 🙂

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

It started out ok(of course I don’t guess I’m really into war books too much), but then I just started to not jive too much with Henry, the main character. He was sort of cocky, and I don’t know…I just didn’t like him!

Of course, even though I don’t like it doesn’t mean my students won’t like it. I think I’m going to do what Donalyn Miller said she does in her book, The Book Whisperer. She tells her students that she couldn’t get into a book or didn’t like it and then asks them if anyone wants to try it! She said it works every time!

At least my next post for the book challenge will be a positive one-stay tuned! 🙂

Reading Interest Survey

Sorry this is so late in the week-I just got back from Chicago Wednesday night and am STILL trying to catch up!

I hosted the book study this week of Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer which was about student surveys.

Reading surveys/interest surveys help you get to know your students which in turn leads to more effective instruction. The idea is to take these surveys and comb through them thoroughly to be able to better match your students with appropriate books. I love this quote from Donalyn’s book:

“I mine these surveys for nuggets of information that will form the basis for book recommendations.”

And, she doesn’t just read the surveys and commit them to memory. She actually pulls the books from her classroom library and makes a stack for each student. YES, SHE DOES! Books for her morning class go on their desks-books for her afternoon class have their own place on the floor with sticky notes and names.

I have created my own interest survey for my 6th graders-it’s a revised version from Donalyn’s in The Book Whisperer and Nancie Atwell’s The Reading Zone. I can’t wait to see the results and have a book party with my students in August!

I am uploading a word version and a pdf version so you can choose which one you want! HAPPY SURVEYING!

Interest Survey WORD

Interest Survey PDF


Instilling a love of reading

Reading is my passion. My escape. My other world. How did I become such a lover of reading? I really don’t know. As far back as I can remember I have loved to read. I remember being around 4 years old and getting ANGRY on Sundays because everyone was reading, and I couldn’t because I didn’t know how! My mom would read a book, and my stepdad would read the newspaper (not real sure what my 9 year old brother was doing). 🙂 I think I was even known for pitching a fit every once in awhile because it wasn’t FAIR that everyone else could read and I COULDN’T! My mom did the only thing she knew how-she enrolled me in a private kindergarten(they didn’t have public just yet) a year early so that I could learn to read and not bug her anymore! So I went to kindergarten for 2 years instead of 1-and learned to read! The only 2 things that I remember learning to do in kindergarten was read and blow a bubble with bubblegum!


Now I’m wondering-how do we instill a love for reading in our students? It’s definitely not to keep doing what we are currently doing in the classroom: “make” them read certain texts ALL the time without any choice, give them assignments to do EVERYTIME they read, test them on EVERYTHING they read, drill and kill for standardized tests.

I’m sure there are more ways than this that we are killing the joy of reading (even before it starts), but these are just a few that stand out to me. Even though I love to read-I wouldn’t read if I had to write a book report each time, or take a test each time!!

Kelly Gallagher explains it best in his book-Readicide. If you are worried about what we are doing to our kids in school concerning reading, then you have got to read this book!

This book will really make you rethink your teaching practices!

I ran across a blog post this morning that puts sort of different spin on this reading thing. Cool Cat Teacher (who is a technological whiz) wrote a post about getting angry about what we are doing to kids and their reading. She cited the statistics about how many people who NEVER read another book after graduating high school, and amazingly how many college students who never read another book after college! Check out her post:

SO-what can we do about this? Well, I have been reading lots of blogs AND professional books this summer to try and figure it out. The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller, is a good place to start.

This is what I have come up with to help instill a love of reading in our students:

1. Give them a CHOICE of what they want to read

2. Give them the TIME to read

3. Let them be SOCIAL about it. Let’s face it-kids are social creatures. Use that to our advantage!

4. Incorporate TECHNOLOGY into our reading-this is becoming the way of the world, we might as well go with the flow

5. TALK to them about their reading-find out about them as readers, share their reading with them, share your reading with them

Also, we need to let them in on our passion of reading-no, I don’t mean that we need to preach to them about the importance of reading. Let our light shine through for our own love of reading.

What do you do to instill a love of reading in your students?