The Book Whisperer: chapter 2

This book has been a wee bit of calm in the storm of the last week.

Hopefully it has been a bit of serenity for the other book study bloggers in their crazy weeks.

We all live in British Columbia, Canada, and we were all on strike since the middle of June.  (It's been nasty - on so many levels.)

A week ago, we got a new contract, and spent last 

week end madly getting our classrooms ready to start school 3 weeks late on Monday.

It has been madness.  Wonderful to get back in our classrooms and see our kids again.  But madness.  

Now, onto chapter two  of Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer - Everybody Is a Reader

A student's question about books in the classroom spurred Miller into leaving her beginning of the year lecture about rules and routines and dive headfirst into the love that brought her into the classroom - reading and books. 

She now starts every school year with a book frenzy - students delving into the classroom library choosing books to read, sharing favourite books, asking questions about new books, and a teacher, knowledgeable about the books in her library, offering suggestions and brimming with book love. 

Miller's over-arching belief about her students is that they are all readers.  She sees every one of her students as a reader.  

Yes, they have varying levels of readiness and interest, and need different learning supports - but they are all seen as readers. 

Miller's intention (one of my favourite go-to teacher books is Debbie Miller's Teaching with Intention) that all her students are readers, informs how she describes their levels of reading readiness.  Intention shifts how we perceive things - and how we react to them. 

Developing readers are students who read below grade level expectations; as well as needing explicit reading instruction, they need hours and hours of self selected book-in-hand reading time. 

Dormant readers are "good enough" readers who read what they have to for school, but do not see themselves as "readers" and do not seek out reading for pleasure; these readers need the opportunity to find their self identity as a reader - lots of time finding and reading books that meet their interests.

Underground readers are gifted readers who find the constraints of school assigned reading get in the way of their real reading life; since these students already love reading, teachers need to tap into that love and use it to meet instructional goals. 

I was an underground reader, reading my "hidden" in the desk book, dreading the everybody-read-a-paragraph aloud technique, wondering how good books could be so ruined by having to read them at school, and mentally cursing the book report due at the beginning of every month.  I am sorry for being a smart a** to some of my teachers who were trying to teach while I was trying to read, but, truthfully, I am not sorry that I was trying to read. 
Translate to a beginning of the year kindergarten classroom when I hope that they can recognize their names and we are talking about letters and the sounds they make ...

Children begin school with varying experience with books.  My developing readers have not had a lot of lap time story reading experiences.  They don't have a lot of books - children's or otherwise - at home.  They don't see family members reading for pleasure.  They need explicit instruction on how books work (concepts of print) and lots of time being read to and interacting with books.

My dormant readers have had some book experience, have had stories read to them, but it is not a valued part of their lives.  They do not connect books and stories and reading with delight.  

In kindergarten, underground readers have not yet learned to go underground.  They love books - and they show it!

This picture was taken by the mum of one of my students just minutes before the bell on the very last day teaching these kids. (The reason that they are standing is that I told them to "squiggle in close" - and they figured they could get closest by standing.)

I thought it was rather fitting that the last thing that we shared together was a book.  

Together we built a community that valued reading.  

That was my responsibility as their teacher: to create an environment - both physical and emotional - that valued all the readers in the room, where ever they were on the reading continuum, and celebrated reading.

The classroom environment is filled with books - all topics (we seem to have a lot of snake and shark books!), all genres, various sizes ...

The kids know that reading is one of my favourite things to do - and that I can usually be persuaded to get new books for the classroom (maybe that's how we ended up with so many snake and shark books).

Explicit instruction. Concepts of print.  Phonemic awareness.  Word work. We learn and practice new skills.

And it is safe.  Our classroom is a safe place to learn things, to practice new skills ... and we are allowed to make mistakes.  It's one of the ways that we learn. 

These things are my responsibilities.  

And then I need to let go. 

My students, kindergarten kids at the beginning of their school career, need to have choice and responsibility.  

Because community is never one way.  And reading is not a top down experience. 

Check out what my fellow BC teachers are pondering about chapter 2. 

Image Map


  1. It was madness, wasn't it? Here's hoping this week is calmer. I love how you described what each reader type looks like in K. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Let's hope this week slows down a bit. But I am not counting on it! Looking forward to reading other grade level reflections on this chapter.

  2. So glad you get to be back growing new readers! My kids think the amount of books I read is nuts! I hope they copy me:-)!
    Chickadee Jubilee

    1. Isn't reading just so wonderful - my idea of an ideal afternoon is sitting in the sun with a good book and someone to keep the cold drinks coming! I hope that your students "catch" your love of reading too!

  3. I'm actually surprised how much I'm enjoying this book the second time through. I'm getting much more out of it this time.
    And yes, my week has been madness, too! I've been at school every day (except today 'cause I had ukulele) until 6 or 7. The weekend just wasn't enough time to get ready after the strike.
    I like how you say the kids need choice AND responsibility. Sometimes I worry we don't give them enough, either at home or at school.
    Grade ONEderful

    1. Yes, it has been a couple of weeks of very long days.
      My new students are pretty big on choice right now, not so happy about responsibility. And I am not talking about learning to read!!

  4. I hated the everybody read a paragraph thing. It was the worst.


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