The Book Whisperer: chapter 4

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving.  

I am very thankful for the gift of reading.  A perfect day would definitely include time somewhere warm (either sunshine or cosy wood stove) with a wonderful book.  (And someone to bring me either hot or cold drinks on demand!)

My gratitude to my mum who read books aloud to me and my brother, teaching us about the cadence of language, and who made going to the library to bring home mountains of books part of our regular life routine.  Thanks to my teachers who encouraged a love of reading to the best of their knowledge and ability, especially my high school English teacher whose love of literature was palpable.  And love and thanks to my husband who does not roll his eyes (at least where I can see him) when I drag him to another book store or book selling gift shop "just to look" and come out with a bag of books that I ask him to carry.  


On that note of thankfulness, on to chapter 4, aptly named Freedom to Read, of Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer. 

Miller expects her grade 6 students to choose and read books during the school year.  They are allowed to "quit" a book if it is not right for them.  They are allowed to reread books that they fall in love with.  Miller and her students discuss what rights readers should have; then she shares with them Daniel Pennac's Rights of the Reader. Download a poster version illustrated by Quentin Blake (of Roald Dahl fame) [here]. Miller wants her students to have as much control over their reading lives as possible.  



Miller does provide a framework for her students' independent reading. 


Each student is expected to read at least 40 books during the school year.  There are no "consequences" for not meeting the 40 book goal (although the students are not told that - the conversations act on the assumption that of course all students will read 40 books).  The goal is to read daily, to read avidly and to develop a life long reading habit. 



source: inspirational famouse quotes
Within the 40 book expectation is a specific number required for each genre. She wants her students to be able to identify various genres, and have reading experience in them. Once again, Miller's overall goal of her students self identifying as readers is more important than reading the correct number of books per genre. 

Translation to kindergarten.


My students' book/reading life at school is in 2 parts:  me reading aloud to them, and the kids reading books of their choice. 


No expectation on number of books read.  No expectation on genre.  Some kids will read snake books all year.  One year, a young lad read Pete the Cat every day.  Only after he had read Pete would he choose another book. My goal is for them to develop or nurture a love of books and reading. If a daily does of Pete or snakes is needed  ...  then it's all good.




Miller has reminded me about genre.  We talk about fiction and non-fiction.  And maybe in kindergarten we don't need to expand on the genres any more than that.  I'll have to ponder that.  Thoughts?




But just as Miller introduces her sixth graders to a variety of genres through read alouds, I can make sure that I am reading books to my kindergarten kids from the range of genres.  I can make sure that we read poetry anthologies together, that we read fantasy and informational books and biographies and traditional literature (like Stone Soup - see above) ...  I can be intentional about reading a variety of genres.

I am looking forward to reading what ideas these lovely bloggers bring from Freedom to Read. 













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32 comments

  1. Great post, Sandi! I love the little girl with her big purple reading glasses.
    Happy Thanksgiving!

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    1. Doesn't everyone wear purple reading glasses when reading Pete the Cat?!?

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    2. Hi Sandi, I am an EDM student at the University of South Alabama as well. I hope you had a fantastic holiday and was able to enjoy some family time. I think you are definitely on the right path with your students. I love the fact that you allow your students to choose their own books instead of assigning them. Different kids have different likes and tastes and you allow your students to express that by giving them the freedom to choose. I know our world has changed dramatically and most people are constantly reading updates, statuses and posts on social media; but no one takes the time to slow down and read a book anymore. I am guilty of that myself. But if we just take time with our students like you are doing; hopefully we can allow them to fall in love with reading books again. I hope you have a wonderful day. - Marcus Thomas

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  2. Hi Sandi! I am in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. I love your post for this week. It is so important to let kids choose which books they would like to read. Different kids enjoy reading different things. It is unfair to make a student read a book even if they do not enjoy the genre. They will learn more and enjoy it more if it is about something they understand and like to learn about. Please visit our Class Blog, and My Personal Blog.

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    1. Research has shown that personal choice in reading is incredibly important in learning to read.

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  3. Hi Sandi! I am in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama and I loved your post! I think it is a great idea to let children choose which books they get to read. If we force them to read something they do not like, they will always associate reading with being boring or bad. We need as many readers at an early age as we can!

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    1. I believe that providing the right environment for children to fall in love with reading and books is at least, if not more important, as teaching early reading skills in kindergarten.

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  4. Hi, I am a student in EDM310 at the University of South Alabama and I really enjoyed the topic of this post. I love the idea of giving children the freedom to choose whatever books they like, and to be able to re-read them if they want. I would have definitely appreciated that as a child, But just as it is important for students to read what they love, it is equally important for them to be exposed to all kinds of literature, and this was a great reminder.
    Happy Thanksgiving!
    My EDM310 Blog

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    1. I look at it this way - the kids get to choose what they read; I get to choose (most of) what I read to them. I make sure that they have a varied literature diet. Best of both worlds :)

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  5. HI, I am a student in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 Class at the University of South Alabama. I really loved this post. As a mom my children love to pick the book for the nightly ritual of reading the bedtime story. We have just finished Charlottes Web and they really loved it. I really enjoy reading to them and seeing them enjoy the story and want to know whats going to happen next. I do believe that it is very important to read to the children from a very young age help sparks their love for it.
    Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!
    Kim's EDM310 Blog

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    1. Bedtime story time is a very important gift we can give our kids. I miss that special time with my kids. What book is next on the bed time list?

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  6. Hey Sandi! I too am in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn the advantages of technology in the classroom these days by being in this media class. It is astonishing to see what kids can accomplish with the help of media and technology in the classroom. I also am thankful to be asble to curl up with a good book and read because I too LOVE to read fiction and fantasy. Just some random thought to post on your blog! Happy Thanksgiving in Canada! I am looking forward to ours in Novemeber :).

    Warmly,
    Aimee Perkins

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    1. In the media course I took as part of my education training, we learned how to tread a projector (with a time limit!), make gestetner copies with 3 colours and make slides and use a slide projector. Yup! Dating myself! Now I use my iPhone.

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  7. Hello Ms. Purdell-Lewis!

    My name is Elizabeth Barnett and I am an elementary education student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama, United States, in an educational media class (EDM 310 -Microcomputing Systems).

    It is great to hear about Miller's strategies for reading in her Year 6 class. Since students seem to be losing an interest in reading by fourth grade, it wonderful to hear how Miller is encouraging her students to become life-long learners. I want to teach in an upper-elementary grade, so I will keep her independent reading strategy in mind for when I have my own classroom. Also, your comment about your student who had to read Pete the Cat everyday made me smile. I actually recently made a book trailer for Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes. I am sure he would have loved it!

    Thank you for your post! Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving!

    Sincerely,
    Elizabeth Barnett
    My EDM 310 Blog
    Twitter: @lizabethbarnett
    EDM 310 Class Blog

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    1. Since you are planning to teach upper elementary, I would strongly recommend Miller's book The Book Whisperer. Milller is a Grade 6 teacher, and has honed her craft through many years in the classroom.

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  8. Hi Sandi,
    My name is Kayla Cooper and I am in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class. I enjoyed reading your blog. I agree with your idea of kids having a freedom to read. I believe when you put a barrier on reading it lose's kids interest in reading. Great Post Sandi!

    My Blog

    Have a great day!
    Kayla Cooper

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    1. Don't we all feel more empowered when we have choice? I know that I do!

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  9. I think maybe fiction and non-fiction is enough for kindergarten. You could talk about poetry. Certainly don't need to talk about things like "historical fiction"!! Maybe biography if it came up in a read aloud (thinking around Remembrance Day... John McCrae.)

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    1. I like your point about talking about specific genres. Exposure to that information is not a bad thing. I never know what it might spark in whose brain! Thanks.

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  10. I think it would really depend on your students. Some in kindergarten would be ready to learn about different genres and for others, fiction/non-fiction is a perfect start! At least you're getting that far with them :)

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    1. Sorting and classifying literature - now I'm thinking that my K geniuses can stretch their brains and learn more than fiction and non-fiction.

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  11. Hi Sandi. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I am also a student in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class. I enjoyed your post. I see a huge benefit in allowing students to chose their own books to read. It captivates them and motivates them to take their reading futher. I think the idea of selecting their own books goes beyond even reading. I see it helping to make them a lifelong learner as well. For kindergarteners, reading aloud different genres is a great way to introduce them to the variety of books. I myself am very grateful for reading as well. My father was much like your brother and made going to the library a weekly event. We would spend hours there. Now I do the same with my two children and it is amazing to see my own two year old son settle down and try to read a book by himself. These lessons are indispensable.

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    1. Isn't it heart warming to see wee kids enjoying books. One of my favourite pictures of my kids is when they were probably 2 and 4, sitting together on a rocking chair and the 4 year old was "reading" to the 2 year old. Those were the days ...

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  12. Hello,
    My name is Katie Jester. I am a student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile majoring in Elementary Education. I am currently in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 class.

    I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
    Books are definitely something that can really enrich lives. I love reading and if I were not so busy I think I could spend all day reading. I am the mother of a soon to be three year old boy and I can see through him the importance of reading for children (and at his age, to children). He incorporates a lot of what we read into his play. He has made songs about some of his books and he will play out the scenes in his books. I definitely see it opening gateways for him.
    I like how you mention in "The Book Whisperer" it mentions a focus on different genres. Children should definitely be encouraged to read genres they enjoy, but it is good for them to experience books outside of their preferred genre. They will never know they love something if they are never introduced to it.

    Katie Jester's EDM 310 Blog

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    1. I love seeing children incorporate the books they have enjoyed into their play, their language and the way that they experience the world. It can make a child's world so much bigger and richer.

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  13. Hello Sandi!
    I am a student in Dr. Strange's EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. It amazes me how well the students adapted to the option of choosing their own books. Do students have trouble with pushing themselves to read harder books? Students need reading for every subject so it is important that we teach them to love what they are required to do. Thanks for the great idea for my future classroom and Happy Thanksgiving!
    Julie Jones
    Check out my blog!

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    1. My kids didn't have any problem choosing their own books. Those who read with their families at home choose what books they want read to them. It is a natural extension. The difficulty was choosing only 2 books to take to their reading mats. Some figured that they needed around 10. But they did not want to be responsible for putting them back where they found them! In kindergarten, we read the words, read the pictures or retell the story. During reading time, reading skills are not my top priority, so I don't worry about them choosing harder books.

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  14. My name is Coley Stephens and I am an elementary education student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Alabama, United States, in an educational media class (EDM 310 -Microcomputing Systems).

    I think it is a great thing to get your kids to read so many books. I read a lot, I typically only read during the summer because I feel like I am cheating on my school work. I started really reading in elementary student. I can thank the sweetest librarian in the whole world for my love of books. Do your students ever want to read really hard books that might be out of their reading level? I was always the one who challenged my level. Thank you for all of the amazing thoughts and ideas for my future classroom. I hope my kids love to read as much as I do.
    Also, Hope you have a great thanksgiving.
    Coley Stephens

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    1. My kids often want to read above their reading level. That's when I remind them to read the pictures or retell the story. Librarians are worth their weight in gold for so many reasons - one of them is instilling a love of books in so many children's lives.

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  15. And I'm grateful to MY mum who read books aloud to me and my brother (at home or at the dentist), teaching us about the cadence of language, and who made going to the library to bring home mountains of books part of our regular life routine (and then I brought mountains of books home for you when I worked at the library!).

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  16. Hi I'm Alex from Dr. Strange's EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. Growing up, I loved reading. I loved it up until we were assigned summer readings; where we were to read the book, pick a sentence out, and write a quick sentence on that sentence, and then when the school year began we were given a huge test on the book. Because of this I stopped enjoying reading recreationally, and I still do. I do believe that kids should be able to choose their own books. I agree with Miller that students should get to quit the book if they don't like it. I believe in choice over assigned reading. Great blog, I will be following on pinterest also.
    -Alex Odell
    My EDM310 Blog
    My Twitter: @aso902_usa

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  17. Hi My name is Shayla McCorvey I attend the University of South Alabama. I think this is a great post! I like how you are able to engage your students in learning, and how you are able to let them choose their book of their own. By letting the student's choose books on their own they will be able to show interest of what they would like to read and also have good comprehension skills as well..

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