The Book Whisperer – Get Your Students Reading!

The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Read in Every Child by Donalyn Miller is an amazing book.

She writes . . .

The only groups served by current trends to produce endless programs for teaching reading are the publishing companies who make billions of dollars from their programs and tests.

I’ve know that for a long time. Many of these programs don’t get our students excited about reading. As such, our students do the bare minimum required and call it a day. That being said, I didn’t see much of an alternative to using these programs prior to reading this book.

Donalyn Miller is a sixth grade teacher and an avid reader. She shares this passion for reading with her students and gets them reading more than I ever thought was possible in the school year. She actually requires her students to read 40 books a year.

That I require students to read forty books may seem shocking when you are a student who has not read more than a book or two a year, but this hefty requirement prevents students from negotiating with me about whether they will read that much. Any teacher who expects students to read forty books is not going to accept a book or two. If I expect less, they would read less, or would wait until later in the school year to start. . .

By setting the requirement as high as I do, I ensure that students must have a book going constantly. Without the need to read a book every single day to stay on top of my requirement, students would read as little as they could. They might not internalize independent reading habits if my requirement expected less from them.

There are roughly forty weeks of school so that works out to a book a week. Normally, we get our students to read two books a year. Traditionally we do a novel study together as a class and then have the students write a book report on a book of their choosing. So this approach seems quite radical at first, but as I read this book, I became convinced that this would work in any classroom.

She sets genre requirements and has reading conferences with each and every student in class. The students become invested in their books and begin to internalize the reading process. They don’t just rush through the assigned readings to get it done because they don’t have assigned readings. They get to choose what they read.

I really love this book. Donalyn’s passion for reading and for reaching her students really shines through every page. She gives us practical tips to create a culture of readers in the classroom and I can’t wait to try out her ideas.

I also love how she gets her students using the small snippets of time that usually just get wasted every day. For example, her students bring their books to picture day and read quietly while waiting for their turn. They do the same thing as they wait for assemblies to start.

Miller writes, “I have commandeered this unstructured time for my students to read, and as a result, misbehavior at such times is almost nonexistent and my students rack up substantial reading time that they formally spent talking, getting into trouble, or standing around being bored.”

This is such an inspiring book. That is why I am added it to my Recommended Reads.

2 responses to “The Book Whisperer – Get Your Students Reading!”

  1. Hi Chase .. what an excellent idea and resource .. in this day and age – no e-devices would be good and the old fashioned page gives a focus ..

    Sounds a very good book .. cheers Hilary

  2. Hi Hilary,

    I agree. Real books are far superior but at the same time, reading is reading. I like how the author has set genre requirements. This could be modified for someone who has an e-reader so they would be required to read at least 5 paper-bound books.

    Good idea!