Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Book Whisperer - ideas into action

I have talked to so many people about this book - as I was starting to read it, while I was reading it and after I finished reading it. Do not be surprised if you see more blog posts about it and the ideas Donalyn Miller shares.

Donalyn Miller is a teacher in Texas. She teaches language arts to grade 6. At the start of every school year she challenges the students to read 40 books that year. That is their goal. They can choose the books themselves. They do not have to write endless book reports or complete worksheets about the books. All they are asked to do is to read and keep a journal reflecting on their reading. In this journal they keep notes about books they would like to read in the future. Books other students tell them about. Donalyn sets herself a goal as well. Her goal is that by the end of the year every student in her class will have a love of reading.

Sounds like an impossible dream? I can imagine some of the students in her class being absolutely shocked at the thought of reading 40 books. Yet every year they all reach the goal. Many read more than 40 books. Her students score above the state standard levels in the standards tests every year. Donalyn teaches reading skills, comprehensions skills, all the necessary content for the language arts programme through the books her students choose for themselves. 

This is a librarian's dream. I was waiting expectantly for the pages Donalyn would devote to her class trips to the library. I was keen to read all the tips and anecdotes about how they modelled and taught book selection, book sharing, reading widely. There are two pages where Donalyn mentions her weekly or fortnightly visit to the library and that is it. No mention of partnership, collaboration. It is a positive experience admittedly but it is only a two page mention. Instead Donalyn exhorts teachers to develop their own class libraries, she has hundreds of books in her own library. 

Don't misunderstand me - I am not disappointed in this book. I am inspired by it. I love that Donalyn herself is an avid reader, that she enthuses so many students about reading. I am disappointed about the silence in the book about what an awesome resource the school library can be for such a programme. I crave to read about the partnership the school librarian can have with such a teacher. 

What can I implement in our library from this book? I am going to put this book in as many teachers' hands as possible. I am going to model how to choose books. I am going to encourage student voices to talk about their reading, their enjoyment and their selections. Already we have had wonderful times with grade 7, grade 3 on the rights of the reader and grade 4 are due in on Monday. All at the invitation of their teachers. I would love our school to become a book whispering school.

For more about Donalyn - she has this website - The Book Whisperer Please read her book, be inspired and then talk to me about how librarians can encourage teachers who want to be book whisperers in their own classrooms.