Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Review: The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

Author: Donalyn Miller
Genre: Nonfiction - Education

Publisher: Jossey-Bass
Publication Date: March 16, 2009
Source: Borrowed from the local library and then purchased

Did I like the cover?: I love the photo on the front cover of the little girl with her nose in a book. Very fitting for the book.

First lines: I am not a reading researcher. I am not a reading policy expert. I do not have a Ph.D. What I am is a reading teacher, like many of you.  

This book reminds me of: a book I wished I had read earlier in my career, but wasn't available because it didn't exist back then.

Book synopsis from Goodreads:
Donalyn Miller says she has yet to meet a child she couldn't turn into a reader. No matter how far behind Miller's students might be when they reach her 6th grade classroom, they end up reading an average of 40 to 50 books a year. Miller's unconventional approach dispenses with drills and worksheets that make reading a chore. Instead, she helps students navigate the world of literature and gives them time to read books they pick out themselves. Her love of books and teaching is both infectious and inspiring. The book includes a dynamite list of recommended "kid lit" that helps parents and teachers find the books that students really like to read.

I absolutely loved this book. It was on my to-read list for the longest time and once the school year ended in June, I finally had the time and energy to read teaching-related books. I initially borrowed this book for our local library, but immediately purchased it after I finished it (in one evening) so I that I could have my own copy to write in and plaster with post-its.

This book was everything I was hoping for and more. This is the book I wish I was around when I first started teaching. It is no secret that I love reading and have loved reading for as far back as I can remember. One of the reasons I became a teacher was because I wanted to share my love reading with kids and instill that same love of reading within them. Even though I think I've done a decent job of sharing that with my students over the years with various things that I've implemented in my classroom, I loved that this book gave me practical ideas that would be easy to introduce in my classroom right away.

The hardest thing about being a teacher nowadays is the pressure to perform on tests. It's all about the test scores and subsequently, what we know to be "good teaching" goes by the wayside because there really isn't any time to do it. About a year ago, I was almost at the end of the year and realized that I just did not like teaching reading anymore. I dreaded that part of the day because it was so dull to me. It was all about reading passages and answering test questions. No wonder they were bored, I WAS BORED! My grade-level and I had a deep discussion about it and we decided we need to do read-alouds again, not because we wanted to teach some standard or whatever, but just to enjoy the act of reading and sharing a story together.  Go figure.

I devoured this book in one evening and then promptly raved all about it on my facebook to share with my fellow colleagues and teacher friends. I feel like it started a little "Book Whisperer" revolution amongst my closest teacher friends and several of them bought, read and also implemented ideas from the book as well. My grade-level team also read the book and we started off this school year with a mutual enthusiasm to create lifelong readers in our students.

My students plowed through the book tubs full of books from my classroom library on the first day of school. We all read together and it started my year on the right foot with reading at the core of my mornings. They are currently deeply into their 40 book challenge this year (and beating my measly 8 books) and on fire with the number of books they are reading. We have book commercials on Fridays and I love seeing how many of them are reading books that their peers have recommended. Even though sometimes I curse myself for doing them because they take up a lot of time each evening, my students and I converse once a week with letters that we write back and forth to each other in their reader's notebooks. I really know my students as readers. They come to me asking for recommendations and it delights my heart when they dig through my classroom library each day looking for their next favorite book.

Thank you, Donalyn Miller, for helping me to create the classroom of readers that I always dreamed of.

It was an fantastic read and I highly recommend it to teachers who love reading and want to create a classroom of lifelong readers. While it shared some theory and education philosophies, it definitely provided a lot of practical tips and ideas that were easy to implement into my classroom. The way Miller writes makes you feel like you're having coffee with an old friend. Her love of reading pours out of this book and it is so contagious, you can help but catch it and want to pass it on. Get this book now, you won't be disappointed!


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