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The Book Whisperer: Chapter 1

There and Back Again

I'm so excited to start week one of a seven week book study!  Some blogging friends and myself will be sharing our thoughts each Monday from now until mid-November about the book "The Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller.  I know this is not a new book; I had heard so many great things about it from others I had to check it out.  I'm glad I did!  I'm feeling so inspired by her ideas, and can't wait to share them with you too!

Each week, we will all be posting our thoughts, chapter by chapter.  You can get to the other ladies posts at the end of this one.  You might even see a few freebies along the way!  Excited? Me too. 

Chapter 1 is called "There and Back Again".  It's about Donalyn's journey as a reader from child to teacher.  You can tell right away that she has a strong passion for reading - she shares a story of her and her husband and writes, "Books are our love letters (or apologies) passed between us, adding a layer of conversation beyond our spoken words".  All I can say is, "wow".  I think that's so romantic!!

Donalyn says she has her first wake up call in regards to reading when she shared the book "The View from Saturday" by E.L. Konigsburg with her grade 6 students.  She loves this book and was sad to see them just going through the motions - doing the work because she asked, but not loving it.  I've been there too!  I don't think to the same extent, because I think with 4th graders it's a lot easier to make them love things.  Do you know what I mean? If they love you, they tend to love everything you ask them to do.  They aren't as tough a sell as 6th graders.  However, I have definitely had a few in the past who are just doing the work so that I won't give them a hard time.  

Her solution? Make reading more personalized and open ended.  Instead of assigning a book, let them choose.  Instead of having pages of fill in the blanks type questions, discussions and personalized written entries that are meaningful to real life.  She describes her classroom as a workshop, and her students as reading apprentices under this new model.

The last tip that Donalyn gives in the chapter is to stay true to yourself as a teacher.  She warns that if you try to emulate the "master teachers" who've written books, you'll always be feeling stressed out and inadequate.  Take the ideas, and adapt them to make them work for you and your students.  Share your passion.  Such an important thing to remember in this world, reading or otherwise.

One thing I realized, was that my kids had enough time to read books, but I wasn't really giving them browsing time.  They are allowed to browse during quiet reading time, but I usually am giving them heck if they are over there for more than a few minutes.  I thought of my own book browsing in the book store.  I can spend hours in there!  Why am I harassing them to pick a book and get to reading?  One change I'm making this year is to have a specific browsing time once a week.

Check the links below for more thoughts on Chapter 1!

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  1. Ha, I was thinking about how "letting my students browse" is something that I'm not good at, then I read your comment at the end! I guess I'll have to be better about not harassing them at the class library, although we both know that there are still students who are using it to waste time...

    I just requested the book from our library. There is only one copy and it's checked out. May need to look into other options. I've been meaning to read it. Have a great week.

    4th Works

    1. I know you will love this book Mary! Thanks for commenting!

  2. Angela, I totally agree with the tip about not trying to emulate the master teachers to the point where you stress yourself out. I've certainly done that! I still have to remind myself to just take away a few key points and adapt so that it works for me.
    Thanks for the book study!!
    Grade ONEderful
    Ruby Slippers Designs

  3. I loved how Miller and her husband exchange books as love letters and apologies. Agreed, very romantic.