Monday, July 1, 2013

The Book Whisperer - Share Your Thoughts!

Since The Book Whisperer comes highly recommended by many teachers, I, of course, had to purchase it for myself!  I started the book this morning and couldn't put it down!  The author, Donalyn Miller, provides a fascinating, eye-opening perspective on how we teach reading in our classrooms.  The main focus of the book is how, as teachers, our ultimate goal should be to help instill the love of reading and to create lifelong readers, but how this often gets lost in shuffle of testing and school requirements. 

As I know it has with other teachers, this book has caused me to question some of my teaching practices.  I currently have required home reading logs in my classroom and have an incentive program based on the Accelerated Reading (AR) quizzes my students take. (This program is used school-wide and is strongly promoted.)  Here are a few quotes from Donalyn Miller that are resonating with me:

Accelerated Reader
"Programs like Accerlerated Reader or Scholastic Reading performance counts, in which books are assigned a point value and students must complete a multiple-choice test after reading them, are the worst distortion of reading I can think of."

"After all, how many adult readers would choose to read if they had to take a multiple-choice test for every book they finished?"

Reading Logs
"The bottom line: this log is about you, not your students.  Logs don't give an accurate account of how much students are reading, and maintaining them does not motivate them to read more, either."

"The log is a reward for students who have strong home support for reading, but a punishment for those who don't. Thus, it never serves the students it's supposed to."

"The only way you will know that your students read every day is to watch them read right in front of you."

Incentive Programs
"Unfortunately, the only purpose these programs serve is to convince students there is no innate value in reading and that it is only worth doing if there is a prize attached."

What are your thoughts on reading logs and incentive programs?

This book is definitely worth the read! I'm curious to hear what others have taken away from it.  You may not agree with every point the author is making, but I think it does encourage us to reflect on our teaching practices and to not lose sight of what is  most important for our students as readers!


  1. I started reading this book yesterday and like you I immediately started to question some of my practices. I teach 3rd grade and I believe that whole group reading {where we are all reading the same text} is crucial for reading development at this age, but I also give my students independent reading time where they can practice our reading strategies with a book of their choice!

  2. I haven't read this book, but I need to with all of the wonderful blog posts about it!

    My school uses AR. Our new principal (former 4th grade teacher) was a struggling reader as a child. He hated AR and similar programs as a child. In talking with people from AR, their program wasn't meant to be about getting the most points, but about finding good fit books. With his new position we are taking a different stance on AR.

    Next year, "goals" are going to be based on comprehension. 80% or above per term. Perhaps a better step than just attaining a certain amount of points we'll see.


    Teaching Tales Along the Yellow Brick Road

  3. I read this book last summer and totally changed the way that I taught reading last year. It was an amazing change to watch kids asking for more silent reading time, and their journal entries showed me a lot more about their comprehension than the typical reading comprehension assignments.
    We did still use AR in the classroom (because it's a "strongly encouraged" program) but it was not a main focus of the reading curriculum like it had been in the past.

  4. I found your blog on Pinterest by searching organization ideas and struck this post quite by accident. This is a topic near and dear to my heart. After interning with Nancie Atwell, I dropped reading logs about five years ago. It is inauthentic, if you think about it. I mean, do YOU write down the title, start and end time of your personal reading? I also found myself as a parent, totally forging the end of grade period logs of my own son---a voracious reader. It was counterproductive. I took up, instead, a status of the class. This puts the record keeping squarely on my shoulders-the professional. I check in daily to my kids reading, and if they are progressing approximately twenty pages a day---we are good to go. The status makes a great record for me to conference with students to push them further, guide them in another direction if I see stalling and even serves as a great tool to share with parents during conferences if need be. AR? No thank you. My last school did away with it over five years ago. However, my last assignment (a private school) pushed it to the hilt. Reading and thinking are grey-they usually cannot be measured in multiple choice and certainly not in the minute details many AR tests quiz kids on. Higher level thinking skills is what our kids need and AR does not deliver. The money districts spend on the program can be well utilized in putting quality books into classroom and school libraries and into teacher training on how to guide kids into elevating their thinking when they read. Incentives? Nope. Intrinsic motivation is what I'm looking for. I am not a pizza coupon, can we get enough books read to duct the principal to the wall (this actually happened at my last school---which I am happily no longer employed at, I might add) kind of teacher. Google Sir Ken Robinson if you are not aware of his thinking. Motivation for motivation's sake is what I strive to instill in my kids-both personal and professional. If you liked Donalyn's book, I recommend The Reading Zone if you have not read it.


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