The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio. Before I write another reflection, I have a confession. This is the first time I am reading Donalyn’s book. It’s been in my TBR pile - kindle edition - for a few years. When this book came out I had just moved to kindergarten from third grade and while I knew I would enjoy reading it, I wasn’t sure it needed to be an emergency read since I was trying to figure out emergent readers again. I hope to share with you how I find Donalyn’s thoughts connecting to my kindergarten classroom.
As I read Chapter 2 – titled Everybody is a Reader I loved reading about Donalyn’s landmark day. The first day of school when she decided on the spot they would start checking out books after a student asked when that would happen. She embraced a child’s thinking and put her own plan aside. She summarizes why, “By making book selections and sharing past favorites the first activity in which we engage as a class, I emphasize the prominence that reading will hold all year.” I’ve taught awhile now and I’ve never considered sending books home on the first day of school, I’m rethinking this. I love how Donalyn says, “I emphasize the prominence that reading will hold all year.” I’m thinking kindergarteners might be really excited to bring home a book on the first day. Then I think there is so much to show them about using the classroom library. Then I ask myself, do they really need to know much to pick a book and take it home? Would this set the tone quickly to show we believe we are readers?
I love the section where Donalyn talks about choice for readers. Choice fosters empowerment, self-confidence, a positive attitude and a level of control for readers. I just launched book boxes with choice books first earlier this month. The excitement in the room was incredible. There was so much positive energy. A student who struggles with literacy was so excited to find a nonfiction book on bears, I knew then I had hooked him into reading by providing a mini-lesson on how we pick books and time to explore. I was a bit puzzled by all the excitement because my students had been taking books out each day to read at home. Was the excitement caused by having a book box? Was the excitement caused by discussing and applying ways we pick books? Was the excitement caused by talking more about where books are in the classrooms?
If you are looking for a more positive way to look at readers and the different stages they are at then you will want to check out this chapter. Donalyn thinks of readers as developing, dormant, and underground readers. I felt sad when I read about underground readers because I live with one right now. High school homework and AP classes are dominating my gifted reader and everything she reads is connected to a test or quiz or a syllabus. I can’t wait for break because I hope she tackles my pile of ARCs from NCTE for her. I know she will love that opportunity.
If you are looking for information about Brian Cambourne’s conditions for learning or student surveys you can find that in this chapter too. I used to do reading surveys all the time. In kindergarten with two classes – I’ve let them go and I can’t. Maybe I can create a three question format to use along with my Developmental Reading Assessment. That could be done quickly at the same time. I better draft that to use next week.