The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller is the focus for this year and the Literacy Connection group here in Central Ohio. As I read Chapter 3 – titled There’s a Time and a Place, Donalyn shares one of her most important roles as a classroom teacher is to provide and make sure her students have reading time each day in class. She realizes as I do our students have busy family lives outside of school with activities. Having a daughter in middle school and a daughter in high school, I know this is an uncommon practice once children leave elementary school in our area. This is quite sad. I do provide daily independent reading time in my classroom. After a mini-lesson for reading workshop we all spend time reading on our own and confer with my emerging readers to get a better view of them as readers. This is also a time for them to try things we talk about as readers. Donalyn gives us this scenario to support independent reading, “Like brushing their teeth, reading is a responsibility that my students understand I expect them to assume. Yet time spent reading feeds more reading. The more my students read, and grow into a community of readers, the more they want to read.”
Donalyn suggests ways we can “steal” more time for reading in our rooms. Think about the interruptions we might receive in the day with people stopping by for a quick questions or conversation. In my room, it might be the little social scenarios or shoe tying moments I need to help my students with. Donalyn teaches her students early on to get out their books when there is an interruption. It’s a classroom routine with the benefit of more real reading time. Donalyn has done away with extension activities for students who finish work early and uses those minutes for independent reading. I’ve done in that in my room too and often find there is great excitement as my young readers share and talk about books that are often on display in our room we have made together. Donalyn even has students bring books to read while they stand in line for pictures on picture day. Why didn’t I think of that?! It’s on my list for next year. In my room books are always a choice during our independent workshop times; morning explore, math workshop and reading workshop. I’m thinking as we look more to mentors as writer’s I need to encourage my students to get books to look at during writing workshop. Another way I “steal” more time for reading is to have books in different areas of the room. We have math books with our math manipulatives. We have building books with our blocks. We have books by each classroom pet – a guinea pig, fish, frogs, and a turtle. We have books on our art/writing shelves, and we have books in our Lego tubs.
I have to agree with Donalyn’s writing about reading spaces. She urges comfortable spaces but also says children will find ways to be comfortable in any environment. The whole class can’t fit in a cozy reading space. I’ve tried to create a room with books and reading all around and various options for reading at tables, carpet spaces, and floor space. Students will figure out what is best for them. I would by showing students they can read anywhere at school, they can transfer that to their home life and read anywhere there too. I think I need to share with my kindergarten students ways I “snatch some reading time” in hopes they will do that too when they are home.