Tuesday, February 4, 2014


I have stacks of books throughout the house—all books I want to read and that call out my name from time to time.  Some are novels, some ‘what next’ books, some writing books, some poetry.  All of them attract me for a variety of reasons and all are anxiously waiting to be devoured by me—some for the second or third time.  And as they are anxious to be devoured I am anxious to devour them.   I love books…of all kinds.  Books on kindle, antique books, books given as gifts or lent as favorites, books new from a bookstore or borrowed from a library.  I belong to a book club and I chat with colleagues about the books we are reading.  Over dinner I relay my thoughts about a book I am reading and eagerly await hearing from others their thinking about a book.  Books are a part of my life.

Not so true for all children.  How do we create a culture in our schools where children love to read, where we find them with their books open they are deep in thought?  Where the talk about what is being read is rich and open?  How do we create readers?  Readers who love books?

I teach a graduate class to soon-to-be Literacy Specialists and as a book discussion book we are currently reading  The Book Whisperer by Donalym Miller.   This book is a lovely book about how to awaken the inner reader in every child.  Miller takes her passion for books and creates a classroom that promotes reading passion for children in a very practical and teacher friendly way.  Her book sets up key components for a reading rich classroom where all students are reading and sharing their love of books with each other.    Her premise, the framework philosophy that shapes her instructional decisions…Reading changes your life.

Here are some ways that I have promoted reading in the classes I have taught over the years. Many of these ideas are ones that are expanded on in The Book Whisperer.

  • Have time in every day school day where children are independently reading;
  • During morning meeting or during the share at the end of Readers’ Workshop, encourage students to share titles of books they recommend and explain what kind of reader would like the book;
  • Have many books available and displayed for children to read;
  • Find out about what students like and dislike and find books that match the reader to give as a recommendation;
  • Read aloud…every day…even when I feel there is no time; 
  • Talk to students about the books I am reading (be they adult or children’s books)—model that I am a reader and books matter to me;
  • Make book recommendations to the class—by saying that I think a book is good, I am “blessing the book”—books I recommend as a teacher get picked up and read more;
  • Read my book at times when students are reading their books;
  • Have expectations for how many books are read and what genres of books are read over a given year;
  • Create a system of accountability (book list) where students write what they read, whether they abandoned the book or finished it and rank the book to show the book’s merits
  • Create an environment where all students read—where reading is natural, expected and desired;
  • Make it my goal to find a “perfect fit” book for all students in my classroom within every school year.

This is a picture of my son when he was small.  He had fallen asleep with a book in his hand, most likely dreaming about the characters and the story.  He is a reader.  He is hooked on what books can offer and books expand his world.  Books call his name and open new doors of understanding.  That love of books that ignited when he was five has carried on to young adulthood.  We want this for all of our students.  As teachers we want to and can create classrooms where books call students’ names.  And where students hear and welcome the call!


  1. I share your desire to pass on the love of books. Loved the Book Whisper and Reading in the Wild by Donalyn MIller. Sometimes passing on the love works and sometimes you work so hard and there isn't acceptance. One thing I have learned with my own children is it takes time. It may not happen when we are teaching our group of students, but at some point if we teachers and parents don't give up on them, I believe they will get to book love.

  2. My friend and I talk about this all the time. I think it is in the Allyn/Cunningham book that they talk about how teachers are often inadvertently creating stoplight readers instead of flashlight readers. Stoplight readers have to stop all the time and do things: ask questions, make predictions, talk about connections, etc. It can be tedious! Flashlight readers, on the other hand, love reading so much they hide under the covers are night with a flashlight so they can keep reading after lights-out. I think about the analogy all the time! I agree with Julieanne's comment. Sometimes it just takes time, and the right book and viola! When I started reading my own stuff during Readers Workshop, I felt that my students love of reading increased. I still read novels to the whole class, not just story books, and I have found that this is often just the push kids (grade 3 and 4) need to see themselves as novel readers. I am going to check out The Book Whisperer.

    1. I love the analogy of stoplight/flashlight readers. It says it all with an image!

  3. This is a wonderful post...I also love The Book Whisperer. Have you heard of book speed dating? It just like speed dating. Our kids are loving it. xo

  4. It breaks my heart when teachers tell me they don't like to read. It really starts with the teacher, and why would they want to be a teacher if they didn't love to read? I don't get it. I hope your class catches the reading bug and they have a passion for knowing books, so they can put the right one into the right hands. I wish all students had a book whisperer in their life.

  5. I wrote today about the influence blog reading has had on my reading life as an adult. Sharing is such a vital part of building that reading life. You will need to read Reading in the Wild by Donalyn...just as good as The Book Whisperer.

    1. Yes, I love both of them. I will have to read your blog today. Thanks for your comments, Leigh Ann. I value them!

  6. I work to do the same thing--with many of the same ideas--with my students. I work with a department of avid readers and an awesome librarian. Slowly, we are increasing the reading culture at our school, but it does take time. I love THE BOOK WHISPERER and READING IN THE WILD. Donalyn shares so many good ideas.

  7. I've worked with different teachers all year about the reading, and we're all finding that giving kids time to read, & time to share is a huge part of the enthusiasm. They also, except for some book groups, always have individual choice. Your ideas & via Donalyn's from her books are terrific, Deb. I hope your new lit specialists listen!