A Day with The Book Whisperer

I recently was fortunate enough to spend the day in a workshop with Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, on Creating Classrooms Where Readers Flourish. I read her book over a year ago and immediately shared it with my staff in this post  and have continued to follow her on twitter, as well as the Nerdy Book Club blog and the monthly Twitter chat #Titletalk to gain book ideas.  So, you can just imagine my excitement of finally getting to meet her in person, greet her with a hug and get my picture taken with her:

Now, beyond my excitement…

Her session was AMAZING! You can read my full notes HERE (warning, it’s a lot!).  I honestly wished I had a classroom to go back to and start implementing her ideas and inspiring my students to read, but I just had my office.  I did share my notes with all of the teachers in my building, but I know it is an overwhelming a lot of information to read.  I sat down and reread my notes, asking myself “what pieces can I share with all teachers in my building to continue to create a culture of readers in our building?”  I was still struck by the following statistic Miller shared:

“56% of unenthusiastic readers did not have a teacher who shared a love of reading, while 64% of enthusiastic readers did have such a teacher.” (Nathanson, Pruslow and Levitt, 2008)

While I typed pages of notes with great ideas, my 2 biggest take-aways were that:

  • The adults in the school need to model a passion for reading.
  • We need our students to develop the habits of readers.

What are ways that adults can model passion for reading?  Aside from the teacher reading him/herself and sharing books with students constantly (just read The Book Whisperer!) some ideas I want to start are:

  • Continue to share my reading life with staff and students. Here’s a post in which I reflected on my Reading Life. 
  • Including what I am currently reading in my email signature–each time you send an email you’re also sending out book recommendations. 
  • Write reading resolutions…I am asking all staff to do this in January for themselves and for their students. 
  • Everyone with a door (that would be everyone in the building) display book covers on their door of either books they’ve read throughout the year or what book they are currently reading.  My door isn’t visible to everyone, so I put mine up on the library door for all classes to see as they go to library. I also included a little blurb to explain why mine has 3 books of what I’m currently reading.
  • Create a basket of “light reading” books (I’m thinking magazines, joke books, etc.) in the hallway where kids line up for lunch with a basket to turn them in at the lunch room. Last year we let students bring their books to the lunch room, but had a few library books get wrecked.
When I discussed these ideas with teachers in grade level meetings, they came with additional great ideas that we want to to implement:
  • Leave a book, Take a book shelf in the hallway. (completely on the honor system)
  • Stop, Drop and Read during February. Wherever students go they will need to have a book with them, because I could go on the announcements at any time and say it’s time to Stop, Drop and Read!
I would love to hear what other schools are doing to model a passion for reading and helping students develop the habits of readers!
(By the way…just realized this is my 100th post on this blog!)

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Maria

    Happy 100th post! Great reflections for your staff as well as those reading your blog!! Thanks for sharing your new learning.

  2. Kathryn Trask

    Thanks for sharing your experience: very envious of your opportunity to listen to Donalyn Miller. Thanks for the notes written and shared in Evernote, which I have read and been able to save into my Evernote notebook. You had the honour of hearing her speak and you were generous with your notes. They have reached New Zealand thanks to the power of Twitter!

  3. Joy Kirr

    I, too, loved The Book Whisperer! I read it this summer, and changed around a lot of what I was doing in my 7th grade ELA classes. Anyway, I wanted to add another suggestion. Ten years ago or so, when I started as reading specialist, I made a write-on-wipe-off laminated sign for every room in the middle school occupied with a staff member. Each sign said, “Mrs. _____ is reading…” and it had two lines on which to write. This year, I made a different one for myself, adding a line that says, “and her next book is…” And, yes, I have three titles on mine right now, too! I highlighted one as my “nonfiction book of the month,” too.

    Just another idea! How exciting for you to meet Donalyn Miller, but even more exciting to get your entire staff on board!
    Sincerely, Joy

  4. Gary Anderson

    Thank you for emphasizing reading in your school. When a school and its principal cultivate a bookish atmosphere, those students learn to see reading as an enjoyable, natural human activity.

    The ideas from the grade-level meetings are excellent! Keep going!

    (Donalyn Miller is one of my teacher heroes. Seeing you both in the same photo is really cool!)

  5. Lee Ann Spillane

    How awesome to spend a day with Donalyn Miller! She is a fantastic force for teachers and readers as well as a friend. Thank you for sharing her powerful work. I can feel your energy from here! I love that you lead as a reader and are finding ways to build reading into every moment, every step of your school day.

  6. The Ellises

    I’m a first year principal and am continuously reading and re-reading your blog for ideas and information… This is a great suggestion for cultivating an atmosphere and culture of readers!

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