Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Friday AHA Moment

This summer, I fell in love and cherished The Book Whisperer while on vacation. I borrowed it from the library, read it on a train, took notes, and bought my own copy as a mentor text for my teaching. Donalyn Miller encompasses all I believe about reading, about passion, about doing what's best for kids, and most of all cherishing the special moments. Getting back to more reading time in the classroom, reading for pleasure, and having a purpose for a reading practice are all philosophies that come through in her writing. I found one idea of hers that I personalized and implemented in my 4th grade classroom...the Book Requirement.

Before school, I sat down with Lisa and came up with a 30 book requirement they must read and finish this year. Lofty, but doable if I commit to a 30-45 minute block of reading. I wanted it to be challenging, purposeful, pleasurable, and authentic, so I charted the requirements by genre. The chapter book choice had the most because I wanted my treasures to understand I value their uniqueness, their interests, and their favorites. Other genres only had a taste so they would try different genres. It's like trying new food. Some we like, others we don't. The important thing is we try.

Every Friday, I'm committing to meeting with each student, looking at their log, signing off on their finished books, and plotting them under the genre. This past Friday was my AHA moment. It was such that I had to walk over to a 5th grade room next door and share my findings. (She's doing something similar!)

The way the tally sheet was set up, I was able to see at a glimpse the reading patterns of my students. One student had completed his entire informational section. He loves reading about the ocean and fish. So, a brief conversation was in place to stretch his reading into a different genre. (He tried a graphic novel yesterday!) When I met with P, she had been tearing through the Bone series and realized her book choice only counted once. It was time to stretch her reading stamina into a lengthy genre. (I think this will be a year-long goal for her and I.)

My treasures are reading 30-45 minutes at a stretch. They're engaged. They're lost in their books and making recommendation to others. They'll be time soon to begin strategy lessons on responding to their reading. They'll be time to write. For now, I have a roomful of readers who choose to read whenever they can throughout the day. What a great AHA Moment!


  1. Shelly,

    I am so glad that you found my book, The Book Whisperer meaningful.
    Three weeks into school, my "treasures" complain when reading time ends and have already asked me for a day when we can read for the entire class period.
    What a joy it is to see readers blossom right before your eyes! You are changing lives...

  2. This is great! I have The Book Whisperer on my TBR pile. This makes me want to read it soon!

  3. I need to hear more about the Book Requirement. And the wiki. I need more musing and less floundering. HELP, Friend! I'm drowning!!!

  4. Donalyn,
    I was ecstatic to hear from you. I have appreciated and cherished your book. Thank you for validating my philosophy for reading, for the workshop, and for student empowerment. Thank You.

    I'm glad you have it in your TBR pile. You'll love it.

    Mary Lee,
    I am grateful you are in my tribe. I need your musings. I need to hear your reflections. I need to hear your thoughts. Thank you.