Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Back-to-School Ritual- Revisiting The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

Rereading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller has become a before-school-starts ritual for me over the last couple of years. I reread it to energize myself for the upcoming year and to remind myself why I teach reading the way I do. I had to purchase a new copy this summer because someone borrowed it and has yet to return it (not that I blame them at all).

Recently I opened my new, clean copy and reread it.  I was not half way through the introduction and I already wanted to jump up and down and shout YES! Hallelujah! Amen!  It. Just. Makes. Sense!  Donalyn Miller so eloquently describes how she teaches and why she teaches that way.  She gives proof that fostering student choice in what they read, in a supportive environment with a passionate educator, creates lifelong readers.  

I could write literally hundreds of quotes from it that struck home for me. Please permit me to share a few that I find particularly poignant. 

"The children cannot wait. They do not have more time. While Washington policymakers, state and district boards of education, and administrators scramble to figure out what is best practice for getting children to read, crafting program after program in which they claim to have the answers, these children are graduating and breathing a sigh of relief that they never have to read a book again."pg. 3

"When you take a forklift and shovel off the programs, underneath it all is a child reading a book." pg. 3

"Providing students with the opportunity to choose their own books to read empowers and encourages them. It strengthens their self-confidence, rewards their interests and promotes a positive attitude toward reading by valuing the reader and giving him or her a level of control. Readers without power to make their own decisions are unmotivated." 23

"No matter how long students spend engaged in direct reading instruction, without time to apply what they learn in the context of real reading events, students will never build capacity as readers....students need time to read and time to be readers." pg. 51

"Instead of standing on stage each day, dispensing knowledge to my young charges, I should guide them as they approach their own understandings." pg. 15

"Reading changes your life. Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time. Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education." pg. 18

And that is only the first 50 pages!  I love how Donalyn describes her journey to change her classroom and the way she teaches.  She also gives alternatives to traditional practices that may be out-dated or counter-productive to creating readers such as round-robin reading and whole-class novels and gives ideas for creating more reading time in the school day.  There is something for everyone in this book.

Donalyn Miller is a reading Rock Star! The Book Whisperer is the perfect book for new and veteran teachers alike.  It gives real strategies and reasons behind them.  If you don't have a copy, go get one.  If you have one, crack it open again, you'll be glad you did. 

For those of us who have been anxiously waiting, her newest book Reading the the Wild is coming in November.  See what people are saying about it on Goodreads and preorder your copy here.  

For my New England friends, Donalyn is speaking and presenting at the NERA conference in September! Get more info here.




  1. Lucky for us - you are the book whisperer at our school. You inspire us and the kids every day. You rock Gigi!

  2. I missed an opportunity to see Donalyn Miller speak (she was not as well known then), and I've regretted it ever since. What she says is not radical, it's real. Our school system adopted a new curriculum for reading this year and the best thing about it is the students read real books, not a basal reader. However, there is still little time built in for just reading for the joy of it. When will those powers that be realize the key to better readers is reading!