Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Meeting Donalyn Miller and Penny Kittle and Thinking About Reading Communities

Each Tuesday Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers host Slice of Life Stories (SOLS). This is where bloggers link up to share anything they would like to share about what is happening in their lives. 

This weekend I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Donalyn Miller and Penny Kittle in person. They were in Portland, Maine to deliver keynote addresses and present at the NERA convention.  I was among a very lucky group of educators who got to have dinner and chat with them.  

Penny Kittle is the author of Book Love and is the high school teacher I wish I'd had. Maybe then I would have become a reading sooner. The way she talks about how she fosters the love of reading in her high school students was so inspirational.  Even after years of not reading much, she gets them hooked.  Her students are so very lucky to have her and we are all fortunate to be able to learn from her. 

It is no secret to anyone who knows me that Donalyn Miller is my professional idol. I was beyond thrilled to meet her, talk with her, listen to her keynote and attend her "Bring on the Books" session (I know stalk much right?).  I even won a coveted advance copy of her new book Reading in the Wild which comes out in early November (It is as amazing as I had expected, go order it now and come back).  

I was going to write about meeting Donalyn as the focus of my SOLS post, but I decided to keep the details to myself.  Suffice it to say that she is as smart, funny, gracious and wonderful as you'd imagine. 

Instead I have been thinking about the focus of her keynote address, reading communities.  As Donalyn described her reading community which includes her family, colleagues and students,  I began thinking about my own reading community and how important it is to me.  I was actually sitting with many in my reading community at the conference.  

I am thankful for colleagues at my school like Anna Sedenka, Laurie Tibbitts, Stacey Sawyer and Missy Mullin who are always happy to share great book titles with me and listen as I gush about my newest book love. 
Then there are the colleagues that I don't see as often like my Maine Reading Association and nErDcampNNE friends Susan Dee, Cathy Potter, Marylou Shuster, Jen Felt, Chris Pirkl and Natalee Stotz to name a few.  Sitting and discussing books with these friends is always so much fun. 

I love my blogging and Twitter reading community.  One of my favorite parts of the week is Monday night when I can read all the It's Monday, What Are You Reading posts linked up at one of my favorite blogs, Teach Mentor Texts.  With Goodreads and my public library page tabs open, I read about what books others are reading.  We leave comments for each other and offer thoughts and even more title suggestions. 

In my family, my daughter is my only reading buddy. Although she is still finding her love of books, we will talk about what each of us is reading and we read together.  I love it when I get a stack of picture books from the library. We sit and read them together and she gives me a rating for Goodreads. 

My students are the people I talk with about books each day.  We recommend titles, discuss what is happening in our books and talk about our reading lives. 

These reading communities enrich my life.  Although I am a reading late bloomer and never had this kind of community until fairly recently, I am so happy I have all of these people in my life to share my love of books. 

We need to remember that reading is a social activity that needs to be nurtured for ourselves and our students. 

So I'll leave you with these questions:

Who is in your reading community?
How do you share this with students?
What do you do to help students develop and nurture their own reading communities?


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  2. I, too, enjoy talking books with you, and reading all that you share on your blog. And I LOVE watching you develop the reading community of the McTibbitts team and beyond. Your "kids" (Your students are clearly much more than students to you) see themselves as readers. One of my favorite moments last year was watching your class as the book awards were announced. Your students are lucky to have you! Global Read Aloud, Read Across America and other school-wide activities nurture our community. The bulletin board for Wonder was powerful for all of our students. Keeping reading visual in our school will help to keep the excitement growing!

    1. Thanks so much Stacey. I think we have a nice pocket of reading freaks at our school that keep literacy in the forefront!

  3. Your post reminded me of a plan that I had loosely formed in mind for this year. I think I need to plan a little more and start practicing some "book love" with my high school students! Thanks for giving me a push!

    1. I think we all get so busy, our plans get pushed aside. Glad to help :)

  4. You inspire us all to be better about reaching out to different reading communities. I am so excited that you have found your love of reading and thankful that you have included us in your community. I look forward to continuing to find ways to encourage our kids to become book lovers with your enthusiasm and guidance! I'm also so happy that you met your idol. Stalk much?! :)

  5. "We need to remember that reading is a social activity that needs to be nurtured for ourselves and our students." You hit the nail on the head! (Sounds like something Donalyn Miller would say!) Unfortunately, many aren't quite sold on this. Carry on with this message.

  6. Gigi, your enthusiasm is contagious! I am revamping my plans for tomorrow... to include LOTS more time to read and SHARE. Thank you for the reminder; I have been far too caught up in the busy-ness of the early school year.

  7. I am so grateful that our students have you to nurture them in their book choices, allow them to discuss and share their favorite books, and just plain get them excited about literature. Thanks for all those great nonfiction book titles that you recommend for the math and science geek in me!

  8. Like you, I have a number of different reading communities, but they are not as intentional as my writing community and maybe I should be. I love reading what my students are reading and talking about books with them.
    How exciting to meet and eat alongside Donalyn Miller!

  9. Oh so jealous you met Donalyn! I have had her book purchased since July.....anxiously waiting. My reading community involves goodreads, my students, and some fabulous blogs about reading.
    Chickadee Jubilee