The Book Whisperer


The Book Whisperer (paperback)

by Donalyn Miller

No AR Level – Professional Development Book!


I picked up The Book Whisperer after finishing The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell.  I first heard about this book after doing research on how to get kids to become readers.  I regret that this took me so long to finish, but I got caught up with some fiction books, and wasn’t in my professional development mode!


Here are my Top 5 “Ahas” from The Book Whisperer:

1. The 40 Book Challenge.  I have read tons about this, I’ve downloaded free things from Teachers Pay Teachers, and then I’ve read the blogs where people complain about how the 40 Book Challenge is done all wrong, is distorted, and isn’t the author’s intentions.  So, I decided I needed to read this book to find out what her intentions really were when she created it.  So she created the 40 book requirement so students would see they would not be getting away with 2 books for the whole year, and so they would get the chance to read around the genres.  You can’t develop a love of reading in just a few books!

2. The Types of Readers.  There are 3:  Developing (aka struggling), Dormant (the ones who can but don’t), and Underground (the gifted, avid readers).  The dormant readers make up the biggest group in the class, and this is usually my focus, because I believe they just need to be shown that reading isn’t a chore.  They haven’t found the right book, genre, author, etc. to engage them.  I believe I converted a few dormant readers into underground readers in the past, and it is my goal to continue to do that as a teacher!  I think if I can identify the type of reader, I can better meet the needs of the reader.

3. The Need for Role Models.  ANYONE who has spent time in a classroom knows that there are kids who feel they are good at math, but bad at reading, or they just don’t like to read.  I could name at least 10 of those kids from each class for my past 14 years of teaching.  I would be the teacher who handed out reading logs and read class novels and required students to take AR tests, and then wondered why they didn’t like reading.  I made it too academic.  What made a HUGE change in my classroom was making a drastic change in my own reading habits.  I started the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge (for myself) and started falling in love with reading all over again.  If I could talk about the books with my students, they would see that I was living the reading life, as well.  Students need to see that reading isn’t something just done in school, but something that is done throughout their lives.  “You cannot inspire others to do what you are not inspired to do yourself.” (p. 118).

4. Traditional Practices vs. Alternatives.  Miller talks about many traditional practices that teachers do because they are what we have always done and what others do, as well.  Some of these practices include whole-class novels, comprehension tests, book reports, reading logs, round-robin or popcorn reading, and incentive programs.  Now, I agree with most of the negatives that were brought up, but I don’t think they’re all terrible as a whole.  I do use incentive programs, I use comprehension tests (like AR), and I have a very modified reading log.  But she gives great alternatives for the traditional practices that are worth looking into.

5. Reader’s Notebooks.  I have been researching and considering how I will implement a Reader’s Workshop in class.  We have already been doing Writer’s Workshop, so Reading shouldn’t be too big of a stretch.  With my school’s student population, I know that will also need to include direct and explicit instruction to some, if not all, of my students.  We’ve used a notebook, but it often gets ignored mid-year.  However, the use of the Reader’s Notebook is clearer to me than other descriptions have been in the past.  Her notebooks include 4 sections: 1) Tally List (basically the number of books they’ve read from each genre), 2) Reading List (the books by genre), 3) Books-To-Read List (for future reading, based on recommendations), and 4) Response Entries (letters to and from the teacher).  I personally would add a fifth section for mini-lessons based on standards or needs of my students.

Next up on my Professional Development Reading list… Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller, or In the Middle by Nancie Atwell.  We will see.  🙂

Book 6 of 10 (summer goal)


I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition)


I Am Malala (hardcover)

by Malala Yousafzai

AR Level 5.9, 7 points

My 52nd book in 52 weeks!  It was a good one, too.  It is also my first non-fiction book in this challenge.  This is the story of Malala, the young Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban.  I remember hearing about her in the news, but I did not pay much attention, other than she was shot in the head in a bus, and it was education-related.  After reading this book, I can see why she won the Nobel Peace Prize.  She is so young, only 18, and she is a brave, intelligent role model for young women all over the world.  With all of the negativity about Muslims and Islam, I am happy to read about a practicing Muslim and what they believe.  If the entire world just heard about the nutty Christians in America, I’d want to get my message out there, too.  But that’s not what Malala was trying to say through this autobiography… She was pushing a message of education for all boys and girls, and I hope that students see the value and the privilege of their education.

What I liked about this book was, of course, the main message: education is a right.  I picked this book up, because it is another mandatory read for my husband’s school.  That means every high school student at his school is expected to read this book and discuss it throughout the year, relating it to all of their subject areas.  I can’t help him out by connecting it to math, but certainly the message of education is there, regardless of what subject he teaches!

What I didn’t like about this book was that it didn’t give as much of a background on the war that some of our younger students may need.  Most of my students were born in about 2003, so they may not be familiar with the war.  A little background may be helpful.  However, there is a detailed timeline in the back.  I didn’t really dislike anything.  🙂

Book 52 of 52!!!  Woo hoo!

For my next challenge, I will lower my expectation to only 40 books.  I want to be sure to enjoy what I’m reading and not worry about reading short books to up my count, or bypass good books due to time.  My goal was to fall in love with reading all over again, and I have definitely accomplished that.  I already have a great list of books to get started on.  Thank you for reading!