Wednesday, July 23, 2014

#CyberPD Part III: Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits

This week's reflection in on chapter 5 and the Appendices of Reading in the Wild:  The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller.
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Wild Readers Show Preferences

Assisting my students to become independent readers is one of my responsibilities as a teacher.  I want to support them as they grow into wild readers.  Like adults, our students are readers who have different personalities and experiences.  As we find out as much as we can about our students, we become better equipped to support them as readers. 

Helping to connect students to books is one of the ways that we can offer students support.  Three areas stood out for me in Reading in the Wild as ways for readers to “connect” to books.  They connect with books by being introduced to read-alike titles, by allowing them to include light reading as an option for book selection, and by providing them opportunities to reread favorite books.

Read-Alike Titles

I love the idea of read-alike titles.  As an adult reader, I often gravitate to the kinds of books I’ve enjoyed reading in the past.  Why should that be any different for my first grade readers?  Once I identify what my first graders enjoy reading, I can use their interests to suggest similar types of books for their independent reading time.  I’m also aware of the kinds of books my students tend to enjoy as a read aloud and I’m constantly on the look-out for those kinds of books.  Books that provide weird, gross, or interesting facts, books that make you laugh, and books that teach powerful lessons.  I’ve never referred to these as read-alike books before but I think this is my new, favorite title for identifying these books.

Light Reading

When my first grade readers choose books for their reading baskets I ask them to select 6-8 good fit books, 2 informational books, and 2 free choice or look-books.  Inevitably, I have some kids who choose books that are below their reading level as their free choice option.  Donalyn shares evidence that this type of reading helps readers become more competent and it motivates them to read more.  Who doesn’t enjoy a light read from time to time?  I think most wild readers do.

Rereading Favorite Books

In primary classrooms students enjoy rereading their favorite books.  On book shopping day I usually have 2 or 3 students who ask if they can keep one or two of the books in their baskets so they can reread them.   As I was reading the story Donalyn shared about her student, Jordan, who reread the Harry Potter series and shared how he “discovers new things” when he revisits books, it reminded me of my favorite movies.  In addition to loving books, I also enjoy watching movies.  Sometimes I watch my favorite movies over again.  I often discover new things in the movie upon the second or third viewing.  I often share this analogy with my students as well.  When I’m sharing a read aloud that my students have read before I explain that it’s like the movies I’ve seen again and again.   Perhaps they’ll discover something they didn’t notice before.  I also remind them that they are not the same readers they were last year when they were introduced to the book the first time.  There are a lot of benefits to rereading books.  “In fact, rereading books increases comprehension and enjoyment.” (p. 175) I totally agree with Donalyn when she says, “f they reread books because they love them, I say let them.  We want to develop students’ ownership of reading.  When we tell students they can’t reread a book they love, we put our goals in front of theirs.” (p. 176)

Nonfiction Reading

I was shocked to read that older students avoid and dislike reading nonfiction books.  I have to agree with Donalyn when she says that it’s probably because they lack positive reading experiences.  My first grade students love reading nonfiction texts.  I’m sure it has a lot to do with their curious nature.  First graders are like sponges and they soak up tons of information while listening to and reading nonfiction texts.  Over the last few years I’ve made an effort to share more nonfiction texts when I read aloud to my students.  On page 180 Donalyn shared this list of really good activities for using nonfiction text in the classroom:

·        Add more nonfiction book talks.

·        Read-aloud nonfiction texts.

·        Use nonfiction as mentor texts.

·        Pair fiction texts with nonfiction on related topics.

·        Provide students frequent opportunities to preview, read, and show nonfiction.

There are a ton of great forms in the Appendices for use in supporting students as they become wild readers.  My goal is to revamp some of them in order to make them more primary-friendly.  I’m hoping that other primary teachers are planning to do the same thing.  Perhaps at some point we can share the forms we create.  I love the idea of using “reader” in place of “name” on these forms.  That was a great idea and one that I plan to use in other areas.

What are your thoughts?  Thank you for taking the time to read and add your voice to the conversation. 


  1. I was just thinking that we should all be sharing our forms! :) I am going to work on mine right now.

    Thank you for sharing the part about light reading. I am moving from grade 3/4 split classes (8 years!) to grade 2 this year and I have found myself wondering how many books kids should have in their book boxes, and what parameters I should set. Ten-twelve books is more than I would have had them choose, but you've given me some good reasons for that many. Oh boy, are we going to give our library a workout this year!

    1. Thanks for your warm comments. I I think you are going to love 2nd graders. 12 books does sound like a lot but sometime kids have titles they can breeze right through. If you're on Twitter, maybe we can share our forms there. Thanks again for stopping by.

  2. Hi Valerie,

    I'm finally finding time to respond. :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts this week.

    I, too, love the term "read-alike titles" and was wondering if I missed that in the book! I don't think so, but you deserve the credit for that term if you came up with it. I'll be borrowing it as well. Read-alike titles are so important for primary students to keep sharing more positive and fun book experiences.

    I'm in agreement about the light reading. We all need it! Allington stated once for adults to reflect on the books that they read -- in my reading zone? Nope, usually well below! It doesn't hurt for kids to have some light reading too, which includes rereads. Loved your comparison of rereading books and watching movies over and over -- kids can relate to that! Every time you catch something new -- it happens to me plenty of times during a read aloud that I have read for years! Something with a phrase or in an illustration will stand out to me that I never noticed before.

    I'm all for creating some primary friendly forms too! I hope others will share. My other thought was to create anchor charts for some and do as a whole group model. Some of the interview can be asked during conferring (as opposed to students completing the forms!).

    I appreciate your insights Val and thanks for joining in the conversations. I look forward to seeing how all these new wild reading ideas shape our classrooms in the fall!


  3. Val,
    Thank you for reminding us about ways to grow our readers. You said, "They connect with books by being introduced to read-alike titles, by allowing them to include light reading as an option for book selection, and by providing them opportunities to reread favorite books." Your deeper conversation on each in the following chapters gave me much to think about.

    Your "look books" caught my attention. We have often called these books challenging books or difficult zone book, but I feel like "look books" acknowledges that they might be a bit out of reach for you now, but affirms your interest. (I'm inferring that is the meaning of a look book.) I'm going to have to think more about this.

    Like you, I was shocked that readers don't continue to love nonfiction. Maybe there has been more development of nonfiction possibilities for younger children?

    I'm so glad you joined the conversation. I always learn so much from you.