Tuesday, July 15, 2014

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

This week's reflection is on chapters 3 and 4 of Reading in the Wild:  The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller.

Product DetailsChapter 3
Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers

Chapter 4
Wild Readers Have Reading Plans

As I wandered through these chapters, I found myself pausing, thinking, and reflecting.  Visual images of my own classroom drifted in and out of my mind.  Many of these pages resonate with me because they mirror my beliefs about teaching and supporting readers. 

'It is our charge as more experienced readers to lead children to reading, first as enjoyment and then as a place to understand themselves and the world we must live in together, and ultimately as an appreciation for the power of stories to capture what it means to be human.' (p. 160)

Here are my Super Seven Takeaways:

  1. Cultivate Successful Learning Communities.  Staring with the first days of school, I'm working to create a school family.  Students are asked to bring in beloved books to share, book baskets are filled with familiar books, and carefully selected books are shared and discussed during our read-aloud time.  We are creating an environment where everyone feels safe and respected.  "How my students and I interact creates a climate that both supports learning and provides social and emotional safety." (p. 89)
  2. Educate Parents About the Importance of Daily Reading.  Working in a Title I building, my colleagues and I spend a lot of time educating our parent community about the importance of daily reading.   We are always on the lookout for new ideas and things to try that supports this purpose.  I love Donalyn's ideas for flooding parents with pro-reading messages.  For example, adding a weekly student book recommendation to our email signatures.  What an easy way to promote reading!  Additionally, increasing children's access to books during school breaks.  I'm thinking about creating "School-Break Reading Bags" (at different reading levels) that students may check-out over the holidays.  Another great idea was teaching parents how to squeeze more reading time into boring activities.  Even if parents know theses things, it doesn't hurt to give a gentle reminder.  "Many parents lack strong, positive reading experiences in their own lives and don't see the urgency or understand how to support their children's literacy in meaningful ways.  When flooding students with pro-reading messages, we must flood their parents, too." (p. 92)
  3. Reading and Discussing Books Together Benefits Children and Builds Relationships Among Readers.  I have been thinking about this a lot lately.  Providing authentic ways for students to share and respond to what they read enhances our learning community.  In the beginning of the year, we start with post-it notes to record and capture our thoughts and we share books and ideas with reading buddies.  As the year progresses, my students can use their individual Kidblogs and our classroom Twitter account to share and discuss books with other readers in our classroom and around the world.  Even with these wonderful tools and opportunities, I try to keep the focus on the reading rather than their ability to use these amazing tools, successfully.  This can be a bit tricky with primary students.  But my first graders are amazing!  They enjoy trying new things and they're not afraid of taking risks.  I plan to give them even more opportunities to share their books and thinking with the world.   #CyperPD is a perfect example of readers sharing their thinking in authentic ways.  "When we finish a book we consider our personal reactions to it, and if we appreciate it, we share the book." (p. 100)   
  4. All Readers Deserve Opportunities to Grow.  I never really thought about expanding the influence of my epicenter readers.  Why hadn't I tapped into this valuable resource in my classroom?  Thinking about my epicenter readers from last year, these students would have been great resources for book information and modeling wild reader reading habits.  I know they were naturally doing those things, however, I plan to expand their influence from now on.  I have always wondered if I focused more on my struggling readers at the expense of my epicenter readers.  Not ignoring them, but certainly not challenging them to their fullest potential.  I plan to do better by these readers next year.  "We are tempted to focus our attention on the students who struggle with reading.  But we must remember that all readers deserve opportunities to grow." (p.121)
  5. Every Book We Read and Share Connects Us to Each Other.  I love reading and sharing books with my first graders.  Our read-aloud time is one of our favorite times of the day.  "Every book we read and share connects us to each other.  That's the best part of our story--the part that lasts long after the book ends." (p.128)
  6. Conferring Provides Opportunities for Fostering Relationships with Students.  When I pull up close to one of my kiddos, I give them my undivided attention.  I find that it's one of the best ways to learn about and support my students as readers.  "Talking one-on-one with children, guiding them as readers, and helping them move forward in their understanding seemed a lot like a conference when I stepped back and thought about it." (p.131)
  7. Series Books Provide Paths to Lifelong Independent Reading Habits.  There are so many great reasons for introducing students to books in a series.  "Reading series books provides students with both commitment and challenge plans, depending on readers' needs and interests.  It provides a scaffold for students who lack confidence or cannot follow through on their own reading plans.  And it provides readers familiarity so students are much less likely to end up floundering with unsuccessful book choices or abandoning book that didn't work." (p.152)  Below are a few series books that I plan to share with my first graders this year:
Marty McGuire Series by Kate Messner
*Heidi Heckelbeck by Wanda Coven
Andy Shame by Jennifer Jacobson
*Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
*Bink & Gollie by Kate DiCamillo
*Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo
*Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold
Frankie Pickle by Eric Wight
*Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo by Nancy Krulik
Freddie Fernortner Fearless First Grader by Johnathan Rand
*I've shared most of these books with former first graders and they have loved them.  I'll be reading a couple of the titles on the list for the first time this school year.
Are there any titles that you would add to this list for primary students?  Please share...I would love to hear from you.


  1. Val,
    Thank you so much for sharing your takeaways and the way you see them in your classroom. You have many ideas here I want to consider. Sending messages about reading to parents and creating reading break bags are two at the top of my list. Thank you for sharing your titles you share with first graders. You have many early chapter books here, and several are new to me. I plan to check them out.


    1. Cathy,
      I'm always looking for other ways to support parents as well as my students. I love that this book offered some suggestions I had not thought of.

  2. Great thoughts and suggestions! I really appreciate your connection to "what real readers do" when they finish a book - get online and have a cyber conversation about it! I am still waiting for the first blogger to post a picture of their "Reading in the Wild" diorama ....

    1. Katie,
      It's so important that we offer our students authentic reading experiences. I hope that most teachers have moved away from the dioramas too. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Val,
    I love your super seven!! You've already got an action plan ready to rock. And I love that you already have a list of books that you are going to share with your kids. Those series are all great and will be wildly popular with your first graders!

    1. Laura,
      This book has a lot of great suggestions for our readers. I'm glad I have the summer to think about the changes I want to make.