I have been doing a lot of professional reading over the past week. Most of the books have been re-reads in preparation for a graduate course I am teaching this semester. One of the re-reads that is really resonating with me right now is Donalyn Miller's book, The Book Whisperer: Awaking the Inner Reader in Every Child. Every time I read it, I come away with a new nugget of truth I just have to share with someone...or I will burst! Tonight as I was reading her chapter, Walking the Walk, I rediscovered one of those nuggets...and now I have a place to share...so hang on...this could get preachy!
Walk into a majority of faculty meetings today and you will likely hear discussions about test scores, adequate yearly progress, and Response to Intervention. Conversations about why children aren't meeting standards in reading permeate the school hallways. Administrators are working feverishly with teachers to find interventions, usually in the form of canned programs, they can use to help 'catch students up'. What you are less likely to hear are conversations about what students and more importantly teachers are actually reading. In light of what I personally believe about teaching reading and what Mrs. Miller writes so honestly about in her book, I started to wonder; what would happen if teachers started reflecting on questions like "What does reading mean to me?" or "What type of reader am I?" When it comes to showing students that reading is meant to be an enjoyable experience, an experience they can have for the rest of their lives, shouldn't teachers lead the way through their example? Teachers need to be readers in order to create readers!
It's not hard to do...and the benefits on a classroom can be tremendous. Set aside some time everyday to read...for pleasure...even if it's only 10 or 15 minutes. If you aren't sure where to begin, start by reading books you read as a child. Some of my favorites when I was younger were Frog and Toad are Friends, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and Corduroy. As I got older I could be found under the covers with a flashlight reading The Secret of the Old Clock (okay really any Nancy Drew book) or Are You There God? It's Me Margaret. Ask your students what books they would recommend...and then read them! And then after you have read something...talk about it with your students. Share what you liked or didn't like...have conversations! I know you will begin to see an increased interest from your students! And who knows...you may actually re-awaken your own 'inner reader'!
I love this quote from Mrs. Miller's book, "When my students think about me in the future, I want them to remember me as a reader with a book in my hand and a recommendation on my lips." (p.106) That is exactly how I feel...and I hope I am accomplishing exactly that everyday in my classroom.