The 4th annual summer#cyberPD conversation about Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild continues today, hosted by:
Michelle Nero at Literacy Learning Zone(@litlearningzone)
Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine: Building A Learning Community (@CathyMere)
Laura Komos at Ruminate and Invigorate (@LauraKomos)
Today’s focus: Chapters 3 and 4.
Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books and Reading With Other Readers
As a wild reader, I know that part of what makes my reading heart beat faster is the act of sharing what I’ve just read and so enjoyed. And, as a teacher, few things give me greater pleasure than to see my kids engaged in conversations about the books they’ve read, or to see a student go on a book hunt for a classmate, saying: “You have GOT to read this!” I marked up the following passage from Chapter 3 with a giant “Yes!” in the margins, because I thought Donalyn got right to the heart of addressing something so vital to having classrooms in which there is a community built around the appreciation of reading and sharing reading lives:
“What my students need to learn is important, but the conditions that allow learning to happen concern me more. Successful learning communities require cultivation, and I spend a lot of time forging relationships with my students and helping them connect to each other. While standards and learning targets dictate the content I must teach, I am the one who – with the help of my students – constructs the classroom environment. How my students and I interact creates a climate that supports learning and provides social and emotional safety.” (p.89)
A classroom environment that fosters wild reading includes:
* a school-wide reading community in which everyone is united around the belief that investing time in reading and then sharing the wealth of that reading experience is a worthy goal. Most of my conversations with students (past and present) always include some version of: “So, what are you reading these days?” It seems such a natural turn in our discussion because so much of our time together is spent cultivating a reading community. But Donalyn describes something much more powerful, because it extends beyond the walls of one classroom to include the entire school.
I believe that our students need to see each of us as readers. They need to see teachers talking about books with each other, meeting for books groups just as they do, and charting our own “Books I Have Read and Recommend” lists. They need to see books piled up on our desks and spilling out of our book bags, they need to know that when we say, “Reading is so important!” we are actually practicing what we preach.
*we can’t ask our kids to devote time to reading after school and then pile on busy work in the guise of homework. Like everyone else, I struggle with what to assign for homework and how to make the assignments meaningful. I know that every homework assignment is one more barrier to reading time once my student gets home, and this is an ever shifting balancing act. Again, Donalyn is so right in pointing out that this should be a school – wide conversation:
Teachers must talk with grade level colleagues across subject areas to determine the total homework load for their students and consider hen students will read at home. Research proves that students’ ability to read well affects their performance in every class (Krashen, 2004); therefore, all teachers, not just those in the English department, must commit to schoolwide literacy initiatives and support students’ reading development.
No matter how judicious I may be in assigning homework because I want my kids to read, I will be defeated in this endeavor if everyone from their home ec to their gym teacher assigns homework in my place!
*sometimes we need to get out of their way. I loved the way Donalyn wrote about this:
If we really want our students to become wild readers, independent of our support and oversight, sometimes the best thing we can do is get out of the way…While we need to stay informed about what they read and remain connected to our students, we don’t need to participate in every discussion or endorse every book. If students depend on our validation for every book they read, they aren’t reading for their own purposes and needs.
I am not a fan of some of the books my kids choose to read, but sometimes I just need to remember Donalyn’s dictum and trust that my kids are reading what they need to read. I had a student once who read and re-read Joan Bauer’s Hope Was Here because it helped her sort through some private turmoil, ditto for the student who did the same for See You At Harry’s, or the one who was (it seemed) permanently attached to Pretty Little Liars. We want our kids to turn to books to find solace and entertainment, and sometimes that is private, quite separate from the reading lives they choose to share with us. I want my kids to feel empowered in their reading choices, so I must know when to step back and let them lead.
For as long as I can remember, I have always had a reading plan – I try to be organized bout this (neatly compiled reading lists) but often the plan is just a stack of post its I’ve compiled from the “It’s Monday and Here’s What I’m Reading” post on Jen Vincent’s fabulous blog, Teach Mentor Texts. All my strong readers have plans, too – they are always one step ahead, thinking about what’s next. Like me, they never want to find themselves in a situation where they are, heaven forbid, without a book to read!
I love that Donalyn spent so much of this chapter sharing insights and ways in which we can help our kids develop reading plans. Even more important is the consideration of these two questions:
*How do students develop ownership for reading when they are never given ownership?
*Who are students reading for?
Assigning book after book, or spending too long on one assigned book get in the way of our students having the freedom to cull together a list of books that speak to them, and organizing that list into a reading plan. But, this wild reading habit is a product of intentional teaching – we need to scaffold the process and validate the effort it takes to have that reading plan: book reviews, recommendation rituals, book trailers, places to keep a running “books I want to read” list – all of these provide the structure our kids need to create , maintain, and follow through with reading plans.
Finally – personal reading canons. What a fabulous idea! Donalyn spoke of this at the Boothbay Literacy Retreat, and she had the room buzzing with excitement as each of us tried to construct our own. It became, at that meoment, suddenly very important to each of us to do this, because (I think) we realized the intrinsic value of such a canon – and what it reflected about each of us in a deeply personal way. What a gift it is to begin to plant the seeds in our kids for the same, so that they will be aware of books that carry a deep and abiding personal value!