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: Chapter 5 and the Appendices
I loved that this chapter started with this quote by Markus Zusak:
“Sometimes you read a book so special that you want to carry it around for months after you’ve finished just to stay near it.”
Why? Because I remember books like this, books I stashed away in my backpack because returning them to my bookshelves signified a loss I just couldn’t face… yet. I want my kids to have relationships to books and authors, too – I want them to find books which speak to them, get under their skin, stay in their hearts. So, thank you Donalyn for starting the last chapter in your marvelous book with this quote.
Two issues in Chapter 5 really connected with me: student preferences and non fiction.
This chapter inspired me to turn to my students, listen to them more closely, and allow them to feel empowered in their choices as readers. When students show preferences, the chapter’s title, we should heed them. Here’s the part that I read, re read, marked up, and then read again:
Determining students’ reading preferences helps teachers match books with readers. Valuing their tastes shows our students that we trust them to make their own decisions about what they read. Students’ preferences should hold as much sway in the classroom community as ours…we cannot let our personal reading preferences become biases that limit students’ reading. We must push ourselves to read widely in order to best serve our students – as role models who read for diverse purposes and reading advisors who know a lot about books that appeal to all types of readers. The more widely we read, the more expertise we offer to our students. (p. 167)
The truth is, I, too, have students who show strong preferences for certain genres and authors. And these preferences often run counter to mine. I am not (sadly) a fan of the Percy Jackson series, the Twilight series, or the Pretty Little Liars series…but I have kids who LOVE these books, devour them in no time, and hunger for more. Their discussions about characters, plot lines and themes are wonderful (and very animated), and display the benefits of what Donalyn calls “positive encounters with books.” As she writes, these “provide a starting point for building positive reading relationships between us and our students.” Once we acknowledge these preferences, understand that these preferences indicate that students have formed a basis for cultivating their reading identities, we can inch them towards wider reading habits. But first, we need to validate their choices as readers – even celebrate these choices.
I now cringe at the memory of Angela, now a sophomore in college, who loved the Twilight books. I took issue with aspects of the story, the way Bella’s character seemed perpetually stunted, and all kinds of other things. So, I forbade Twilight as an “appropriate choice.” The result? Angela shunned my suggestions, and did very little reading for me. She read the series several times over, on her own time, but made it very clear that anything I gave her would result in “fake reading.” What a mistake!
I remembered all of this when I read about Donalyn’s graphic novel-loving student, Armann, and this piece of wisdom she shared:
I realized that every lesson I taught about reading and writing, Armann applied to the graphic novels he read. His skills reading more traditional text improved because he practiced what he learned with his beloved graphic novels every day. (p. 172)
Lesson learned. We have to let our students lead, their engagement depends on their sense of empowerment.
The section on nonfiction also spoke to me, because (like so many teachers) I am struggling with the Common Core push towards nonfiction at the expense of fiction. How to strike a meaningful balance? I thought that what Donalyn had to say about this was so on point:
For the most part, we expect students to read nonfiction only for class work when assigning research reports…And increasingly, we encourage students to conduct research online and short-cut reading nonfiction at all. Without much exposure, access, or experience reading nonfiction in their classes, it’s not surprising that older students read less of this genre. As with any other type of text, we must look for meaningful ways to incorporate nonfiction material in our classrooms if we want children to read more of it. (179)
In many ways, without meaning to, we have erected this classroom wall between fiction (real reading, fun reading, the reading we talk about and get excited over) and nonfiction reading (work reading, fact checking and listing and research reading, boring reading which we talk about only because we have to). And our kids have been paying attention. Hence the groans and moans when we move into nonfiction units of study, or what is revealed when we poll our students about their reading habits.
Donalyn listed many imaginative and meaningful ways in which we can incorporate nonfiction so that it becomes a natural part of our reading workshops, not some separate entity that exists in its own reading vacuum: book talks, read alouds, mentor text studies, paired with fiction (I especially love the connection to historical fiction), and maintaining nonfiction libraries that are exciting places to visit. I definitely need to think about how much of this type of intentional incorporation I plan in my reading workshop.
The end of the year forms were a revelation to me – what a wonderful way to gather summative data! We are scrambling just to get things completed in those last days, but these surveys showed me opportunities to gather important information about where my students thought they were at the end of the year – in other words, how they felt they had grown as readers and created reading habits they could sustain once they had left my classroom.
I also loved the genre requirements graph (p.191) – my kids would really benefit from this type of visual reminder of their reading journey over the course of the year.
Finally, in the “Wild Reading Survey” – #3 and #10 are questions I need to include in my reading survey – such a smart way to learn key aspects of a student’s reading profile right away!
I’m so looking forward to heading over to Michelle’s blog to see what our cyber PD group has to say – join us there!
And…something to look forward to (I will be on holiday in London then, and will try to tune in):
July 30 – 7 p.m. CST live Twitter chat with author Donalyn Miller