Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Book Whispering

Over the weekend, I read the book The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. (I'm behind the curve in reading this, I know). But I am so glad I finally did.
It has taken me a while to write this post because this book spoke to me on so many levels- as a teacher, a librarian, a parent and as a reader.

My husband would call me an idealist and to me what Donalyn has accomplished in her classroom is perfect! Heaven! The epitome of reading class!  It sounds so simple... give them books and let them read!  Why don't more of us do it?

Twenty years ago when I began my teaching career in a third grade classroom, I read outloud to my students everyday and we always had silent reading.  I, like Donalyn, taught whole class novels.  I had been in college during the "whole language" teaching movement where topics were integrated in all subject areas for weeks of study.  My favorite of these was our Mr. Popper's Penguins unit.  We studied the heck out of penguins.  We researched the different kinds of penguins.  We did science experiments about blubber.  Every math problem was about penguins.  We capped off the unit with an overnight, YES OVERNIGHT with 100 3rd graders, trip to the penguin house at Sea World where we learned even more about penguins and observed them all night long.  I thought the kids were engaged and I thought I was doing it right, and to some extent I might have been.  I was at a pretty affluent school. We didn't even mention the "T" word until January.  Students came to us with a rich vocabulary and exposure to books at home.

Now, I cringe as see what miracles teachers are asked to perform.  They have a tremendous amount of curriculum to cover in less and less time every year as testing and benchmarks take over the classrooms.  I hate that they have to rush through skills or concept, just grazing the surface. There is no time to delve deeper or do the reteaching of some concepts that they know they need to do because they have to rush on to the next topic in time for the next benchmark where the students will be tested on it.  Things have to give and unfortunately, read alouds and silent reading have suffered.

Are there teachers, administrators and district leaders out there that still value reading in it's true form?  I sure hope so.  I hope that soon the pendulum will swing the other way and reading test questions will not be the reading that is taught in our schools.

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