Creating Readers

Teacher friends: I highly recommend looking up Donna Miller if you haven’t already. Her interview, Creating Readers sheds light on some very important things to think about when trying to nurture young readers. As a self-proclaimed “book whisperer”, Miller has turned many students into lifelong readers. She puts a big emphasis on reading in her classroom.

Her first comment that stood out to me was about how she does such a phenomenal job at matching kids with books. “Like many teachers, I stand on the shoulders of the great ones for what they have taught me about inspiring readers and writers, and building community.” I think this is huge. When we are inspired by someone, we should pay it forward by inspiring someone else. Books are a great way to build community—a book can be a unifying factor to an otherwise isolated group of students.

The single greatest thing that I took away from this interview was that we need to meet readers where they are. We can’t expect students to all like the same book, or even the same reading platform (article, essay, poem, ect.). She talked about how many middle school boys like books with crude humor. As long as the book is age appropriate, let them read it! It is better to have a student reading something instead of nothing. If you let students take ownership in their reading, they are more likely to enjoy it.

Ultimately, as a teacher, I think you need to be real with your students when it comes to reading. Instead of forcing kids to sit and read for an hour a day, have them have a book on hand and read when they can. (A tip Miller highly recommends). Focus less on the tests and projects, and more on the discussions that come naturally from the book that the author intended for us to have. That is going to be how we create lifelong readers.

Pet Peeve #114

(https://xkcd.com/238/)

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6 thoughts on “Creating Readers

  1. I completely agree with your comment about inspiring others because we were once inspired. Can you imagine how great school systems would be if teachers and even students went around helping, inspiring, and encouraging one another constantly?! Not just only reading and books but everything educational as well!

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  2. I think you are totally correct when you say that it is better to give a student choice than to have them hate a book and NOT read! Giving students a choice is going to be huge in helping to develop lifelong, avid readers.

    You mentioned in your post that we should focus more on the “discussions that come naturally…”. How do we facilitate that in a classroom setting? I love, and will use, the idea that students should have choice in their reading. However, I am not sure how we can ensure students are discussing their reading.

    There is also the problem of accountability to the powers that be. How do we demonstrate that students are achieving comprehension? In today’s educational climate, how do we justify this approach and answer our nay-sayers with research and data-based information? I know I will certainly cite Donalyn Miller’s results, but what else is there?

    Thoughts?
    Jennifer

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    • You raise some great questions! I think to start those “natural” discussion would be to pose a question or two to the students and shape the discussion to their comments. Basically, focus on what they want to know, not the formal objectives you as a teacher have. Both should happen, I just feel the first would be more important, and the second would come as a result. With that, it is hard because you have a layers of people above you watching…I honestly don’t know what I would do! That is tricky.

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  3. Wonderful post! You might also enjoy reading Donalyn’s books at some point–The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild. I think that’s such an important point about crude humor. I was totally biased against the Capt Underpants books on principle–but then when I finally actually read one, I thought it was well-written and sometimes very funny, though yes, crude and juvenile at points. But it’s a great series to hook and grow readers!

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