The Book Whisperer. Beat that!

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Donalyn Miller has made a name for herself. Reading in the Wild Covber

She wrote a book called The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. (2009. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco). Her undisputed claim to being The Book Whisperer is that she can turn any child coming into her sixth grade classroom in Texas into an avid reader no matter how far behind their classmates they might be.

That’s quite a claim, given the furor around the oft-repeated commitment to the importance of every child reading “on level” by grade three. Knowing full well that a homogenized group of competent readers will never come into her room, she doesn’t care where kids are when they hit the door. By the time she is finished with them, they will each have read over 40 books of their own choosing and be on the road to becoming  lifelong readers.

That is pretty much the definition of an educated person. Beat that!

This first book details the workings of her classroom. When she began to focus upon the fact that after awhile kids stopped reading when they went to other classrooms, she decided to do some research on what is common in the lives of lifelong readers who are both in and well beyond such classrooms. That can be found in her latest efforts.

To share the results and implications of that research, she has blessed us with a second book, Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits. 2014. Jossey-Bass. San Francisco. It has been reviewed 29 times and rated 60 times at Goodreads.com and the average rating (out of 5) is 4.87. Beat that!

She shares the “Five Habits of Lifelong Readers” … what she calls Wild Readers, a phrase that frankly, I am totally WILD about.

Briefly lifelong readers:

  • Dedicate time to read (whenever they can grab 1+minutes)
  • Successfully self-select reading material (They KNOW how to find books they love)
  • Share books and reading with other readers (They love to talk about what they are reading)
  • Have reading plans (They know what’s next…and after that…and that)
  • Show preferences for genres, authors and topics. (They have distinct favorites of kinds of books, favorite authors, and subject matter they personally find compelling.)

That it takes her an entire book to explain the why and how of each of these makes this simple list a bit of a cheat on my part. In future, I intend to spend time on each of these to share both my own insights about lifelong reading meshed with what I have harvested from her new offering.

YOU probably have your own ideas about the magic of these five in coalescing to nurture lifelong readers. I would suggest that as parents and teachers and literacy advocates and policy-makers we all do some self-reflection and begin to explore our own reading background and what we might do that would ensure a future of lifelong reading for every child we know.  After all…

Lifelong reading means lifelong learning.

Lifelong learning means a constantly growing potential for lifelong contribution to oneself, one’s family, one’s work and one’s community.

Really, now.  Beat that.