I am a Wild Reader!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

     My district is doing a blog book study on Donalyn Miller's book, Reading in the Wild, this month. We have many talented writers getting together to share the knowledge of one of my favorite literacy gurus, Donalyn.  Many of our staff saw her this October at IRC, and we were inspired.  Thanks, +Kristin Richey, for organizing us together in this blog study for #D100bloggerPD!

     I have the task of writing about chapter 3, which is 40 pages of awesome.  Since I can't be Donalyn Miller, I tried to synthesize her ideas to fit into this not so teeny tiny blog post.  :)  If you have missed any posts in our book study so far, here is a ThingLink to all of them.  Just click on the black circles on everyone's Blog Buttons above.

Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers

     Our purpose, as teachers and as readers, is to enrich our lives through reading and writing.  In order to do that, we need to build a classroom community that is a family united in our reading.  We need to laugh together.  We need to cry together.  We need to create a place where connections are made with people from the books we read.

Donalyn Miller's response to Jeff Wilhelm's question is:

I want my students to see themselves as readers and writers.  I want them to know how much I believe in them.  I want my students to feel they have something to contribute to the world.  Working each and every day of the school year to build a classroom community that values and supports every member serves my bottom line goals.

     The truth is, having a single classroom with those goals will not make a child a life long reader.  It takes longer than a year, and requires parents and teachers who model reading, defend reading, and allow choice in reading materials for their children.  

Build a Reading Community

     We need to have students reading, both at home AND at school.  How can we develop this?  She claims (and I agree) that sending home book orders and celebrating Dr. Seuss's birthday is not enough.  We need to send messages about reading to the students and the parents.  Some ideas?
  • Put read recommendations and home reading tips in parent communications.
  • Put a weekly book recommendation in your email signature.
  • Have teachers model reading by posting "I am currently reading...." outside your door.
  • Share book recommendations during morning announcements.
  • Have your librarian create quarterly book lists of the top new books.
  • Support families who don't have books at home.
  • Loan classroom books to students.
  • Increase access to books, especially over the summer.

At the school level, "scrutinize every component of the school day to determine if your procedures, policies, and systems support or hinder students' reading." 

     When I was reading that, I immediately had two thoughts.  One was as a teacher, and one was as a parent.   

     My teacher thought was: REMIND.  Our staff communicates with parents constantly using Remind.  I quickly looked through all the reminds from our staff on my phone, and found very few messages that promote the joy or reading in general.  I got a pretty clear idea of what was going on in math, and a lot about day to day reminders, but very little shared the literacy life of our classrooms, and they all have strong literacy going on.  Share your read alouds!  Send favorite lines!  Tell them what your mini lesson was!  Share your anchor charts!  Recommend books, for both parents and students to read!  Share the joy of literacy, as well as the typical announcements that we share using Remind and Schoology.

     As a parent, I thought of my son's first grade teacher.  At Open House, the literacy coach in me immediately noticed her library.  I even snapped a few pictures, because Leah the parent always has her camera.  As the year has started, I have enjoyed finding books from that library in my son's bag EVERY DAY.  Books about their current unit, whether it's a Mo Willems author study, or a Kevin Henkes study, or a unit about bears.  Their year long theme has them traveling the world, and his library books are also about countries and geography.  Mrs. Hartmann has given children ACCESS to books, and allows them to choose books that matter to them.  

     Donalyn Miller also talked about homework, and how often the homework our students are asked to do actually prevents them from READING.  Doing an S.E. Hinton crossword puzzle with never be as valuable as reading the actual text of The Outsiders.  Stay Gold, Ponyboy.  Right?!?!?

     Look at my son's homework for Thanksgiving Break!  Stamina build.  :)  We only got to 6 minutes, because my daughter didn't quite get family stamina build, but the whole family read books independently together.  Now, that made my lit coach heart smile.  I can't wait to practice today!!!  :)

Buy books.  :)

 Online Reading Communities

     Join one, or ten.  There are tons.  Follow the blogs above.   Follow Nerdy Book Club.  Use Goodreads.  Join a Facebook group, or a Twitter chat (like #D100chat on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays, and #titletalk on the last Sunday of the month at 8pm).  Increase your literacy capacity by expanding your PLN.  

Become a Lead Reader

     In order to read books with kids, you need to read them yourself.  You can't recommend books if you don't read them.  You can't connect to kids about books if you don't read books yourself.  Read.
Last year, 4 teacher and my principal got together to read Out of My Mind together, as students in a book club.  Read with OTHERS.  Just read.

Community Conversations

      She starts this section talking about limiting reading choices.  She basically says that she agrees with teachers and parents being "mindful of the content of reading material" that our kids read.  But, that we walk a "fine line" if we limit of book because of our own discomfort with topics.  She said that we all must decide what books we allow in our classrooms based on "our book knowledge, our experiences with students and parents, and our school culture."  We need to know our kids.  We also need to be respectful of their self created reading communities.  

     I also have to add that we need to be respectful of genres that we ourselves do not particularly enjoy.  If we want to celebrate reading and allow children to read what matters to them, they might choose a graphic novel.  That genre did not exist for my generation, and it is a hard sell sometimes to teachers. But, I keep buying them for my lit coach office and I can't keep them on my shelves.  Kids who read are readers, even if the genre isn't our first choice.

Books that Build Communities

     This post was getting long, so I almost didn't include these titles.  But, how do I not share books recommended by The Book Whisperer herself?

Communities that Write could read...
  • Ask Me, by Antje Damm
  • BookSpeak! Poems about Books by Laura Purdie Salas
  • Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson
Communities that Value all Members could read...
  • Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
  • Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper
  • The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Communities that Have Fun could read...
  • Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
  • I Want my Hat Back by Jon Klassen
  • The Wonder Book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Communities that Care about the World could read...
  • A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham
  • Fourteen Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy
  • Laundry Day by Maurie J. Manning

Sharing our Reading

Reading Graffiti, with book titles, or opening lines, or favorite quotes.  Independent reads, or read aloud, or anything in between.  I LOVE this idea of making their reading a little more visible to others.

Book Commercials are another great way to share our reading with others.  This one is especially popular in my 1:1 district  Our teachers use iMovie, Tellagami, and a lot of other apps to create book commercials.  We just have to work on sharing them with others in a meaningful way, since the ones described in Reading in the Wild are described as quick and in person, recommending a book to the class.  Many of our book commercials end up just sitting on their device.  What is the point of a commercial that is never viewed by others?  At least put them on a shared Padlet wall.

Reading Doors!  Across her building, ALL the classrooms create reading doors.  They showcase the books, magazines, web pages, newspapers and journals they like to read.  They reveal the doors at Meet the Teacher Night.  Then, she turns the door over to her students.  Genius idea.

My 5 Word Take-Away

     I am not known for my brevity, but this post may break the record for my longest blog post.  I really tried to shorten it and synthesize ideas, but I just had to try and share all the inspiration from Chapter 3, and that was my task in this #D100bloggerPD book study.  So...  let me sum up the chapter (for me) in five words.


     On November 30th our Blog Book Study will continue with +Marilyn McManus and a Vignette called "Conferring: What's the Point?"  I'm excited to read her take on it, since that was the topic of one of the first PDs Marilyn and I did together for the district!  Here is a link to her blog.

     For those of you in Chicago, I am extremely excited to say that I am going to see Donalyn Miller LIVE in person again in a few weeks!  Monday, December 7th is going to be an inspirational day.  :)  Join us #D100bloggerPD friends!


  1. Leah,
    I am really excited that I found this book study. I read chapter 3 and was truly inspired! My take aways: 1- start posting our scools reading community on Facebook so families can see it; 2- follow a twitter chat (I haven't tried that yet. It's a little out of my comfort zone); 3- Celebrate books and reading by helping kids create book recommendations using iMovies, vines, and short videos to name a few. Thank you, again. Jennifer Napoleon

  2. Those sound like a fantastic set of next steps!! If you ever want to join our district Twitter chat, it might be a place to start. It is a smaller chat so it is a good place to practice. #D100chat is a 8pm on the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month. December 1st is about student engagement during the holiday season, and December 15th is about Wild Reading and our book study! I'm @leahod on Twitter. :)

    Thanks for joining us on this book study!

    1. Leah,
      Focused and thought provoking as always! Loved the Books Build Communities lists and ways to share our reading-simple, yet powerful. Thanks

    2. Felicia, I feel like I haven't seen you in forever. Finding your reply on this post was like a little hello. Thanks for writing that.