Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Old Dog Learning New Tricks About Book Whispering
By Nancy Carroll, Children's Literature Blogger
The old saying goes "You can't teach an old dog, new tricks!" After 20 years of teaching one would think 'this old dog' has it all figured out...well, I'll be the first to admit that I have NOT--especially when it comes to motivating children in regards to reading on a daily basis--figured it out. So many wonderful stories are out there waiting for my fourth grade students to delve into, but I know there are not only kids in my class who struggle with reading, but those who dislike reading, while there are others who want to do nothing else BUT read (just not the books that are prescribed in class). Constantly, I am grappling on how to reach all of these learners and instill a love of reading. So this 'old dog' is always on the look out for 'new tricks' in an effort to aid her students.
Just recently I finished reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, who believes all children can learn to love reading. In her book she gives suggestions and practical advice about getting students to read on their own. The book challenges you to change the way you approach reading in your classrooms. Basically, she suggests (based on great success with her own sixth grade students and through her research) to start the day with independent 'free-reading' and allow at least 30 minutes a day for independent 'free-reading' as well. Miller writes, "Daily reading is what transforms reading into a lifelong habit and builds reading ability." Student reading choice is a must (with guidelines for exploring different genres.) All too often, pleasure reading takes a back seat to the formal lessons being taught with basal reading and whole class novels. Doesn't it make sense to allow students to read books of their own choosing? Doesn't it make sense to teach strategies and have the students connect their learning to those books? I think it does!
Of course, I am not doing Donalyn's book justice, but it has fueled the spark within me....'This old dog' is determined to 'learn a new trick' by creating an independent reading program where her students will read independently for a sustained period of time using books of their own choosing. It is also a goal to guide my students in such ways that will promote encounters with books that they'll truly enjoy. 'This old dog' is hoping you, too, will be inspired by this approach to reading, which will put your students on the road to lifelong reading.