Reading is one of my greatest loves. From as far back as I can remember, it seems as if I have always had some type of reading material at hand. Novels, comic books, even the back of the cereal box at the breakfast table…it all sufficed to satisfy my urge for the magic of the written word. And now as an adult, being a passionate reader is such an integral part of my identity that it’s impossible to separate the two. Books, newspapers, magazines, online articles…I devour them all with the appetite of someone who’s gone without food for too long.
But reading for pleasure is an endangered species, on its way to extinction according to some. The bleakest polls place the number of adults who read for pleasure at around 50%. And some surveys have shown that 30% of adults haven’t read a book for pleasure in the last year. As an admitted bookworm, these numbers make me so sad. And as a teacher, these numbers make me wonder why?
Donalyn Miller’s book addresses this issue. She believes, as do I, that it begins with the reading habits we, as parents and teachers, instill in young children. Her philosophy is simple. If you give them books, they will come. A few basic tenets are required: an environment filled with a variety of reading material, choice in what kids read, time to read, and modeling of passionate reading. Again, these foundational pieces are aimed toward the classroom but why wouldn’t they work at home as well? And can you imagine the effect if this was the standard at home AND at school?
And this author knows what she’s talking about. She has the benefit of many years of classroom experience. She also has a well-known blog and is in high demand as a presenter for professional development seminars. As a side note, she’s also a teacher in my district and has been featured at some of our workshops.
So what did I get from reading this book? In one word, validation. Donalyn speaks to everything I believe as both a parent and a teacher. Young children love to read and are fascinated by the words and pictures that come to life on the page. But something happens to them as they get older. They stop seeing reading as fun and start viewing it as work, something to be done when it’s required but no more. Ask any parent of a child who loves to read and you’ll hear a few common themes, the same ones espoused in The Book Whisperer.
This one’s a departure from my normal reviews, but it’s a good one. Although it’s geared toward classroom teachers, most of the anecdotes and tips given by the author can be put into practice by teachers and parents alike. And when you’re finished with this one, move on to her next one. Reading in the Wild is next on my list!