This week I was so very fortunate to hear, Donalyn Miller, the author of Reading in the Wild speak at nErDcamp in Parma, Michigan. She is incredibly funny and passionate, and I just love her Texas accent. After I heard her speak I was also lucky enough to participate in a session with her and to talk and share with her in a small group! My nErDcamp experience will change the way I read the rest of the book because I now feel like I have connected with the author (if only just a little bit). I’m so happy I made the very long drive from Ohio to Michigan. You can access her slides here. Thank you so much Donalyn for sharing your knowledge! Even though I’ve only been out of my third grade classroom for two years, as I read the first chapter I was thinking how much I needed this book when I was a classroom teacher. So many of the things Donalyn writes about in chapters one and two are the exact things I experienced in the classroom. I work in a school library now and teach students in grades K-5. I often do not know my students as readers in the same way that I would if I was their classroom teacher facilitating a reading workshop. And since I see students every four days for 50 minutes, I often do not have the continuity that leads to the reflection and conferring that would help me know them better as readers, like I may have if I had access to their reader’s notebooks, if I could observe them during reading workshop, or if I could read aloud to them every day. This frustrates me. On the other hand I think the library does offer students more flexibility in their reading lives. It is a place where they don’t feel like they are being assessed and graded, and a place where they have choice. A goal for this year for me is to find a balance: I need to work harder to find ways to get to know my students as readers and to find ways to support their development of wild reading habits in the limited time I have. I read the book with the thoughts of what are the “take-aways” for my library instruction:
- Students may need to be specifically taught to find reading time outside of school. An explicit discussion of ways to find “edge” times for reading should be a library mini lesson. This lesson could also include the ideas of where students prefer to read and what obstacles prevent students from reading as much as they want. We often talk abut this when preparing for summer reading, but it should also be a discussion before the end of the year.
- I really liked the specific strategies that Donalyn included for conferring with students who are fake reading, including firm, but positive language to use, ways to suggest books to give such students a push into reading, and ways to set attainable goals that would help students to feel successful while also holding them accountable.
- One of the things I miss the most about having my own classroom is the time I spent with my students reading aloud longer texts. Of course I read aloud to my students in the library, but there is not the same sense of community around this reading. However, chapter two did give me some things to think about in regard to reading aloud in the limited time I have. I like the idea of focusing on five authors my students in each grade level should know. This seems manageable to me, even if I only read the first chapter or book talk the books by an author.
- I think one of my roles can also be to help expose my students to a variety of texts read aloud. Certainly shorter nonfiction texts could be tackled in the library, but also poetry, shorter graphic novels, and online articles could be a focus. Wonderopolis is a site I have used in the past, but definitely need to revisit again for this purpose!
- I will also participate in World Read Aloud Day in the library. Several classes in our school participate in the Global Read Aloud and I think participation in World Read Aloud Day, which is several months later, would be a great way to continue to promote global literacy with our students.
- Like Donalyn I have had the same problem of how to handle all students (not just the first library class of the day) gaining access to new books in the library. I think implementing the drawing system as I book talk these new books will definitely help build buzz about the books and the guidelines developed by her students are perfect for the library, too. I also plan to code all new books with a red “new” sticker for the first few months they are in the library this year. These coded books will not be shelved, but displayed around the library once they are returned. Hopefully, this system will help all of my classes of students to have equal access in reading the hot, new books in our library.
- Discussion of “selection reflections”, including abandoning books should also be another library mini lesson. I do think this is a discussion that classroom teachers have with their students (I did), but I believe that hearing it in the library, as well, validates its importance and it can be a discussion that builds as I see my students year after year.
- Building preview stacks as a way to scaffold book selection is something that I have done as both a classroom teacher and teacher librarian. I like the questions that Donalyn included as a way to help build the stack and will definitely add these to my teaching toolbox in the library.
- I was really glad that Donalyn included a section for curating a classroom library (and the librarian in me appreciated the flashbacks from library school with Ranganathan’s Five Laws and the MUSTIE acronym). I have recently read some comments made by other school librarians about the fact that classroom libraries are not neccessary, if a school has a library. I do not believe this to be true at all. Classroom teachers know their students as readers in a way that librarians do not and can add to their classroom libraries to meet students needs. School libraries offer a place for students to try something new and to build on what they read in the classroom. There is an important and crucial place for both classroom and school libraries. It should not be about competition, but collaboration between the two.
Looking forward to reading the rest of Reading in The Wild and to reading what you think!