Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Thoughts on Reading in the Wild #cyberPD

It's summer! I've been taking a little bit of a blog break this summer to spend time with the family, catch up around the house, and to just chill.  I've been itching to write a blog post but I haven't had any overstimulating ideas to make it worth my while. Until...I happened to see the #cyberPD tweet on twitter about Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller. 

I read this wonderful book this year back in January for the start of our staff book club. It was awesome to sit around with teachers outside of school and discuss best literacy practices.  I decided that I could easily revisit this book this summer and participate in #cyberPD. 

Chapter 1-Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read

When I started this chapter...I was hooked by Donalyn Miller! I kept writing in the margins the words, "agree with this!, true, ****, !!!!, totally!" The first part that resonated with me was when she wrote, "the noise of my life demands that I find daily solitude within the pages of my books. I can think and grow and dream. I am happier when I make time to read, and I feel stressed and anxious when I don't for a few days. Reading centers me." This is ME! I love to read and have always loved to read...since I was 4 years old. I used to get in trouble for reading. I use the word trouble loosely, but I was often told to put my book away. Reading just takes me away and makes me forget about the daily grind. It relaxes me and calms my mind. Reading is something that I HAVE to do! Someone once told me to carry a book with me wherever I go so that I could read in the car, waiting for a soccer game to start, etc. You can often find me with a book in my purse and my husband always teases me that he is my personal chauffeur while I am reading in the car. It is so hard to find time to read as a busy, working parent but when you steal small chunks of time you can make it work! 

I've always felt that students who read a lot, do better in school. I am constantly pushing for my students as well as my own children to read as much as they can. My own children do not have the LOVE of reading like I do and I admit that at times it crushes me.  I'm hoping that someday when I am not nagging them, they will LOVE to read too. :-) 

I also wholeheartedly agree with the statement that we reduce the effectiveness of reading interventions when we don't provide our lowest-performing students reading time and encouragement. Developing readers need more reading, not less. I have seen this time and time again over the years. Our struggling readers need time to read, time to be engaged with books, and to be taught by the experts(us teachers!) I have seen so many struggling readers pulled out of class to work with a parent volunteer, literacy volunteer, etc. Time with books and focused instructional time with their teacher is the best opportunity to see growth. I once had a struggling kiddo in 3rd grade who started at a level G. After making time to read with him EVERYDAY during reading workshop, by the end of 3rd grade he had made it up to an independent level N! 

Another resonating point was the phrase, "Wild readers don't keep reading logs." I totally agree with this as well and struggle with this at the same time! It is nice to see a record of what they are reading, but how often do you write down what book you read, the author, the page #, the genre, etc. Boring right! I try to keep up with Status of the Class to record books and see trends and this year I may try having them take a picture of each book that they read on their iPad. And the reading log at home...forget about it! Like Donalyn Miller states, "I can determine if students are reading at home by assessing their reading engagement in class and how many books they complete over a set period of time." 

Chapter 2-Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material

This year I feel like I have taken it upon myself to become a "wild reader" of books. My take away from Donalyn Miller was that you have to know what the students are reading and be familiar with the latest books out there. I could never read a book a day in the summer, but I try to read as much as I can so that I can recommend quality books to my students.  For book ideas, I use Nerdy Book Club, blogs, the librarian, friends, Facebook, Goodreads, Pinterest, Twitter, magazines, and trusted professional colleagues.  I have read so many fabulous books this year after becoming a "wild reader." Amazon has been very happy with my book obsession! 

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF MY DAY IS READ ALOUD! I love it! It is sacred time and such a great time to build community. Donalyn Miller talks about the importance of read aloud and the benefits that it brings to readers. I love sharing this experience with the students and stopping to discuss the book or looking out and seeing every child engaged and hanging onto every word that you read. Chills! I loved her idea of having each child share their favorite read aloud at the beginning of the year. After reading this chapter I also participated in World Read Aloud Day and planned lots of literacy based activities and read alouds throughout the day. The students loved it! 

I loved reading her thoughts on habitual book abandoners. She said that they lack reading experience and that they don't recognize narrative arcs. I found this interesting as a teacher and have worked to teach my habitual abandoners to recognize some of these elements in the beginning books. One of the many things that I am trying to help them with as I want to create a classroom of "wild readers!" 
Donalyn Miller is just a wealth of knowledge and I wish that EVERY teacher would read her book and just take away a few new opportunities for growth in their classrooms! 


  1. Megan,
    I enjoyed the way you took some of the points in the chapters and expanded upon them in ways that relate to the work you do. I had to laugh as you talked about getting in trouble for reading. My oldest daughter is a wild wild wild reader. When she was little I remember saying things like, "Put your book down and get ready so we won't be late." Considering I spend most of my days getting kids TO read, it always made me shake my head to have to say this to her.

    I appreciated your point about readers who need extra support always being pulled out of the classroom. That's something I've been spending a lot of time thinking about this summer.

    Welcome to the conversation,

  2. Megan,

    Have you heard of the company, Levenger? Their motto is "tools for serious readers." Now, this is not an advertisement for them (though I love drooling over their product catalog) but the founder of the company, Steve Leveen wrote a book entitled "The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life," In this book, he talks about how he only became a reader later in life, when he learned to make time to read, choose his own books, and make a reading plan for himself. Unfortunately, I think too many students don't experience this type of reading. That's why I'm so glad we're reading Donalyn's book, because I think we all could use the reminder of why this is so important!


  3. Megan,

    How exciting to read and discuss this book with 17 of your colleagues! That is just awesome! I'm thinking about all the common knowledge and understanding of what our readers need to become well, wild readers! And then I'm so glad that you decided to reread the book and join in our conversations!

    I'm guessing our books like similar. I have notations scribbled all over too in agreement. But now with all this knowledge and research, I feel more confident talking with teachers at my school. (It's not just my opinion ... I'm talking with Donalyn Miller!)

    I also worry most about our developing readers who read less than all others. As a reading specialist, I work daily with students who struggle. I am often frustrated to see our most at-risk students being continuously pulled out of the classroom all day to work with our least qualified staff. Our developing readers need more time in class, more time reading, and more time with the most qualified staff -- with alignment of interventions. But that's another book .... Or as you said, maybe every teacher should read this book! That would be a great start!

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts,

  4. Megan,
    I echo your concerns about our struggling readers. All too often, they are the ones pulled from our classrooms - sometimes multiple times each day. And, in many cases, they aren't always working with trained professional educators. How can we help them develop reading lives when they miss out on that time in our classrooms? Yes, we can help them read in the "edges" but these are the readers who desperately need to learn to get lost in a book for longer periods of time.

    I agree - Donalyn's books should be required reading for all teachers! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!!

  5. I love all your thoughts - I love to steal moments to read. I, too, hope my teen girls will figure out they love to read when I stop nagging. I hope to participate in World Read Aloud Day - I enjoy how the kids get wrapped up (like me!) in read aloud. I plan on filling the first weeks of school with lots of books.