“The question can no longer be “How can we make time for independent reading?” The question must be “How can we not?” Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer (page 51).
Have I told you I love Donalyn Miller?
Chapter 3 of The Book Whisperer focuses on making time for reading. We do this as adult readers. Steal 5 minutes to read while we wait at the doctors office, listen to audio books while we drive to work (my favorite way to pass the time on my commute), read articles on our phones while we wait in line at the grocery store…
In this chapter, Donalyn cites The Power of Reading research by Stephen Krashen and reports “that no single literacy activity has more positive effect on students’ comprehension, vocabulary knowledge, spelling, writing ability and overall academic achievement than free voluntary reading.”
That sounds pretty simple, right?
Then I fill up my literacy instruction time with skills practice and leave little to no time for students to read self-selected texts. Now, first graders need skills practice. They need to learn the procedures of reading, but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have time to read independently, too.
In this chapter Donalyn details the “stolen reading time” in her classroom, including during classroom interruptions (teacher or parent visitors with questions, when you have to answer the phone, etc), when students finish their classwork, in line for school pictures, as bell work before the day begins…
I’m pretty good about most of these…but I’m going to change a couple procedures in my classroom so I can be better. I’m going to have students keep a book in their chair pocket. I used to do this, but I stopped when students began collecting (hoarding?) books in their chair pockets, causing the pockets to be overly full and start to tear. I just need to be clear about the 1 or 2 book expectation here. Then my students can easily have a book at their seats if they happen to have a free moment.
This chapter also looks at “Creating a Place for Reading.” During centers/workshop time my students are typically all over the room, working and reading in just about every space.
Their favorite place is this tiny nook between the shelves and the classroom library. Every year students love to read here. My only stipulation to my students during reading time is that no one can be under a table or behind the teacher desk (because I can’t see back there from my guided reading table). The kids love this freedom and I love giving it to them.
I’ve seen a couple of ideas for “reading spaces” on Pinterest and I’m going to give them a try this year, too. I have a huge pile of fleece that can easily be cut into mini “blankets” for kids to throw on the bottom of their chairs if they want to read there and I think the kids would love using those little spaces. (Neither pin contained a link, if they are yours, please let me know so I can give you credit!)
Just one more thing to love about Donalyn…
“Honestly, I am the person most likely to make noise during reading workshop time. I am not quiet by nature and find it hard to whisper during conferences. I often get so excited about the books I am discussing with students that I should queries to the rest of the class.” (page 67)
Really…is she in my classroom? I want it to be quiet during workshop time, but as a not so quiet person I find it hard to be quiet myself. Oh well, at least I’m not alone.
Be sure to check out these other fabulous teachers and read along with us!