It’s already time for Chapter 4 of The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.
In this chapter, Donalyn explains her 40 book challenge. She sets this challenge at the beginning of each year and expects her students to read a total of 40 books, over a variety of genres, during the course of the school year. Here’s the break down Donalyn uses:
5 Poetry anthologies
5 Traditional literature
5 Realistic fiction
2 Historical fiction
2 Science fiction
2 Biography, autobiography, memoir
9 Chapter-book choice
This chapter also talks about The Right of the Reader, including The right not to read and not to finish a book. It also includes the right not to defend your taste and the right to reread. I occasionally abandon books that turn out not to interest me, but have never thought to share this with my students. My first graders like to reread books and it’s a normal part of our classroom to practice fluency, but I love the idea of setting some “Rights” for my readers.
The chapter and following Whisper talk about Readers Notebooks. This is something that I’m not great at, but really want to include in my transition from pure centers to a blended center/workshop time. Donalyn explains that her readers’ notebooks have several sections including places to track progress toward the 40 Book goal, but are primarily for reading responses. She also provides examples of how she writes back to her students in their notebooks to promote the community of readers and to build relationships with students.
I’m thinking about what response looks like in my classroom. I want my students to keep track of their reading and by mid-year that should be a realistic expectation, however, at the beginning of the year not all of my students are able to write a word or sentence to respond…
I want my students to read over a variety of genres, but Donalyn’s 40 Book Requirement list doesn’t quite work for me in first grade. So I’m going to try a reading log – in my student’s readers’ notebooks – that asks students to record the title and check the genre of a book. I typically teach and discuss a limited number of genres with my class: Fantasy, Realistic Fiction, Biography/Autobiography/Memoir and Informational. We talk about other genres, but these are the ones I highlight and use to sort our classroom read alouds into during the first months of the school year. My hope is that by tracking student selections I can guide them to books they might otherwise ignore, without setting a strict requirement for my readers.
I am also going to start expecting students to tell me something about their reading by responding in their notebooks. At the beginning of the year, I will structure these with some basic comprehension skills: characters, setting, problem and solution cause and effect. This should give my students time to develop writing skills and also help me ensure that they have a basic understanding of story components before we transition to a more authentic type of response: a conversation (in print) between two readers.
I hope you’re enjoying this book as much as I am!
Be sure to check out the other fabulous teachers reading along!