Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Sadness and Happiness

Dear Friends,
I've returned once again from a trip out of state for the funeral for my uncle who died unexpectedly two days after our return from the Middle East. My mother and family are just reeling. I also got sick again - third cold in two months - lack of sleep, too much traveling, and too much grief after my brother's passing in December.
So, I haven't had a chance to write a blog post about my fabulous trip. (I did post my first album of pictures on Facebook about Petra, Jordan last week.) Go there and open up the pictures to read all my narrative comments. 
But! I am very happy to share Donalyn Miller's next post about Book Whispering! Read on for more fabulous-ness.

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March 4, 2013
An Interview with Donalyn Miller, author of THE BOOK WHISPERER
Part II

"Reading is both a cognitive and emotional journey." Can you speak to this idea?

At one level, reading is a skill that can be taught and learned. How to locate information, analyze a plot, or decode vocabulary-these reading skills are necessary and can be learned. Everyone who is literate has these skills some to some degree. Beyond reading skills, we cannot overlook or discount reading's emotional, spiritual, and intellectual value-discovering things about ourselves and the world that we didn't know, learning from the accomplishments and failures of others, inspiring action, and expanding our knowledge. If children do not develop this aesthetic connection to reading, they won't see reading as anything but a skill. I believe that basic literacy is important, of course, but I think education should do more than teach workplace applicable skills. Education should teach students to question and provide them with the tools they need to find their own answers.

How might a teacher with a heavily scheduled day find time to add in independent reading?

I know that there is never enough time to teach what we are expected to teach under the time constraints given. I get it. If I cannot find evidence-based and research-proven reasons for using a particular activity or tool, I don't use it. I don't have time to waste on activities that don't benefit students' growth as readers, writers, and thinkers. I take the minimum number of grades my district requires. There is no busy work. We read. We write. We share and talk about reading and writing. That is it.

It is very liberating, actually. I suggest that all teachers critically evaluate every activity they are doing to determine whether or not it moves students toward independence or just more school. Independent reading has more influence on students' long term reading achievement than any other activity. Why would we put it last? 

I recommend that students read every day for a minimum of 15 minutes. Divide your class into thirds-1/3 for independent reading and conferences, 1/3 for mini-lesson and guided practice, and 1/3 for more reading and more writing.

Catching the reading bug: I loved hearing about all the ways your kids bring reading into their everyday lives. Tell us about your student who once read in the shower!

Ah, that was Molly. She was desperately trying to finish a book, but her mom kept calling down the hall for her to get in the shower. Realizing that she couldn't hold off her mom until she finished the book, Molly held the book out of the shower to keep it dry and kept reading it.

You have an extensive classroom library largely run by your students. I'm curious if you find certain titles "have legs" -- seem to wander away more so than others. In my room my Shel Silverstein and Sara Holbrook poems had to be replaced often. What about you?

When I taught middle school, the books that "walked" the most were: SMILE by Raina Telgemeier, the Skeleton Creek series, Bone graphic novels, CLIQUE by Lisi Harrison, HATCHET by Gary Paulsen, and innumerable copies of THE HUNGER GAMES and THE LIGHTNING THEIF. I imagine that many of these books are sitting on shelves in a former student's home. I hope they are. Every once in awhile, a younger sibling returns books that were discovered. I enjoy reading the apology notes attached. I think my books have more adventurous lives than I do.

When I taught I hosted an annual Book Auction. Kids would donate books they no longer wanted. I gave all my students five "dollars," whether they donated or not, and those who donated got an extra dollar for each title they brought in. At the end of the day, everyone went home with a pile of new-to-them books. 

What are some other creative ways a teacher might get books in kids' hands?

I love your book auction idea. We held school-wide book swaps at my previous school. Students and families donated books and received coupons for each title. During the swap, kids could take home a book for every coupon. We gave away extra coupons, so that every child had one. Extra books were donated to charity book drives.

As I read THE BOOK WHISPERER, I kept wondering if you'd read Daniel Pennac's THE RIGHTS OF THE READER. And you have! Which of these rights do you think are hardest for kids to embrace? For teachers?
For students, it's hard for them to see these rights as normal reading behaviors. They have been told by adults that skipping pages, abandoning books, rereading favorites, and not reading sometimes are negative behaviors. We spend a lot of time during the early weeks of school discussing these rights and sharing our experiences with them.

For teachers, I think that accepting times when students just don't feel like reading is normal. When a student actively avoids reading all of the time, this is cause for concern, but some days are OK. I notice that my students don't want to start another book right away when they have recently finished a great one. I encourage students to spend their reading time writing a recommendation or reflection about the book instead, or researching the author's other work. 

"Every lesson, conference, response, and assignment I taught must lead students away from me and toward their autonomy as literate people." Can you talk briefly about the ways you use reader's notebooks and one-on-one conferences in your room and how they build autonomy?

John Dewey said, "We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience." I think that notebooks and conferences provide a formal way for students to collect information about their reading and reflect on their experiences. In their notebooks, students record the books they read, notes from lessons and research, and their reading responses. When we confer, I usually begin the conversation with what the students are currently reading and move into looking through notebooks for trends in reading behavior, as well as strengths and goals. My students and I develop individual goals for their reading during these conferences.
Learn more about Donalyn and her book at Join us next month for the third part of the interview.  

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Meet the Spellbinders
Caroline Starr Rose Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. She's taught English and social studies to upper elementary and middle-school students in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. Back in New Mexico, Caroline now writes middle-grade novels and picture books full time. 

To find teacher's guides, writing activities, and information about author visits, go to her website, stop by her blog, or follow her on Twitter.


Carolee Dean
Carolee Dean has made numerous appearances as a guest poet/author at schools, libraries, poetry events, and teacher/library conferences. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and a master's degree in communicative disorders, and she has spent over a decade working in the public schools as a

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speech-language pathologist.

Her first novel, Comfort,was nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults, was named the Best YA Novel of 2002 by the Texas Institute of Letters, and was on the TAYSHAS (Texas Library Association) reading list. Take Me There is a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.
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She conducts teacher trainings on inspiring reluctant writers including "The Secret Language of Stories" and "Random Act of Haiku."

 Follow me on Twitter 

Kim Bio PhotoKimberley Griffiths Little is the recipient of the Southwest Book Award, The Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel of 2010, and the author of the highly acclaimed, The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets, published by Scholastic Press. Look for her books at the Scholastic Book Fairs, as well Circle of Secretsas two more forthcoming novels in 2012 and 2013.
She lives on a dirt road in a small town by the Rio Grande with her husband, a robotics engineer and their three sons. Kimberley is a favorite speaker at schools around the country, presenting "The Creative Diary", a highly successful writing workshop and has been a speaker at many conferences.

Please visit her website to download free Teacher's Guides and Book Club Guides. 
Follow me on Twitter 

Upcoming Events

Caroline Starr Rose
April 19
New Mexico Library Association Youth Luncheon
Albuquerque, NM

July 27
19th Annual Norfolk Public Library Literature Festival,
Norfolk, NE


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Caroline Starr Rose said...

Oh, Kim. I'm so, so sorry. I was just about to check in on you today. xoxo Sending so much love.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kimberley. So sorry for your loss.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Thank you both so much for your sweet words and thoughts. xo



Winner of The Southwest Book Award!

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