The Book Whisperer: Book Study

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Happy Monday, everyone!

I'm very excited to be part of this book study that Angela put together.  I've already read The Book Whisperer, but it's such a good book, that I was more than pleased to read it again. Here we go!

Chapter 1: There and Back Again

The first chapter is a recollection of Donalyn's personal reading history and her struggles as a new teacher.  I could relate to almost every single word!

Reading about Donalyn's early reading history rekindled some dim memories of my own .... I'll keep them brief :)) 

1) I actually have no recollection of my parents reading to me as a child, although I assume they must have! My first independent reading memory is looking at a Dick and Jane text and suddenly something literally clicked in my brain. I can remember, as a six year old, thinking, "Oh! Now I get it!" And I was off and running.

2) Like Donalyn, and probably most avid readers, I also went everywhere with a book and often read with a flashlight under the covers.

I can remember a couple of long hot summer road trips from the west coast through the mountains and over the prairies all the way to Winnipeg. Luckily I never got car sick, so I read the whole way there and back, usually finishing two Nancy Drew books each way. And it was always so stinkin' hot (no air conditioning) that I'd lie on the floor right behind my dad (no seat belts either) where it always seemed just a little cooler.

3) At home, in Victoria, the book mobile parked in the local Safeway lot every Saturday morning. I loved Saturdays and would fully stock up on books for the week. that's not actually the book mobile I frequented (I couldn't find a picture), but you get the idea. I did wear a dress and bobby socks like those little girls ~ haha!

4) My husband is also an avid reader, as are both my sons. And now my little grandson has an enviable library of his own and is always asking the people around him to read him a book. 

Book Choice is Where it's At!

Fortunately I learned very early on, thanks to Elaine, an awesome mentor teacher of mine, that book choice is the most important thing!  Her grade three class had reading workshop every single day and the kids were in charge of their reading choices. She kept tabs on their comprehension and choices through daily individual reading conferences.

I've taught grades K, 1 and 2 for most of my teaching career so I've had to do things a little differently. My main focus is teaching them the joys of reading and .... actually HOW to read.

Most of our day revolves around literacy-related activities, but during our 45-minute daily guided reading time, the kids are either reading with me (my choice of book), by themselves (their choice, with a few guidelines), or with a friend (100% total freedom of choice). Guess which format they like the best?

I still haven't perfected the way I teach reading...has anyone? But here's what I do ~ strive to do ~ or did at one point and will start again:

1. Grand Conversations: This is just a fancy term for book talks. I'll blog about it in more detail in a future post.

2. Book Share: I give my kids the opportunity to read a passage from their own favourite book in front of the class while we all ooh and ahh.  This is a huge hit.

3. Nightly Reading Book Club: I did this for years at another school and will do it again this year. I don't assign books: again, it's all about choice. After the kids have read for 25 nights they bring their sheet in and I give them a simple little certificate. I announce it to the class; we all clap; and that's that.

4. Stickie Notes: I haven't done this yet, but I love the idea of the kids leaving a stickie note on a favourite book with a brief note of recommendation for their peers.

5. Book Response: To be honest, I don't do these all that often because I prefer book chats or Grand Conversations. However, I do have a weakness for story maps (actual maps of the story journey). I also find it very useful (I did my Masters project around this very thing) to have kids draw pictures representing their thinking of the story. I always do this after a book talk based on student-generated questions.  A big hit last year was to have the kids paint a picture of their favourite part of the class novel I read them. This was SERIOUSLY popular! 

But 90% of our comprehension-related activities are just talking about the books we read. At home I usually do this over a glass of wine. Which makes me think that maybe I'll serve grape juice during our next book talk:)

Thanks for reading this far. That's all I have to say about Chapter 1. I hope you visit again next week for my thoughts on Chapter 2. 

I'd love to hear about some of your early reading memories.

And please don't forget to visit the other blogs for more insights!


  1. Love your post Barb! The pictures are great, especially the book mobile! You've got a lot of really great ideas in here. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. I loved Nancy Drew! Thanks for the blog post, I like your different ideas, especially the Nightly Reading Book Club!

  3. I'm looking forward to hearing more about Grand Conversations. And ahhh, Donalyn Miller. Have you read Reading in the Wild yet?

    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

    1. Not yet! But it's definitely on my list. Have you?

  4. I ADORE Donalyn Miller! I read an article that did a study on adult readers...and all of them mentioned series books as part of their reading memories, so my goal is to bring in chapter books intentionally. I am planning all my read alouds to be book one, so kids are inspired to keep reading!
    Chickadee Jubilee

    1. I think that's a great idea! I know that some people think series books aren't worth the time it takes to read them, but I disagree. I LOVE getting to know the characters and revisiting them.

  5. I read in the car all the time too - so glad that I didn't get car sick!
    I think it would be fun to have grape juice (which would you prefer - red or white) while having a Grade One book club.
    Our Preschool teacher told me today about a book walk idea that she just learned about. You print and laminate pictures from a book and put them outside (attached to a tree or a pole or ??). Then you follow the pictures in order and retell or read the story as you go along. I want to try it!!

    1. White at home but definitely purple at school:)
      I love your preschool yeacher's idea. Go for it!

  6. Great post Barbara! One of my first memories of reading is reading my moms old Dick and Jane books. You have included lots of great ideas, can't wait to use some in my class this year. Thanks!


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