Donalyn Miller says she has yet to meet a child she couldn’t turn into a reader. No matter how far behind Miller’s students might be when they reach her 6th grade classroom, they end up reading an average of 40 to 50 books a year. Miller’s unconventional approach dispenses with drills and worksheets that make reading a chore. Instead, she helps students navigate the world of literature and gives them time to read books they pick out themselves. Her love of books and teaching is both infectious and inspiring. The book includes a dynamite list of recommended “kid lit” that helps parents and teachers find the books that students really like to read.
Because she couldn’t find a book that showed her how to use her own love of books to imbue her elementary students with the same love, Miller, Teacher Magazine blogger, decided to write her own. She recalls her personal journey as a teacher and the surprise and disappointment of learning that book loving cannot be automatically passed on to students. No more having the whole class read the same novel. She gave her students questionnaires to determine their interests and personally selected stacks of books of possible interest to them, then allowed them to read independently—at least 40 books a school year. She recounts the experience of some students struggling and others exhilarated by the freedom to read. Miller’s tactics resulted in improvement in her students’ vocabulary, comprehension, and writing. She also saw students respect book suggestions that came from a reader’s passion rather than a teacher’s agenda. Miller includes reading lists, activities, questionnaires, and other resources. Although aimed at teachers, this book will also definitely appeal to parents interested in encouraging their children to read. ~ Vanessa Bush.