Book Whisperer: Chapter 4

I had so many "a-ha!" moments and connections with this chapter, it was impossible to keep track of them all. :-)

I will be entering my 10th year of teaching in August. 10 years of Reader's Workshop. 10 Years of trying to convince children to love reading as much as I do. 10 years of waiting for Donalyn Miller to write a book so I can stop banging my head against a wall. :-) Seriously.

My students have always enjoyed listening to me read. I purposefully choose books I know will be exciting, suspenseful, thought-provoking or funny. I still have plenty of kids each year who "pretend-read,"sleep or misbehave their way through our Reader's Workshop. I think I definitely discovered part of my problem this week: leveled readers.

I'm sure this will cause a few gasps and hopefully a good debate too, but I don't think I'm going to be quite as strict about the kids reading books on their level. (Can you hear the doom and gloom that goes along with that phrase??) I want them to use strategies (5 finger rule, read the first chapter, etc.) to determine if a book is just right for them or not. I don't want their identity as a reader to be all wrapped up in a letter from the alphabet. If they are using their strategies and I am holding them accountable by conferencing with them consistently, then they should be sticking fairly close to their level in their book choices anyway.

I also want to have more meaningful discussions about genre. We have our 9 weeks laid out in a curriculum map already. Do you know how much time we have for genre? One week, cupcakes. I'm thinking I'm going to have to find extra ways to talk about genre - don't you agree?

I found myself nodding my head in agreement when Donalyn mentioned readers who choose "low-brow" texts at first (Captain Underpants, anyone? Goosebumps?). I will admit it. I am a book snob. I am also a hypocrite. I go home and read the very James Patterson thrillers she mentioned!!!! HA! So, guess what else I'm going to do? You got it - add a Captain Underpants and Goosebumps basket to my library. I have to meet those readers somewhere, right?

What are your thoughts? I'm really interested to hear about how you feel about leveled readers in regards to the freedom our kids need to choose their books. How long do you spend teaching genre initially? Do you have any suggestions as to how I can stretch it out without taking away from the other standards I need to teach? I love that I have a new community of teacher peeps I can come to!

PS - Don't forget to enter!


  1. Hi Friend! I, too, am a book snob. But, being in the media center, I've had to sorta change my ways. Let this quote from Maya Angelou sink in, "Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him." - and I promise that you will feel better (much, much better) about putting Captain Underpants in a kid's hands. :)

  2. I plan to use leveled readers with my guided groups only. While the remaining students will IDR with their chosen books from the library. I usually teacher genre as a word of the day, which lasts for 2 weeks and then we play a search find game using their basal. I am going to still do this, but am also going to try to introduce them to genre this year using the read aloud as charting them as we go. So do you use the basal? My school uses Treasure, which includes a Read Aloud, + 2 stories to help teach the skill.

  3. @Angie - So true!! I'm glad I'm not the only book snob! :-)

    @Mrs. Shepherd - We do not use a basal. Our school has been strictly Reader's Workshop for the last 10 years. I like your idea of only using leveled readers during guided reading. I also think that through more frequent reading conferences, I'll be able to help my kiddos make sure they aren't reading books that are too hard OR too easy.

  4. Libraries are a great leveling tool; everyone can access plenty of books and reading material, free of charge. Kids Reading Program Reviews Parents that take an interest in reading activities at home create positive influences with their children when it comes to reading achievement, language comprehension and expressive language skills.