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The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

ISBN: 978-0-470-37227-2
240 pages
March 2009, Jossey-Bass
The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child (0470372273) cover image


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.
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Table of Contents

Foreword, by Jeff Anderson, author and literacy staff developer ix

Introduction 1

CHAPTER 1 There and Back Again 7

CHAPTER 2 Everybody Is a Reader 19


CHAPTER 3 There’s a Time and a Place 47

CHAPTER 4 Reading Freedom 69


CHAPTER 5 Walking the Walk 103

CHAPTER 6 Cutting the Teacher Strings 119


CHAPTER 7 Letting Go 159

Afterword, by Ron D. Myers, principal 179

Appendix A: The Care and Feeding of a Classroom Library 183

Appendix B: Ultimate Library List 193

Appendix C: Student Forms 201

References 213

Index 217

Acknowledgments 225

About the Author 228

About the Sponsor 228

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Author Information

Donalyn Miller teaches 6th grade language arts and social studies at Trinity Meadows Intermediate School in Keller, Texas. She also writes an ongoing blog for teachermagazine.org. The book is published in partnership with Education Week Press (www.edweek.org).
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The Wiley Advantage

  • High Profile Author:  Donalyn Miller’s ongoing blog for teachermagazine.org is among the most visited and talked about internet teacher sites in the country. Her wisdom and advice are valued by teachers everywhere.
  • Market Demand: Teachers and preservice students are in acute need of guidance on how best to prepare students for high-stakes reading exams without resorting to ‘drill and kill’ instructional approaches.
  • Inspirational and Practical: Author offers renewed hope for both teachers and parents about the turnaround potential of failing readers. Author’s unconventional instructional approach lets students read books of their own choice. Book is packed with practical suggestions and includes list of recommended ‘kid lit’ that will help parents as well as teachers find books that students really like to read.
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[Starred review] Miller, a sixth-grade language arts and social studies teacher and blogger, has enabled students of many different backgrounds to enjoy reading and to be good at it; her students regularly score high on the Texas standardized tests. Her approach is simple yet provocative: affirm the reader in every student, allow students to choose their own books, carve out extra reading time, model authentic reading behaviors, discard timeworn reading assignments such as book reports and comprehension worksheets, and develop a classroom library filled with high-interest books. Her students regularly read more than 40 books in a school year and leave her classroom with an appreciation and love of books and reading. Miller provides many tips for teachers and parents and includes a useful list of ultimate reading suggestions picked by her students. This outstanding contribution to the literature is highly recommended for teachers, parents, and others serving young students.—Mark Bay, Univ. of the Cumberlands Lib., Williamsburg, KY (Library Journal, March 15, 2009)

"Mrs. Miller's message was powerful, yet simple. She reminded educators of the simplest way to foster a love for reading: let students read for fun without asking for a book report when they are done." (The Examiner, November 4, 2009)

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Professor Reviews

“The Book Whisperer (I love the name!) was both inspirational and incredibly practical. I highlighted many passages to share with my students and teachers, and I plan to use this as a text next year when I teach my undergraduate reading methods course. “ --Patricia M. Cunningham, Professor of Education, Wake Forest University

"Miller's new book, The Book Whisperer, is a breath of fresh air in this era of teacher-dominated reading test preparation lessons. She sets forth both an argument and evidence for immersing kids in reading as the alternative to the often mindless reading lessons offered in hopes of improving test scores. She writes about her own 6th grade classroom where students are expected to read at least 40 books each year, and her stories will convince you that it is time to focus on teaching children rather than teaching books or stories. She will convince you that it is time to stop assigning book reports, whole class novels, vocabulary lists, quizzes, and worksheets and, instead, give students the opportunity to choose what they will read (within limits). She will also persuade you to allocate the school time actually needed to read 40 books in a given year. This is a powerful and practical book, one that will support you as you change your classroom for the better while helping you understand how to overcome current classroom cultures where some children learn and many learn to hate reading." --Richard L Allington, Ph.D., University of Tennessee

"Donalyn Miller’s practical ideas about children and books are sound. In an age of test-driven curriculum, reading this book will remind teachers, administrators and parents why giving reading back to the students is the right thing to do.”--Dr. Carol D. Wickstrom, Associate Professor of Reading, University of North Texas

“This book reminds anyone--who is lucky enough to have loved a book--what classrooms and kids have lost in our frenzy to 'cover'content and standardize student performance in the name of reading. This is a primer of the heart on how to make reading magical again.”--Carol Ann Tomlinson, William Clay Parrish, Jr. Professor of Education, University of Virginia

"In The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller deftly describes the inherent need children have to engage with books, intellectually and emotionally.  The book is a timely and rare gift for teachers."--Ellin Oliver Keene, Author/Consultant

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Related Websites / Extra

The Book Whisperer blogRead Donalyn Miller's popular blog "The Book Whisperer" at teachermagazine.org
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