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#cyberPD: Reading in the Wild - Part 2

This summer a big (really BIG!) group of educators and wild readers are devouring Donalyn Miller's newest book.   I am participating and co-hosting this year's #cyberPD event about cultivating wild readers in our classrooms.  Please join us as we read and discuss online:

Reading in the Wild: 
The Book Whisperer's Keys 
to Cultivating Lifelong 
Reading Habits 
by Donalyn Miller with Susan Kelley

You can participate in the #cyberPD conversations this week too:
  • Share your thinking on your blog about chapters 3 and 4.  Then share your specific url link on Laura's blog at Ruminate and Invigorate 
  • No blog?  Leave your thoughts in the host's comment section on the blog.
  • Easily read through a compilation of all the #cyberPD posts on the                     Reading in the Wild #cyberPD 2014 Jog the Web

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My Thoughts and Reflections/Implications in My Classroom and School

"If we want children to read more, we must provide them with classrooms, libraries, and homes where reading is the norm. (Miller, p.91)

"The most effective reading teachers are teachers who read." (Miller, p.106)

So much rich goodness in these chapters!  I'm book happy!  I'm living the wild reading life (not as wild as you think).  I live with readers, even if they are four years old.  They love to read and have been known to share these wise words at the dinner table, "Mommy, books are like friends."  My mom is a reader.  I encouraged her to start a blog and keep a record of the books she reads and include her thoughts.  My friends are readers.  We read, we talk, we share titles, we read some more, and sometimes we compare the book to the movie for a night out.  I am also thankful for my online epicenter readers. (Click the link to share and thank an #EpicenterReader today on Twitter.)  I am a member of the  #nerdybookclub and share my reading life on Goodreads. I even own silly Elephant & Piggie, Scaredy Squirrel, Very Hungry Caterpillar, and other various READ shirts to express my reading passions. 

I get this wild reading thing.  Now, I need to consistently work on transferring all these wild ideas to my classroom and school.

Donalyn's description of her classroom (p.89) is what I envision and hope for in my classroom.  Creating a community first.  Developing relationships full of trust and support.  Students seeing themselves as learners, readers, and writers because they know that I believe in them.  

My concerns?  My developing readers are struggling with reading.  Period.  There are no deep conversations about writer's craft, breath-taking use of words, or graffiti walls filled with memorable quotes.  There are no impromptu book commercials.  Or planning for future reading.  Any and all book talk is usually coming from me through read alouds, modeling, and sharing my book love.  

In addition, my developing readers' parents, friends, and even teachers are not all wild readers sharing a passion and love for books.  I'm trying to figure out my role and responsibilities as a reading specialist in my little corner of the school.  Thankfully, my students are still so young and impressionable, and the love of NOT reading is not influenced by peers ... yet.

My biggest concern (year after year)? (I'm not trying to be judgmental or point fingers, but rather be honest with what I notice happening -- or not happening -- in my school.)  "Children must receive constant encouragement for reading.  It takes more than one classroom with one teacher for one year" (p.90).  I feel like many teachers that I work with are at the stage of just telling kids to go read "and not that book!" Many depend only on AR levels and reports to determine independent reading.  Many are not nurturing and cultivating readers within a reading community that showers students with reading glory all day long.  

I think we are in dire need of a Reading in the Wild school-wide INTERVENTION book study!  

"What's your bottom line? What do you really want to happen for your students? Now, how does what you do every day serve that bottom line? 
(Jeff Wilhelm, p.89)

Deep breath.  I can only do so much and I need to remember my bottom line: creating readers that enjoy to read.  I need to remind myself that I am doing a lot for my developing readers by creating a reading community (even if it's a short 40 minutes) and emerging my students in positive, shared reading experiences: reading aloud, sharing book titles, talking about reading, allowing choice when picking books from my classroom library, and begin creating short-term reading plans, like what to read next.  I now realize that I need to share MORE of my reading life with my students to continually show the power and impact of reading on my life.

And then I think again about the school reading community ...  

Inline image 1
I am (with my colleagues Chris and Karen) trying to create a school-wide reading community.  We created a bulletin board at the beginning of last year posting a picture of every staff member with their favorite read.  Chris and I started a segment on our morning broadcast called Book Talk Tuesdays (read more HERE, HERE from Chris, and HERE from Lynn).  We shared book titles, medal winners, strategies about reading, but the highlight was the reader interviews.  Students completed an application and we scheduled time to meet with the guest readers to create a script and dig deeper into their reading lives.  This was a HUGE success and created that buzz about reading and books throughout the school.  It was eye opening for me to have conversations with wild readers in my school as my conversations with my developing readers are just, well, different.  We were instant celebrities, and ofter heard students comment: "Hey, I saw you on TV!"  "It's Book Talk Tuesday today!  Yea!" "Why can't it be Book Talk Everyday?"

Before every break, I talk with my students about making reading plans.  But for my developing readers, we can't just talk about it!  Students wrote letters to themselves and their family, like before Spring Break (example of letter), and agreed to post the letter/plan in a visible spot in our homes to remind us to keep reading.  (Remember, as developing readers, that IS our challenge!) We stacked up on books and filled book bags to be sure that everyone had books to read.  Before summer break, we also created detailed reading plans too!  (Considering Who? What? Where? When? and Why do we need (and want!) to keep reading?)  

In addition, our school planned "The Great Summer Reading Book Give Away"!  Every student hand-picked 3-4 books of their choice to take home, read this summer, and add to their personal home library.  Books compliments of Title I funding.

Inline image 1This summer we wanted to also provide additional books for students throughout the summer.  We created a cart full of donated books:  our version of  "Readbox" with crates of books ready to fill the cart back up!  But this has failed due to new flooring in the school vestibule where the books were to be available for families to browse.  The access to books was denied ... and the books are still waiting to find new homes.

For the first time, we are offering Frost Summer Learning 

Nights at our school every Tuesday evening.  We bring crates of books, some blankets, and we sit outside the school for families to join us in an evening of reading.  (Or a play a math game, create a chalk drawing, and write a poem.)  We planned these events for every Tuesday this summer (9 total) and have averaged about 8 to 12 families.  We are always hoping to reach more families to stay connected.  Last year, we invited only our resource students to meet us at the local library that wasn't very local for our families.  We averaged about 4-6 families.  Upon reflection, this is improvement!

So, as much as I struggle with not being able to do enough, I can clearly celebrate!  I'm feeling a little better, but you know I'm always thinking of what is next ...  

Questions to Ponder

1.  Reflection practice/forms for developing primary readers:  Throughout the book, Donalyn recommends wild readers reflect on their reading experiences.  I'm struggling with how this might look at the primary levels, especially with the developing readers who will honestly say, "I didn't read last night."  How do we develop ownership for reading when reluctant and/or developing readers don't read?

2. Parental connection:  Furthermore, many of us realize the importance of informing parents of the importance of reading and setting a reading example at home.  I get it.  Home life is busy.  Parents are working one, maybe two jobs.  We are running kids here and there.  Don't forget the appointment and grocery shopping.  But allowing our children the gift of seeing parents read and spending time together reading is so important.  It is in our realm to empower our parents to help us create wild readers.  Several of the #cyberPD participants connected through the comments and conversations that this is one area that we want to develop parent workshops to help support reading in meaningful ways.  I'm excited about this collaboration!

As always, thank you for taking the time to read and share your voice!

"Focusing on our goals provides clarity of purpose and reduces our willingness to compromise the real work of our classrooms: helping children develop their capacity to have meaningful lives filled with purpose and joy. (Miller, p.90)

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July 9th   Chapters 1-2 Hosted by Cathy Mere at Reflect and Refine
July 16th  Chapters 3-4 Hosted by Laura Komos at Ruminate and Invigorate
July 23rd  Chapter 5 & Appendices Hosted by me! Michelle Nero at Literacy Learning Zone
July 30th @ 7 PM (CST) Twitter Chat with the author Donalyn Miller

Read.  Reflect.  Share.  Respond to others.  Then repeat.


  1. I love your thoughts bc so many of them reflect mine! One of the questions you had asked me last week was about our intervention time. Next year we are taking the first 30 min of school to get as many interventions as possible done. It will take all of the specialists (incl resource) and rdg assistants to get them done. There are a few cases where this will not be possible but we'll work those as they come. Then that will free us up to go into the rooms during reading block time (teachers working with small groups, all based on current reading levels not strategies... Don't get me started) and we can work with kids one on one. My goal is to have a reading conference during that time and just have them reading to work on those wild reading habits.
    Like you said, my big concern is the lack of reading that happens outside of school. I try talking to parents abt this but it usually ends up getting brushed off. It's a work in progress. I'm happy to read suggestions on this as we go!
    We opened our school library twice this summer and held book clubs for our 3/4 graders. Sadly not a single reading student came. It's something we'll continue to look at for each summer!
    Thanks for all of the thoughts in your post. Reading them is helpful!

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Michele! (Oh, that feels strange to only type one 'l'!) :)

      I appreciate the inside scoop about the intervention time! Our district currently created a new schedule (that will be implemented at all 11 elementary schools ...), but I'm always curious how other schools/districts provide interventions. I love this idea and I can't wait to hear more about it throughout the school year. We currently are losing one Title I teacher and Bilingual Resource Teacher, so our intervention/resource team is dwindling. I'm not sure we could even provide all the possible interventions in the 30 min. time slot! (We have almost 500 students, low income, high ELL.) I think you are also in Illinois (like me) and would love to continue to connect! Thanks again for sharing!

  2. Michelle,

    You have a lot of great strategies to help connect families to reading. It just sounds like it needs to build momentum from year to year as new families get enculturated into the community expectations.

    Here's a few more ideas:
    *Screen Free Week in May It isn't directly literacy focused, but when I organized activities to take the place of screens, I made sure there were both active/outdoor things to do and opportunities to explore literacy related resources.
    *Little Free Library - We organized a Little Free Library in our school where students could drop off their gently read books and pick up new ones. It was in the front of the school and encouraged all readers to see it as a resource. We later created a second one, and each had a different level focus (early readers vs. older) so very young children had their own space to browse.

    Looking forward to hearing more,

    1. Thanks for commenting Suz! I appreciate your insights and I think you are right, we need to continue pushing forwarding building the school wide reading community and hope the momentum takes over -- so that it all becomes a habit and just how we do this "reading thing." :)

      Thanks for the additional ideas! I involved my students a year ago in the Screen Free Week, but this year it was pushed to the side. I also encouraged reading and other activities as well. Because there is another issue ... not only are our kids not reading, they are not playing outside any more or being creative! Love the Little Free Library idea - I will definitely check out the website.

      Thanks for taking the time to share!

  3. I still have the challenges you face, too, Michelle, of teachers who read only what they must, and also those who insist that their students have to have the experience the the books they, the teachers, love, little choice. I don't have the advantage of asking those students what they think, but wonder what they bring about reading with them. With the inspiration of this book, I hope to persuade more of my teachers to read more and share more, build that wonderful community that Donalyn describes. From what you shared, it seems you've already done so much, like your Booktalk Tuesdays and the summer evening sharing, the end of school great giveaway! They all sound wonderful! I imagine your students love the 40 minutes with you and take good feelings about reading away, till the next time. Thanks for all you shared!

    1. Thanks for (always!!) commenting Linda! I think everyone has the same challenges ... if only we could get them on Twitter and write weekly with the TWT and read more!!! One step at a time ... like you said, sharing these little ideas to help begin building a reading community is where we need to start!

  4. Michelle,
    Very thoughtful post and it was very enjoyable to read. I just listened to Frank Serafini talk yesterday at a literacy conference and he mentioned the ineffectiveness of AR in reading instruction. You might be interested in this article He was a very engaging speaker!
    Loved your thoughts and work on building a school wide reading community. Lots of great ideas and I can tell that you are passionate about reading! Way to go!

    1. Thanks for your comment Megan! I am forever thankful for the article! Frustrating ... yet it is "all teachers know." I will continue the fight, share the research, and keep naming dropping Donalyn Miller! :) I appreciate you sharing.
      Thank you!

  5. MIchelle, you are doing amazing things for the readers in your school. I loved reading this post and will steal a few ideas to try in our district. I'm thinking that one of our Title 1 or 1st/2nd grade teachers does something with reflections. I'll do some checking and share what I find.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. That would be great, Deb! Thanks for digging in and trying to help out! I greatly appreciate it!

  6. MIchelle,
    Your concerns are mine as well. I worry about my developing readers, struggling readers and the lack of reading among our parents. I believe strongly they are all connected. You have done so much in your school to bridge these gaps.I am inspired by your Tuesday Talks, and Book meetings with parents! I would love to be a part of any collaborative you venture into on building the parent connection.

    1. Thanks for your comment Julieanne! It's a struggle, but involving the parents is key, especially if we missed the early years (before school begins). That's when the love of reading beginnings...I can see that with my four year old girls. I'm not doing anything extra special or difficult -- just providing opportunities to read, access to lots of books, visits to the library, and being a reader with them! So, perhaps, reaching parents can make an impact on the current children in school and the little ones to come! I'll keep you posted! Thanks again!

  7. It's clear that your classroom is one in which readers are nurtured and celebrated, Michelle - you have developed so many ways of reaching your developing readers.
    This part of your response really touched a nerve with me:
    "I feel like many teachers that I work with are at the stage of just telling kids to go read "and not that book!" Many depend only on AR levels and reports to determine independent reading. Many are not nurturing and cultivating readers within a reading community that showers students with reading glory all day long.I think we are in dire need of a Reading in the Wild school-wide INTERVENTION book study!"
    This is a situation many of us find ourselves in - and building that school wide reading community often meets with resistance and hostility. I think the best we can do is to soldier on, and try to reach out to the wider school community with book clubs and offers of teacher oriented book clubs (let's start with Donalyn's book!). And, I think that we will always have a few reluctant readers that become our projects for the year we have them - perhaps all that consistent modeling and thoughtful book suggesting will have an impact somewhere down the line!

  8. Michelle,
    I love that you ended with questions to ponder! I just wish I had at least part of an answer to help, but I am still pondering these questions myself!
    The thing that caught my attention the most was when you said "Donalyn's description of her classroom (p.89) is what I envision and hope for in my classroom. Creating a community first. Developing relationships full of trust and support. Students seeing themselves as learners, readers, and writers because they know that I believe in them." I feel the same way. I want the classroom Donalyn describes and I know it takes more than 1 or 2 years, but I wish it could be instantaneous.
    I also love your idea of having students write letters about their reading lives! I think I am going to borrow this idea. Although many of my students are far enough along in their reading growth that a talk might be enough, not all of them are. In addition, some of my reluctant readers would be more likely to remember and do something they wrote about rather than just talked about.

    Thanks for sharing everything you did today!

  9. Michelle,
    I'm going to love having you as a resource this year. You know I loved this post for a million reasons. I'm pinning it so I can return to it again and again.

    I'm trying to think through this building a reading community thing. Your honesty about the challenges ahead is well understood. How to get beyond these roadblocks to make change is something I have been thinking about all summer.

    Thank you for the idea of "Book Talk Tuesdays". I really want to get some of the readers I will support, and other wild readers in the community, to share book suggestions with others. Maybe starting a Book Talk Tuesday for the news would be the perfect way to start. I could begin these talks and then turn them over to students or sit beside students to share titles together. Once a week is a manageable goal in the busyness of school.

    Thanks again for sharing all of your thoughts. You've shared some smart suggestions to help me move toward building a reading culture in our community.


  10. Really appreciated your thoughts here, especially about how to foster a reading climate through your entire school. I think as an individual teacher it is important for us to look outside our own classrooms and to help foster what we think is important across the school. Thanks for the suggestions!

  11. Michelle,
    The beginning of your post made me grin from ear to ear! And as I continued reading, I found myself nodding and talking out loud to you. I think there are a lot of us who believe our schools are in need of a Reading in the Wild intervention! Perhaps we can all band together and share ideas for how we are going to positively impact the culture in our schools to be more book-loving places. I always look forward to reading your insight and reflections!!

  12. Michelle,

    Wow! You have been a part of some wonderful activities to support and promote reading at your school. How exciting!

    I absolutely LOVE the idea of "Book Talk Tuesdays." That seems like such a great way to extend the excitement for reading and awareness of a reading network beyond the walls of just one classroom. What a great initiative!

    Your job as a Reading Specialist has to be so challenging - to make "wild readers" out of "struggling readers." It seems like you are doing a great job of showing (and transferring) your excitement about books to your students, which I'm sure will be a key step in their journey from "struggling" to "wild" reader. Those students are blessed to have you as a teacher!

    Thanks for sharing about what you are doing/have done and the thoughts you are still pondering. I'm always challenged by you!


  13. Your reflection was interesting to read, Michelle. Thanks for sharing so many of your thoughts. I especially latched on to what you wrote about struggling readers and how hard it is to move them forward since they're not wild readers (and may not have great reading models outside of the classroom). It certainly does take more than one teacher to motivate a child and make them develop into a wild reader.

  14. Here's my QUICK write post! Leaving for the beach in 18 hours! Hoping to be back to read post on the drive!

  15. I still need to read this book!


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