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#cyberPD: Reading in the Wild - Part 3 Link-Up

Scroll to the bottom of this post and 
share your specific blog URL using the InLinkz link.

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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 5 and the appendices.  Then share your specific url link right here at Literacy Learning Zone. Scroll to the bottom of this post and share your specific blog URL using the InLinkz link.
  • 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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"Dedicating time to read, self-selecting books, building relationships with other readers, making reading plans, and developing their own reading preferences, our students feel empowered and capable enough to continue reading away from school.  Their reading lives belong to them, and they don't need us.
They are wild readers now." (Miller, p.193)

My Thoughts and Reflections/Implications in My Classroom
As a wild reader, I think I know my preferences pretty well as a reader.  I know my likes (fiction/picture books/nonfiction PD) and why, my dislikes (nonfiction/science fiction), my preferences (genre/authors I love/series -- if the first book hooked me), and even my book gaps (transitional chapter books/middle grade).  As far as favorite books?  I agreed with this wild reader: "'s often what I have recently read that stays vivid" (p.165).  Usually, my favorite book is that last book that I loved. I have many favorites, but I don't always remember why -- except that I loved it.  The story, the characters, the writing moved me and stayed with me for a long, long time.

I have been known to say (many times): "Here!  Read this!  I loved it.  Read it!"  Never mind the fact that I don't provide a preview stack or allow any choice.  I just shoved a favorite book of mine into the hands of a reader without a reason why beyond my feelings book love.  However, "we cannot let our personal reading preferences become biases that limit students' reading" (p.167).  Yikes!  This is an easy trap to fall into!  (And I'm guilty of it!!!)

SOLUTION: Continue to read widely because "reading advisors ... know a lot about books that appeal to all types of readers" (p.167).

Conversations with students need to also include discussions about reading preferences and knowing that our preferences can change over the course of a year and a lifetime of reading. This was a big aha: "Asking students to examine and share their reading preferences created a reflective opportunity that celebrated their reading accomplishments and growth" (p.166).  I can honestly say that I have never looked deeply at preferences before -- I'm usually just happy that my developing readers are reading!   

But talking, determining preferences, and being explicit about what readers prefer needs to be known by the reader too.  I think most developing readers have little knowledge about what they like and why or what they prefer to read.  However, "preferences are not always informed opinions" (p.167).  Yes, so true.  The majority of my reading conversations with developing readers are very similar to the vague generalizations examples provided (p.167-168).  I believed the readers to be reading, but in reality, these preferences really told me my students' haven't read much.

SOLUTION: Continue listening when students share about books and learn to carefully dig deeper.  Learn about their likes and dislikes.  Provide books that meet their interests.  Stretch readers beyond their comfort zone.  No more vague responses!

I appreciated how Donalyn went deeper into the power of hooking readers on graphic novels and the important role they play in our classrooms.  There definitely needs to be more discussions in our schools and classrooms about how graphic novels can support all readers.  In addition, Donalyn's explanation of why and how nonfiction reading changes through school was eye opening.  "As with any other type of text, we must look for meaningful ways to incorporate nonfiction material in our classrooms if we want children to read more of it" (p.179).  Yes, this just makes sense!  

SOLUTION: Because nonfiction is one of my areas of avoidance, I need to challenge myself to incorporate the activities suggested on pages 180-181 to increase students' nonfiction reading skills, access, and motivation for reading it.  Oh, and I need to read more nonfiction too!

The entire "Reading Habits Conference" section in my wild reading book is tagged and marked up.  Conferring isn't easy, but Donalyn's clear examples and suggestions were eye opening.  I know that I need to make my record keeping work for me noting what I see and hear about various reading habits: preferences, engagement, record keeping, commitment, and self-selection.  I will definitely be returning back to this section again and again throughout the school year.

I'm still thinking about the forms provided in the appendices.  Working with primary students, many of these forms would be overwhelming and take away from the real meaning of the sharing on the forms.  However, I do believe many of the forms can be created as anchor charts to document the reading life of the classroom.

SOLUTION:  Using a gradual release of responsibility approach, I can model and explain the genre graph and then enlist the students to help with our classroom record keeping.  The reading habits reflections can be used more as interview questions and conversation starters when conferring with readers.  Very usable forms, but more scaffolding and modeling will be necessary for my K-5 developing readers to reflect and think like a reader!

I loved these two minimal changes Donalyn suggested that make a BIG impact:  students keep reading while Donalyn reviews and jots notes about the student's reading notebook and changing the term student/name to reader and writer.  Love it!  (Easy too!)

Donalyn just gets it.  And now our mission continues:  Together let's nurture wild readers!

"Who knew, Mrs. Miller? Who knew that reading would be something I was good at?  Teary-eyed, I gave her a squeeze: 'I knew, Allison, I always knew. 
And now you know it, too. (p.197)

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

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The #cyberPD conversation is not over!
Join us on July 30th @ 7 PM (CST) Twitter Chat with Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks)

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

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Click "Add your Link" button below to share the specific blog URL for your #cyberPD 
Reading in the Wild - Part 3 reflections. 


  1. I so loved the focus on how to develop/what to do about our students' reading preferences, too, Michelle - thanks for sharing your insights, too. I love the way you set your post up: problem/solution...I feel as though I've walked away with many solutions having read RITW!

    1. Thanks Tara! I don't always go into writing my blog posts or reflections with a plan ... the problem/solution just naturally happened. And I agree, I think we have a handful of solutions to help create wild readers!

  2. One of the things that is really sticking with me is the need to have students doing book talks for each other on a regular basis. I think it will be a chance to assess comprehension (still necessary!) but it will add so much to our class! I love the idea of helping each of them become an expert at knowing what they like, and at suggesting books for each other. I've typically been the sole source of that information in my classes. I'm going to change that.

    1. Lisa,
      I think I can say the same thing! I "own" all the book sharing, but the students need to take on the responsibility -- not only are we learning more about them as readers, but we are noticing preferences, book gaps, and it adds so much to the reading community! This will take a lot of modeling in the primary, but worth every minute of investment! Thanks for the push to do more student-centered book sharing!

  3. Thank you for hosting! Our school is implementing the "reading door" idea this school year and it is interesting to see that teachers are even anxious about sharing their reading preferences. They want to post the books and their feelings of love but have that feeling of "appealing to all types of readers". I also connected to the non-fiction section as well..I have found that picture book biographies have been a nice nudge into this genre for me. Everyone should read...Hot Dog! Eleanor Roosevelt Throws a Picnic! :)

    1. Tracy,

      It is eye opening to see that some teachers are uncomfortable about sharing their reading lives (or lack of!) But hopefully that is eye opening enough for the teachers to realize that that needs to change. Teachers of reading must be readers! Fill up that door with rich goodness! Thanks for the NF book rec and PB biographies -- I'll be checking it out as that is a gap I need to work on in my reading diet.

      Thanks for commenting Tracy!

  4. Michelle,
    I too have fallen into the habit of recommending a book that I just read and enjoyed, rather than really considering what the preferences of the recommendee are. This can be problematic, as I have a friend that constantly recommends books to me, but she and I have very different preferences and I really dislike the books she recommends. I try not to ask her about what she reads now, because I'm afraid she'll want me to read it. I usually end up skimming the book just to say I've "read" it. I wonder now, if any of my students have done this with the books I've recommended? Hmmmm...

    I think the hook to non-fiction is starting in topics that already are of interest and then getting high-quality writing and visuals. I have found that too often the first exposure to non-fiction for students is the dreaded report (and sometimes without a choice of topic) and so the negative feelings of the assignment carry over into the genre. When a reader loves a subject, the reading becomes easier and more fun.

    Thanks for hosting,

    1. Suz,

      Your example of book sharing is eye opening ... and I wonder how many times I have done this to students as well?! (And then I keep badgering them, asking if they read the book .... ugh.) We need to "know thyself" as a reader AND be able to share it with others. Yes, it's good to try something new too at times. Perhaps one of the books your friend loves has a "little" overlap of something you may like and that would be a good book to try, read, and discuss. I wonder if your friend feels the same about your book recommendations .... As you said, hmmmmm....

      You mentioned "When a reader loves a subject, the reading becomes easier and more fun." That is why choice is so important rather than always looking at book levels, especially with nonfiction text.

      Thanks for your comments Suzanne!

  5. Michelle,
    I love how you set up this post, with a recurring problem or flaw in our normal way of thinking and then posting a solution that is easy to see and that is set apart from the other paragraphs.

    Preferences is something that I am aware of and I try to guide my students toward books that fit their preferences, but I never have these conversations with them intentionally and explicitly. I never sit down with my students and say, "I see that you like books about adventures and boys your age, so why don't you try Hatchet." Instead, I too, just say "Here try this. I think you'll really like it." Of course, I always have some students who are very aware of their preferences. There is always a small group of girls who know they love books about animals, adventure, and the social dynamics of groups (much like the social dynamics that begin to develop in 4th grade). I always lead this group to the Warriors and Seekers books, and they always love them. However, not all of my students are so aware of their preferences, which is when I need to be more intentional with my suggestion conversations. Now that I'm aware of this gap in my teaching, I can remedy it.

    Thanks for hosting this week and for sharing your thoughts!

  6. Michelle,
    I love the way you reflect on this book and your solutions for solving those areas that you want to tmprove upon.
    I agree with you when you said, "I think most developing readers have little knowledge about what they like and why or what they prefer to read." This is why those conversations are so important.
    As you mentioned, I also think the forms in the appendices could provide us with some useful information. For use with primary students, I love your ideas to create anchor charts that provide the same information or using some of them as you confer with readers. Thanks for sharing your insights and solutions.

  7. Michelle, thanks for sharing and hosting this great conversation! I really appreciated your thoughts about how to bring the conversation and practices down to the lower elementary level. I am absolutely with you about the need to expand from a "this is great, read this!" to the book-stack approach and to help my readers see that they are in control of their choices. Great stuff.

  8. I feel like I had the same thoughts as you did. Wonderful reflection! I love your approach with solutions. Conferring is an artful thing. I wish we could do regular group check-ins on how conferring is going. I try to go for simple because too many tools make me crazy and I give up. I love Donalyn's technique for maximizing reader's time. Simple and easy!

    I also keyed in on the graphic novels. (Although I didn't mention it in my post, so I'm glad you revisited it here!) This is an area I have avoided because it is hard for me. The power of the graphic novel in terms of engagement is undeniable and when you think about it so is the skill work readers do. I've got Watchmen on my desk. Fortunately I have raised two boys with a passion for graphic novels so I have a collection to choose from.

  9. I find it interesting that adults prefer to read nonfiction and realistic fiction, while students prefer fantasy and science fiction. Donalyn’s former students said they do not like to read historical nonfiction because it is boring or they relate nonfiction to research projects. Another reason why I think students put up a wall for nonfiction is because it reminds them of textbooks – and we all know how students feel about those! I love how Donalyn encourages her students to read 40 books a year to expand their repertoire of genres. I like the idea of incorporating the genre requirements graph as a way to document the 40 book challenge. Donalyn says that the purpose of the genre requirement graph is not assess students, but to give students the opportunity “to try a little bit of everything so they can find what they like to read” (p. 192). As students complete their graph, they are encouraged to talk with students who are experts in the genre they are least familiar with – which is a great way to foster a reading community in the classroom in an indirect manner. It is important that students keep records of their readings and books they want to read, along with communicating with their peers so they can enhance their reading habits. I also think that documentation will show students how much their selection of reading has expanded, thus, boosting their self-confidence.

    I definitely have my reading preferences and tend to stay away from historical fiction and graphic novels. I accept the 40 book challenge because if I want my students to become wild readers and appreciate reading in its numerous formats, I must develop an appreciation for all genres myself. Being familiar with all genres will also help me be a better resource for my students when they are searching for the perfect book that meets their interests.

  10. Reading chapter 5 made me reflect on how limited my own experience in certain genres is and how that has likely limited my ability to recommend books to my students. Not only do I need to encourage my students to explore new genres, but I need to do some serious exploring myself. Overall, this book has made me re-think my role as the "Lead Reader" in my classroom, and as the leader, I never want to ask my students to do something that I wouldn't be willing to do. Therefore, we will ALL be working to expand our knowledge of various genres this year. I really like the idea of having students graph their reading selections to help them be aware of their own genre preferences. I think that building self-awareness as a reader early on helps students to take control of their reading lives and continue their wild reading habits beyond our classrooms.

    1. I think I'll complete a genre graph with my students to show them that even adults need to continue stretching themselves :)

  11. I feel like as a reader, I blow through my reading so quickly, never taking the time to think about it and analyze it, that I don't remember the details later. I guess when you're a voracious reader, that happens. I remember reading the part about preview stacks and giving kids choices when I read this book in January and that stuck to me, because like you said, I generally just hand a book over to someone and tell them how much they will love it without giving them a choice to like something else!
    I think there are so many ways to use this book with teachers and parents. I'm hoping to use this book as a staff read and do a parent night. Trying to get admin on board....
    Thanks for hosting today!

    1. I'm the same way! I often read books that I love, but 5 or 6 books later I can't keep all the details straight, or I don't remember all the details. This is a problem when I recommend a book to someone, like my niece, who likes to discuss it as soon as she is finished. I can't always hold up my end of the conversation. :)

  12. I love the idea of the genre requirements graph! What a great way to foster student choice while also pushing students to get to know themselves as readers. So often, as Donalyn mentions, students stray away from certain genres simply because of lack of positive exposure. We can give them that exposure by also intentionally expanding the genres we use as read alouds or recommend to students.

    1. I too am excited about having students chart their books in terms of genres. I think the number of books required is fair without being overwhelming. It helps students see that we do think exposure to different genres is important but still giving them freedom to choose their own books.

  13. I felt convicted about a couple things when reading this last chapter. First, reading that “fantasy and science fiction were the overwhelming favorites” for the students sampled made me do a double take. The thought of having to read either of those makes me not to want to even pick up the book. A couple years ago I recognized I hadn’t read much fantasy and wanted to familiarize myself with Rick Riordan’s books. I started The Lightning Thief and made it through a couple battle scenes and was like, “Enough!” However, Harry Potter and the Hunger Games also fit into the fantasy and sci fi genres and I did thoroughly enjoy the whole series of each ☺ So, I guess by reflecting, I’ve realized that I can enjoy those genres, but I need to do my research so I can rule out those that play out like an action movie.
    The second thing that definitely zinged me is the “overanalysis of historical fiction and biographies during whole class novel units” (p. 177). Three fourths of the books my class and I read together are historical fiction and it’s because of the intentional purpose of integration. Since that’s not the only type of reading we do in class, I don’t feel absolutely terrible, but for those don’t/can’t read as many chapter books on their own, that’s not a healthy balance. Instead, I could substitute a couple out of the class novel study, but still make them available for literature circles. Even right now I’m thinking about “whether the text is well written or chosen for its curricular links” and making mental notes of my changes!

  14. It is vital for teachers to know students' preferences in order to build a positive reading relationship with them. With this knowledge, we are able to help stretch them and expand their knowledge and interest in texts. Communication is the key to continually learning about our students as their interests change. At the beginning of the school year, I send home an interest inventory to gain a sense of my kindergarten students' reading experiences and interests. As the school year progresses, I find that my students will show a greater interest in the authors we have studied and the topics we have read about. My former librarian would get so excited to hear my students naming specific authors and illustrators as they looked for a book to check out. As teachers, it is important to remember how much of an influence we have on our students. Let's do our best to create a culture of wild readers in our classrooms!

  15. I enjoyed your reflections and found we focused on similar aspects. One thing I thought about was your worry that the appendices may too overwhelming for your younger students. What about doing some of them as interviews, with an adult scribing?
    Thanks for hosting this great event!

  16. Michelle,
    Thanks for hosting today's event. I'm so glad you've joined us in hosting this July collaboration. Your insights, reflections, and ways to extend our learning have really enhanced this conversation.

    Thank you for reminding me of the importance of listening to know what conversations tell us. When Donalyn talked about all she learns from talking about preferences with readers, I was reminded of the importance of reading between the lines. I also appreciated your reminder to dig a little deeper -- "no more vague responses." What do readers tell us? Also, what don't they say? I think it would be interesting to record these conversations across the year to note development and change.

    I appreciated Donalyn's discussion of graphic novels. My friend and teaching neighbor, Deb Frazier, has always enjoyed graphic novels. Me --- not so much. As I read Donalyn's words I realized this is a book gap for me. I also realized it was one I needed to remedy before the upcoming school year as it might be a window into reading for some of the students I will work with each day.

    I was also reminded of the importance of remembering the potential of nonfiction and poetry in supporting readers and helping them to build a reading life.

    Like you, I'm rethinking these appendices for primary readers. I'm thinking some of this could be accomplished in interviews using Photo Booth or just audio recording the conversation. Additionally, I am working on a beginning of the year "interview" form for students I will be working with in the coming school year. I'm hoping to give the interview a few times across the year.

    I loved the structure of your post. You are always so good at creating a structure that strengthens your message.

    I'm on my way around to comment and add to the jog. What a conversation! What a community!


  17. Michelle, I also found that Donalyn's practice of gleaning as much info as she can from a students' notebook before interrupting their reading held my attention. In my first read, I must have latched on to some other ideas, because now this jumps at me as a very intentional way to reaffirm the message for our readers that their reading time is important, and I'm not going to interfere with that time for parts of my work that are not dependent on them.

    I have tried to get into the habit of providing my students with managed choice when they elicit book recommendations from me. There is a time and place for book blessing. In my room it happens mostly on Book Talk Tuesday when I fit in as many book talks as I can (unless I couldn't contain the excitement for days!). I've started pulling 3-5 titles and leaving stacks for students to preview and choose from when they are looking for their next book. It allows me to narrow down the classroom library--which I think can feel overwhelming with choices--to a few titles that might be better tailored to what I know about the reader. A lot of times that preview process has resulted in at least one more title being "saved for later" on the student's to be read list in their notebook.

  18. Michelle,
    Like Cathy mentioned above, I loved the structure of your blog post as well! Loved the quotes from Donalyn in purple as well-what a great idea! It's been great being able to write about this book this summer and reflect on what I would like to implement or change with this upcoming school year. I am trying to figure out how to do a digital Reader's Notebook on Google Docs, how to conference using my ipad and MacBook(and less paper), and how to incorporate Kid Blog into our reading life. I definitely want to incorporate the concepts of preferences, engagement, record keeping, commitment, and self-selection into my conferences. Thanks for your wonderful post!

  19. Michelle,

    I like how you organized your chapter 5 reflections by dividing it into different segments of tasks and solutions - sprinkled with Donalyn Miller quotes throughout! Great set-up!

    I, too, find that non-fiction is an area of avoidance for me - especially when I do any sort of lesson planning. This year, I'd like to delve deeper into non-fiction in my personal reading life and also want to be intentional about exiting my "readers" about it, too. I've been thinking about how I could do this even with my middle school Spanish classes this year. The statistics that Donalyn shared in the beginning chapter or two really struck me. If reading is really important as she says it is (and I think it is), then modeling and encouraging reading should be a goal for all classes. I think that if the "non-reading teachers" started doing this more, it would really send a powerful message to students.

    I also appreciated that you brought up graphic novels. This has been an area of complete avoidance for me thus far but I know that I need to give them a try. Do you have a favorite book or series that you'd recommend starting with?

    Thanks for co-hosting this whole Cyber PD event!


  20. It's so great that you continue to do this every year!


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