Reading Doors

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Reading in the Wild Reflection Ch. 3 & 4 - #CyberPD


I realize that I did not write a blog for Week 1 Ch. 1 & 2 of this year's #cyberPD, but I am remedying that with Week 2. I have thoroughly loved reading Donalyn Miller's book Reading in the Wild. The ideas keep flooding me as I read through the chapters and I often have to pause to place tabs in the book or to type notes/ideas in my ever growing Google Doc, and chapters 3 & 4 were no exception.

Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers
Ideas to Build a Reading Community  
The best idea I am going to be borrowing from these two chapters is definitely the Reading Doors (pg 116-119). I got so excited about this idea as I was reading that I immediately contacted my principal, who is also read Reading in the Wild this summer, about making this a building wide endeavor.     
 In addition to the Reading Doors, our building and district has been taking extra steps (starting last year) to spread our reading community to the families of our students. We want to help parents and other community members understand the importance of reading. Chapter 3 reinforced what we have been working towards, while giving me many new ideas to share. Our district and building hosts family reading nights 3-4 times a year that provide reading activities and reinforcement for the students, while educating parents about the importance of reading, how to help their children, and what resources are available to them in the community/district. Every child walks away with a free book as well.  
Our building has invested in webcams for all of our SmartBoards this year. We plan on using them at the beginning of the year to hold book discussions with classrooms from another elementary in our district that is 15 minutes from us. The principals of our buildings are working on bridging the distance gap between buildings in order to expand each buildings reading community. We will be reading and discussing the same book, which every family will get a free copy of in order to promote reading and discussion at home as well. This will be a great chance to show students the importance of connecting with others and how to do it through technology.
Other Thoughts from Ch. 3   
I love when Donalyn Miller states on pg 100 that "Reading is ultimately a social act." How true! I can not imagine reading and never discussing it or never sharing what I have just experienced with others. I hope that all of my students will take part in the social act of reading at least while in my classroom and hopefully continue the practice into their adult lives. However, if this is to happen, I must not only show them during the confines of our classroom, but also within my own life of wild reading. I want to discuss with my students all of the reading interactions I have taken part in this summer and share with them the passion that I have rediscovered. I want to show them what I have done on GoodReads, Twitter, and now on my new blog. I want them to understand that as someone who is constantly learning, I too take part in educational discussions such as #cyberPD. I can only do these things by having an open and honest conversation with my students about our reading lives and looking carefully at the activities and assignments I give them. Are they showing my students what a wild reading life looks like or are they "busy work"?"We must consider whether school and classroom reading initiatives and assignments support students' development of wild reading habits or hinder them." (pg 139)

Chapter 4: Wild Readers Have Reading Plans  
I must admit that this is probably the area in which my wild reading life has always been weakest. Although I have often had a couple books sitting on my nightstand in a to-be-read pile, I more often than not simply read one book straight through before starting another or thinking about what I will read next. In high school my preference leaned heavily towards all mysteries by Agatha Christie and my plan simply consisted of reading through all of her works, especially Hercule Poirot books. When I started college, my reading life became largely dormant and I read only a few small series now and then.  
Since reinvigorating my wild reading life, I am excited to help my students do the same. My current goal is to read through all of the new books I received at the end of last year (about 25) before adding them to my shelves. I am also reading through many of my students' favorites that I've never read. I want my students to see that I care about what they like to read and that I am knowledgeable about these books too. If I am to teach my students to be wild readers with plans, then I must live that too.  
One of my favorite ideas from chapter 4 is that students must slowly build stamina for reading goals. Donalyn Miller says that "For students struggling to finish books or commit to reading, setting small goals helps them achieve success quickly and rack up positive reading experiences, which feed more reading." (pg 144) How true! Runners don't immediately run successful 5K races when they've never been a runner before and students shouldn't be expected to go from learning to read to reading extensively and for prolonged periods. Stamina in any form must be built through practice and through small steps towards the goal. Read a little longer each day, and eventually they'll have the stamina to read the whole 30 minutes or to read all 300 pages. Try to push students who struggle to read through their plans or their committed readings and they may never gain a love of reading.
I am excited to see where the rest of 2014's summer #cyberPD takes me and what having my own blog will do for my learning and collaborating!


  1. Stephanie, I have enjoyed reading your tweets and comments as you explore the book. My staff and I also enjoyed the reading and have gleaned many nuggets from Donalyn's insights. Glad you are part of the RV family of LA teachers!

  2. Stephanie,
    Congrats again on the new blog! Looks great and I'm so glad you are jumping into blogging and #cyberPD.

    I have not yet implemented the reading door. I do have a sign with "What I'm reading ... What's next ..." posted, but I love the idea of the visual covers of the book. (Isn't that why we all love Pinterest?!?)

    Love your enthusiasm about contacting your principal! I hope your principal supports your idea of school wide reading doors. Currently, in my school, I know a couple teachers that would think it's one more thing to do or would have blank doors! (Yikes!) I believe that you cannot have teachers "buy in" to wild reading. They must own it and believe it themselves. (My own frustrations ...) But I think the reading doors could be a "door" to bigger discussions about reading.

    I haven't utilized Skype in my classroom or school as of yet. But I'm loving your idea about sharing books or having book talks and recommendations with other classes using technology to connect with other readers! Talk about authentic and global! I like starting here -- increasing the knowledge of books and practice speaking and even seeing another class model book talks. Then you could also check into the Global Read Aloud Project -- one book, one world! And there are lots of classes and ways to connect with others. But I like the little steps of the skyping first. :)

    Sounds like your school has done a lot to celebrate reading. Of course, I love the one school, one book idea. What did you read last year? And this coming year? Who selects the books? Is there a committee? (Obviously, I want to know more about this!)

    As I was reading your post, this came to mind: "What you put into it is what you will get out of it." This is true for you and blogging. This is true for your students and reading. Love that you are evaluating the activities/assignments -- so smart! We need more reflective teachers like you!

    Thanks for sharing Stephanie! Glad you joined in the conversations this week!

    1. Michelle,
      I agree that teachers must believe in wild reading and can't just "buy in." I believe I work with colleagues who will want to get involved and understand the need for wild reading. And I have a very supportive principal (and thankfully district!), who is actually the one who had the idea to take part in the one school, one book. The elementary we will be working with (Union Elementary) and having Google Hangout discussions with has been doing this for 4+ years and will be doing most of the spear heading of our joint project. I believe they chose the book before we decided to join in this year, but I could be wrong. We will be working with our grade level colleagues from Union Elem. in August to decide how we want to complete the books, as we want the students from the different buildings to be largely on the same page. We will then decide on our Hangout times together as well, making decisions based on what works best for our grade level across the building. We may also have some of the older kids (our buildings are K-6) work with the younger kids so they can learn together across grade levels as well. I'll let you know more as I know more (perhaps it will become something I track on my blog!).

      Thanks again for the warm welcome to the blogging world and the many resources/colleagues you've already introduced me to!

  3. I've done "one school, one book" before for professional learning community (PLC) goals. At my school we all read a certain book to our classes, had them answer the same question (in writing, modified to make it grade level appropriate) then we did some common marking and looked at exemplars from each grade. It was great PD! It really helped all of us to see the progression of skills. It was also great to see similar emotional responses to the book across the grade levels. You have my wishing we had taken it a step further and done more with the students to extend the community of readers surrounding this book, and others.

    My too-be-read pile is my motivation to finish books that might be going a bit slowly. I make a deal with myself that I won't have two fiction books going at once, so if I get a book I really want to read I have to finish the one I am on first. Unless I am really not enjoying it. I totally have permission to abandon a book. ;)

    PS: Now that you are a blogger, stop by on Tuesdays for some fun writing PD. :)

  4. Stephanie, love that you started your own blog, & think the name is terrific! We certainly are on the same page with all the reading that has to happen in & out of the classroom, & the teaching of the habits of wild readers, but one thing you said is something I've ignored, at least in this discussion, & that is the building of stamina. You've reminded me that setting small goals first is so important, for early success, then slowly, slowly add up the minutes (and the pages). Thanks much for these thoughts.

  5. Welcome to blogging! (I just started mine this month too, though I have had a photography blog for a few years now.) I like your suggestions for how to implement some of Donalyn's suggestions, and I'm excited to hear how the school-wide Reading Doors work. As for having a plan, you should consider getting involved with the "It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" #IMWAYR thread - it's an incredible place to find and discuss books.

    1. Katie,
      Thanks for the welcome and thanks for the suggested reading plan! I've been reinvigorated by Donalyn's book to read as much as possible and have done well this summer. Of course, the school year and the busy chaos that comes with it will truly test my commitment. It should be a great way to show the students what dedication and commitment look like and hopefully will be something we can discuss together.


  6. Stephanie,
    I'm always excited to see new blogs started during #cyberPD. Not only is it nice to have new voices in our conversation, but I look forward to following ongoing conversations in these newly created spaces.

    You make some excellent points here. It seems you have many ideas and much excitement brewing for the upcoming year to help build your reading community. I share your thoughts that reading is largely a social act. This has been very true for me. It is my connections on Twitter that have helped my reading life to grow once again. For the first time in a long time, I always have my next book (my next books) ready. Shelfari has also helped me to keep my "what's next" pile growing.

    Finally, I love when you said, " I want my students to see that I care about what they like to read." I want to think about this some more. There is much power in this message. I want to be sure I am sending it to young readers.


    1. Cathy,
      Thanks for the welcome to the blogging world! I have thoroughly enjoyed myself thus far. I don't really know much about Shelfari, but have seen it on a few blogs. I'll have to explore this resource very soon. I just began using GoodReads to track and manage my reading life and it has been an amazing tool and support to keep me actively reading when I've gotten busy over the summer.