Reading Doors

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Reading in the Wild Reflection Ch. 5 & Appendices - #CyberPD


 Here we are in the final chapters of Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild. The journey is one that has definitely help me to grow and to improve myself and my teaching. I have reawakened my wild reading life and started my own blog due to this summer's #cyberPD. I have an overabundance of activities I want to try and conversations I am ready to have with my students once the school year starts. When I finished this book, all I wanted was more of it to read. 

Chapter 5: Wild Readers Show Preferences
"The more widely we read, the more expertise we offer to our students." (pg 167) I was struck by this sentence and the ramifications that not reading widely as teachers can have on my students. As I read this chapter, I was reminded over and over again that in order to have a meaningful and deep conversation with my students about their reading lives, I must have a deep knowledge of what they are reading. I must read more than my students and delve into the realms of all my students' preferences so that I can offer my students the books they need in order to push them forward. 

I know my preferences and my favorite authors, and I tend to stick to that small sphere of works. Though my preferences have changed in small ways (I used to read romances and Christian titles frequently, neither of which I do now), the core of my reading likes have not (I still absolutely love Agatha Christie mysteries, fantasy titles, and Kim Harrison books). I rarely venture out and most of the titles my students love, hold little appeal to me (Warriors series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants). Donalyn says that we need to "offer readers with strong genre preferences read-alike titles with similar themes or storylines" (pg 170) but how can I do this if I don't know what read-alike titles are available. I must read what my students are reading and take an unbiased look at them. 

Donalyn also devotes an entire section to graphic novels, magazines, and "light reading." I was introduced to graphic novels in high school through the Maus books by Art Spiegelman. However, my knowledge of other graphic novel titles, especially of titles appropriate for my 4th graders, is almost non-existent. After being reminded of the power these books can have to motivate some readers, I have committed myself to discovering graphic novels and other "light reading" materials that will be appropriate for my 4th grade readers. 

Request: If anyone is familiar with appropriate graphic novels, please let me know in a comment! It would be greatly appreciated!

Ways I Hope to Increase Wide Reading
  • Increasing the amount of informational, unique, and strange read-alouds. "By reading aloud more engaging historical and biographical works, introducing students to noteworthy authors, and encouraging students' interest in weird, unique, or fascinating information, we increase their interest and build background knowledge." (pg 178) This is one of my favorite suggestions in Donalyn's book and it's made on multiple occasions. What a great way to encourage student interest! I love read-alouds, but rarely use anything but fictional stories. That will be changing!
  • Pairing fiction texts with nonfiction related topics. (pg 181) This is something I have always tried to do, since I teach both social studies and language arts, but I could definitely be more intentional about it and have intentional conversations about the titles.
I want to "[encourage] students to read what they want while exposing them to high-interest, quality texts of all kinds." (pg 192) I want to share in the joy that my students will experience when they finally realize they can read and that it can be fun!

I LOVE that Donalyn put blank copies of her forms in the back for us to use and tweak. It is one thing for her to talk about them in her book, but it is much easier to understand what she means when I can see them on the page. Many of these forms I will be implementing into my classroom. Some of my developing readers will need scaffolding and a gradual release of responsibility, but most of my students will be able to handle the forms I am choosing to use. 

A Few of My Favorite Forms        
My favorite form is "My Reading List" (Form A.2) because it allows students to rate the books they read while tracking their reading life. I plan to use "My Reading Itinerary" (Form B.1) and "My Selection Reflection" (Form B.2) I plan to use these in the same manner as Donalyn described. I want my students to take ownership of their reading once they leave me and to do this they must be aware of when and how they read. 

I have several students every year who are reluctant to read during the independent reading time they are given. After observing an ongoing pattern of reading avoidance, I confer with them about this behavior. However, I think it would be great to have a record of exactly what they were doing instead of general statements and will use the "Independent Reading Time Observation" (Form C.1).


  1. Stephanie,

    I'm so glad you are sharing your thoughts again today! So much to think about!

    Graphic novels for 4th grade: BabyMouse for sure, Squish, Big Nate, Owly, Frankie Pickle ... Another great resource: @colbysharp & @MrSchuReads. Just ask and you will have so many titles to check out! (Hang on ... I just asked. Hope that helps!)

    I need to be more intentional the books I share and read aloud as well. I go to my standby favorites or a new title that I just got my hands, which in most cases is a picture book. I need to share more NF and a variety of other genres too. And the pairing of a F/NF has always been in the forefront, but again, not as intentional as I want to be. Time for changes!

    I can't wait to hear about how all these new wild reading ideas shape our classrooms in the fall!

    1. Thanks for the list of suggestions and thanks for asking @colbysharp and @MrSchuReads for me! I'm very much looking forward to seeing how these ideas shape our classrooms in the fall as well!

  2. Great suggestions, Stephanie! As for graphic novels, check out the new "Comics Squad: Recess" and then check out all of the other series by those authors (Babymouse, Lunch Lady, etc.). The Bone and Amulet series are also very popular with my third graders. Our librarian made a commitment to investigate graphic novels the past two years, and it has been amazing watching all these wonderful new series arrive!

    1. Thanks for the graphic novel suggestions! A few people have suggested Amulet so I went ahead and bought the first one. I'm excited to read it when it arrives.

    2. I have managed to find some graphic novels for primary readers over the years, but I'm unfamiliar with titles for your grade level. You might cheek in with Jen Vincent (@mentortexts) and Mary Lee Hahn (@maryleehahn), two of my go to graphic novel friends.


  3. Many years ago I was in a grade 4 meeting with a teacher who had moved that year from grade 1 to grade 4. She was asking for suggestions for books, and then asked how to do teach with chapter books. I said, "Well you have to read all the books. Even if you are only a chapter or 2 ahead of a group, you have read the same book they are reading at some point." She was an EXCELLENT grade 1 teacher and had all the GR books basically memorized, but it hadn't occurred to her that she was going to have to read all those chapter books as a grade 4 teachers. I personally love the middle grade books! I love YA books too. Once you start to get into them, there are some fascinating titles that are as fun and inspiring to read as any adult book. Follow the Nerdy Book Club blog for some really good suggestions, or #bookaday on Twitter. I've seen some graphic novel suggestions both places. I'm not a fan, but as you pointed out, I probably need to read a few anyway. I'm going to start with what is in the school library.

  4. Stephanie,
    There is a digital resource from Donalyn also.

    1. Thanks! I think Donalyn mentions this at the beginning of the book, as I have it bookmarked already. I've used a lot of it already in preparation for this coming school year.

  5. Stephanie,
    Thank you for the reminder to read widely and move beyond our preferences to support young readers. Before summer is over I really need to brush up on my knowledge of transitional chapter books since I will be working with older readers this year. Looking forward to enjoying some titles.

    By the way, I'm so glad you could join the conversation. I've enjoyed learning alongside you this month. I look forward to future conversations.