Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reading in the Wild Reflections

"Books are my friends, my companions.  They make me laugh and cry and find meaning in life." -Christopher Paolini

     This is my first time participating in #cyberPD and it has been so refreshing to go back and reread Donalyn Miller's book titled Reading in the Wild.  As a literacy coach, who is going to be spending half my day in the classroom next year it gave me lots of fuel to think about as I plan how I will meet the diverse needs of my third graders.  I really need to keep in mind the words I have underlined and read so many times on pg. 8, "No matter what our curriculum requires us to to teach or how little class time we have, children must read a lot in order to attain even minimum levels of reading achievement."  It will be a challenge to meet all the diverse needs of my students and to help more than half of them attain minimum reading achievement. A challenge I look forward to facing and reflecting about daily as the year progresses.  As I prioritize my "must-haves" I know that blocking out a significant amount of independent reading time is desperately needed to help my students gain the confidence and stamina needed to grow into lifelong readers.  I really want my students to see books as companions that help them find meaning just the like the quote by Christopher Paolini says at the beginning of my post.  Donalyn talks about how daily reading time allows students to practice their skills, as well as, practice living like readers.   She also says that students connect with other readers establishing a reading culture.  That is what I am striving to achieve in my classroom a reading community that talks a lot about books which will grow and thrive into a strong reading culture.  This is my dream!

    As I work hard to achieve my reading community there will be road bumps and challenges.  My biggest challenge will be pull outs for my ELL students and my students who receive Title services.  Donalyn Miller says, "Administrators, literacy coaches, specialists and teachers must consider the importance of this reading culture when determining how and when to serve special education and at-risk students. Too often reading intervention specialists pull out students who require additional reading support out of class during independent reading time (pg.10)."  Last year we tried to be more mindful of when we pulled students out of class and we tried to be more purposeful aligning instruction that mirrors what was happening in the classroom.  I tried to build upon the talk around books that was happening in the classroom and bring it into the small group.  This required lots and lots of communication with the teachers and with the students.  We would discuss not only reading strategies and skills, but books the students were reading.  We would celebrate the student who finished his/her first chapter book and the student who was learning about himself/herself as a reader.  As teachers we knew we needed to think about the reading test and the skills needed to pass the test but we also knew we wanted much more from our students... we wanted them to become wild readers! 

   I know that as I strive to reach my dream of a thriving community of readers there are some habits and behaviors I need to help students understand that avid readers do.  Donalyn's books have inspired me to be a more avid reader as an adult and to use breaks/vacations as a time to read lots and lots of books.  Here are some quotes from Reading in the Wild that I need to revisit closer to the beginning of the year as I strive to build a reading community:

  • It is difficult for many children to become wild readers if they don't read during the edge times.  But if they don't have frequent reading time, reading habits never take hold.  Teaching specific students to find reading time outside school requires explicit conversations about their individual schedules and how reading fits into it (pg.13). 
  • Captivated and interested readers make time to read (pg.17). 
  • Having students document for a short period of time when and where they read help students reflect on their reading habits and determine patterns they might not recognize day to day (pg.18). 
  • Fake reading and reading avoidance commonly occur when students lack independent reading habits, confidence, or adequate reading skills (pg.25).
  • We need to do more than catch students who are fake reading and call them on it.  We need to intervene and provide individual support (pg.26).  
  • Regular reflection reinforces the importance of keeping notebooks, but increased technology, larger class sizes, and my commitment to fostering wild reading behaviors have changed our notebook use.  The tools we use must support our work as readers and writers, not define or limit our work (pg. 33). 
  • What matters is that our daily work in the classroom values best practices and doesn't become bogged down with a lot of must-dos and tired activities that crowd authentic learning opportunities for our students (pg. 40). 
  • In order to develop strong literacy skills, our students need reading, writing, and discussion --and lots of it (pg.40).
    I look forward to meeting and learning along side my third graders next year as we embark on a journey to create a strong reading community developing into wild readers!  


  1. Tonya,
    This speaks volumes, "No matter what our curriculum requires us to to teach or how little class time we have, children must read a lot in order to attain even minimum levels of reading achievement." Protecting time in the day for students to read independently in a supportive reading community seems to sit at the heart of this goal. You mention the challenge of providing this time with students being pulled out for support services. This is something I want to think a lot about this year. My hope is to find ways to minimize this. Your suggestions for talking about students with classroom teachers to plan thoughtfully, keep teaching aligned, and discuss books is essential. I'm so glad you decided to join this discussion.


  2. Our data teams included the intervention teachers so we could analyze and plan instruction but we also planned outside of data teams. I made a Title/ELL Graph on a big chalkboard in my office and we moved our students on the graph every three weeks when we would meet for data team. Teachers always had access to it and we used it a lot.
    It was key to push in sometimes to see how the students were performing in the class and think about how to continue to scaffold them toward independence. I definetly had more flexibility than the other reading teachers since I just pulled my kids for OAA. I didn't just think of getting my kids ready to pass a test but I tried to teach them habits and strategies they needed as readers. I think we need to be more flexible in thinking about how to support our kids based on their needs. It can be a combination of both pull out and push in depending on the level of support needed at the time. It is a challenge that we all will face but if we all puzzle it out together and keep in mind the students' needs I think we can help developing readers feel success as they grow into lifelong readers that are part of reading communities.

  3. Tonya,
    I'm so glad that you decided to reread the book and join in our conversations! How exciting to be able to fully implement Donalyn's wild reading ideas!

    As a reading specialist/interventionist, I read and reread page 10 ... I still struggle with aligning instruction with the classroom teacher because we usually don't have the luxury of time to meet with every teacher. The conversations in the hallway just don't cut it. It can be frustrating, but this is one area that I want to improve in -- for the students to be successful and wild readers! Lots of room to grow -- additional suggestions or ideas would be appreciated! :) (I'll be reading your comment next!)

    I love your positive attitude and dreaming BIG about cultivating wild readers! I can't wait to hear more about your journey next year! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Tonya,

    The quote you discussed from page 8 ("No matter what our curriculum requires us to to teach or how little class time we have, children must read a lot in order to attain even minimum levels of reading achievement") really jumped out at me, too! As a new teacher, I am wondering how in the world I am going to reserve a significant amount of time for reading this year in my ELL classes. I appreciated the data and statistics that Donalyn Miller provided in these first couple of chapters. I felt like it gave me some more tools to "justify" the priority I hope to give to reading time. It seems like there is always so much tension surrounding the idea of how to spend time in school and, at least from what I have seen, it seems like personal reading time is often only permitted during those "edge times." While it's important to use those times for reading, I agree with you that we must work to let all students have significant time to read in school. As I begin to teach ELLs in the near future, I really want to be intentional about blocking out lots of time for reading, reflecting, and discussing, as you mentioned at the end of your post.

    I look forward to reading more from you in the future.


    P.S. Go Bucks! :)

  5. Tonya,
    It made me happy to read that your school is trying to be intentional about when you pull students out of class for interventions! It's especially hard to support those struggling readers when they are out of our classrooms during our literacy instruction time. They are definitely in need that extra reading time!

    I enjoyed the way you included your thoughts and reflections along with a list of quotes to remember. I might have to do the same so I can hang it in my classroom to revisit often!