Donalyn Miller is a reading teacher and in Texas who has perfected a technique of how to teach so children love reading in her classroom. This book details her class methods.
What is a Wild Reader?
Miller’s goal is not just for students to be competent readers, to be able to answer test questions or to complete assignments without struggle. She is working to cultivate “wild readers.” Her definition of wild readers are “readers who incorporate reading into their personal identities to the degree that it weaves into their lives along with everything else that interests them.”
This is so much more than knowing a child’s Lexile or state proficiency score. This is a detailed plan on how to engage students in reading, how to find books they will love and how to structure reading classes to teach so children learn to love reading.
How Readers Turn Wild
According to Miller, there are five characteristics that mark wild readers. These are dedicating time to reading, self-selecting material, sharing books with others, having reading plans and showing preferences. While these traits may not make classes easy to manage, they do indicate that a student will continue to love reading and learn through the written word after they leave class.
Her years of experience developing this program is obvious throughout the book. She explains things she’s tried that did not have the desired outcome and how she made changes and saw changes in the students. She takes the time to explain how to make each child a wild reader, no matter what skills or interest they are starting with.
Miller stresses the importance of having a wide variety of books for children to select from and allowing them a lot of freedom in choosing what they will read. Following their passions is a necessary part of developing a love of literature. She also allows plenty of time for students to discuss their favorite reading material with each other. One of the most important ways children discover new books, series and authors is from recommendations of their peers.
Each student in her class has a reading plan and a method of reviewing and rating the books they have read. She includes the forms she uses to both observe her student’s reading behaviors and the ones she gives to students for them to track their own reading behavior and makes plans for future reading endeavors.
Wild Reading in a Classroom
A caveat I will mention here: This book’s main audience is teachers. And these teachers would need to have a lot of freedom in their classrooms to be able to follow this plan. Most public school teachers have pages and pages of requirements in regards to topics that must be covered and areas that must show proficiency. The main idea of this book is to give kids the freedom to develop their reading interests and follow their hearts to find a true love of reading. In order to teach children to learn to love reading in the way Miller describes, a teach may need permission from school authorities to take some liberties with the curriculum.
While I have no doubt that this method works and is effective, I doubt that it’s possible in most classrooms across the country. It would even be difficult to do as a homeschooling family because much of it depends of discussion and sharing on a regular basis. While that can happen at home with a parent, siblings are usually at different reading levels and probably not ready for the same kinds of books. Libraries could be a great resource for hosting groups that would teach children to learn to love reading.
Miller provides an extensive appendix full of forms to track reading, find books and genres kids will love and how to make reading plans. The book is probably worth the price just for the 13 page appendix of her favorite titles.
I’m not a classroom teacher (although I did attempt homeschooling for awhile), but I would imagine this would be difficult to put into practice in most schools. It requires a lot of resources to purchase large amounts of books. It also means a lot of independent reading time for the student. While I know both of those are ideal, I’m not sure they are provided for in our current education system.
Personal Experience in Teaching so Children Learn to Love Reading
I have a book blog, so I obviously love books. It’s also important to me that my children love reading. We already have large quantities of books. I agree that this is imperative to learning to love books. We must be surrounded by them and see them as part of our lives. I also like the idea of having a child create a reading plan for times like summer and Christmas break when they don’t have specific assignments to be completed for school.
One step I took after reading this book was to create a Goodreads account for my twelve year old son. He reads a lot of books (probably three to four a week). I know I depend on Goodreads to keep track of both the books I have read and the books I’ve heard about that I want to read. He has the same needs. He should have a way to track what he has read as well as rate or review it. Eventually, he will be able to use it to determine what other books he wants to read and share recommendations with friends as well as other reads throughout the world. The reaction was immediate. He is thrilled with his new access. I can monitor his account but he also has the freedom to discover and share books.
While I think implementing the entire well-planned system may be difficult, I found suggestions that will encourage me to teach my children to learn to love reading.
Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller can be purchased here at Amazon: