Monday, November 4, 2013

Reading Freedom - Chapter 4

How does a good reader choose a book?  Is there a right way or a wrong way?  In the opening of this chapter Miller leads a discussion with her students on ways to choose books.  It is all about honesty in her classroom, so it is nice to see that she does address how she herself chooses book by the length, since most students usually look at length when they are required to read a book.  I’ll admit I do the same thing during my own courses when I am given a selection to choose from.  It’s in this discussion the dreaded comment of “Books are boring” is spoken.  How do you respond to a statement like that in the classroom?  As I think to myself, “Yeah, some books are boring especially that one I read a couple of months ago!” Again it’s all about honesty in her class so it’s refreshing to see that she backs up her philosophy.  Miller agrees to this statement and even shares some of her experiences with her own set of boring books.  Her students have the right to abandon books if they are not a good fit or “boring” and they have a right to explore the different genres and levels. 

Miller also gives some more insight on her 40 book requirement in this chapter as well.  She breaks them up into genres so all students can be acquainted with the different types out there.  Not only does this help the students find their reading niche, but it also helps her design this type of curriculum to meet the states standards and district mandates.  Do all students meet this 40 book standard? Most do but there still might be a few who do not, yet the fewest number of books read was one particular student who read through 22.  Twenty two is still a staggering number of books to be read through a school year.  “It is important to celebrate milestones with students and focus on their reading successes, not their failure to meet requirements, which only serves to discourage students” (Miller 83).

Some of her students would read books about video games, or even comic books.  Are we as teachers supposed to discourage this reading and force them to read books that we feel are better literary works?  “Teachers lose credibility with students when they ignore the cultural trends and issues that interest them and instead design classroom reading instruction around books that are “good for you”” (Miller 85).  Miller has a great way of introducing different authors and books to her students by keeping Read-Alouds in the class.  Another great way she introduces different books is by learning about the different genres.  As she sets out tubs of a certain genre, students use their prior knowledge and notes from previous discussions to better identify the books.  This will help them to learn what is available to them in their classroom library.  These students and even Miller will then use a notebook to track reading progress of each genre, each book read and abandoned, recommendations, and response entries.  Miller uses these to create a dialogue between her and the students when they meet.  This type of communication is authentic and real. 


  1. I like Miller's honesty with her students. I feel that will make them open up more to her and her ideas. One of my friends does the same thing in her own classroom. After reading a book she was ask the students if they like or not. Whatever their response she will have them explain why. She tells them that it is ok not to like every book they ever read. We are all different and have different tastes.
    I also like that she allows students to read different books. One of my first graders would always pick out these hard comic books in the beginning of the year and he told me his mom would read it with him. At first I wanted him to pick a book at his reading level but he was so interested in those books and I thought well at least he is interested in reading. Now he can pretty much read one of those books himself and other genres. I agree it is really important to pay attention to culture trends and students interests.

  2. I haven't had any experience with letting students choose books to read. but I do have experience with having students pick articles to use for a reading project. Students often pick articles that are too easy or too difficult for the project. So I end up picking articles for them and mandating them to choose one of my options. After reading your post, I realize what I did is probably not the best way to encourage good reading behaviors.

  3. I read Pratical Magic a couple of semesters ago and I have to say up until then I would not allow my students to switch out of books because I was afraid that they would just keep switching and switching and switching never to read or complete a book! BUT, after reading her book, I got over myself and admitted that hey sometimes I put books down because they are boring, but I have not stopped reading. Since then I have allowed my students to do the same and I haven't had any problems with that at all. I think it was my attitude and not my students!

  4. I really like that she allows the students to be honest and is honest with them…some books are boring! I tried to respond to this blog class week and the site wouldn't let me…let's see if it lets me today.

  5. It sounds like Miller does a phenomenal job getting students to read A LOT. I like that she is honest with the students about her own reading habits, and that she allows them to discontinue a book, if they feel it is not capturing their interest. I always try to get my reluctant readers to find a type of book they like, in order to increase their interest in reading. I think I do a pretty good job of finding class novels that my students enjoy, but I still struggle with having them translate that love of reading into independent reading.