REVIEW: The Book Whisperer – Donalyn Miller

How to teach reading

The Book Whisperer

I just got round to reading The Book Whisperer, which is a bit late, especially as the author was here in Japan for the 6th ER Seminar last year.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to the Seminar, but I was aware of the book from there.

The reason I ended up reading it this week is because I visited SEG last weekend, and the book came up in conversation with Akio Furukawa. On the train back to Sendai I downloaded the Kindle version and read it in spurts and starts this week.

The one-sentence summary: it describes how teachers can help learners discover the joy of reading through a combination of free reading and counselling. It’s very similar to what the teachers at SEG do, which is what led to us talking about it and me reading it.

I enjoyed the book very much. I think it will appeal to teachers who like reading, teachers that believe in guiding students rather than teaching them, and teachers that believe in learner autonomy.

Miller writes from a US language arts perspective, but similar principles can apply to ESL and EFL contexts. The book is light and easy to read, with lots of examples taken from her students and other teachers. If anything, Miller relies a bit too much on Kraschen for academic support, but it doesn’t really detract from her message.

Highly recommended. 9/10

How do you help your students with reading?

Might have to take a look myself, although I have problems imagining how much actual counseling can take place in my classrooms of 45 students!

Actually, in my orientation ER class yesterday I was a bit more proactive with students, handing them books I like. It went down pretty well!


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