This morning at school, the coolest thing happened. I was walking down the sidewalk and said hello to a third grade student. I recognized him from when I read “Dragons Love Tacos” to him and his classmates in December. I love to read in my speech students’ classrooms. I’ve been making guest appearances over the last few years.
I Heart Books
He said “I wonder when I get to come see you.” I said “For Speech? You don’t need me, you are really good at talking. But I will definitely come and read to your class again.”
He asked what I would read and we proceeded to have this great discussion about books. He recommended that I get get a book about a rhino and a peanut butter sandwich. Such a bonus-a sidewalk conversation about books with a student. I felt like the Book Whisperer! (check my post about The Book Whisperer)
That’s one of the great things about getting into the classroom. As an SLP, you work on your student’s goals plus you make new ties with gen ed students. You can promote literacy, vocabulary development and have a great time while you’re at it. I’m definitely going to get more into this!
I was talking to my sister Cati, another book nerd like me, about The Book Whisperer. We were brainstorming ideas of what I could do to get my students excited about reading. Her 11 year old son Jack (yep, another reader) was listening to our conversation and told us about the time his class walked into an empty room. They found a paper by Anonymous that said “I hate to read. I don’t like Language Arts. Why do I have to read? I hate to read. I don’t like Language Arts. Why do I have to read?” Just those three sentences repeated again and again for the length of the page. Sigh. Poor kid.
With so much focus on testing comprehension and regurgitating facts we are vacuuming out all the joy and companionship found in stories.
Recently when I was doing activities to go with the book Dragons Love Tacos I read the story aloud for two consecutive sessions with one group. On the third session, I said “this time you get to tell me the story”. My sweet little 8 year old student sadly shook her head “but I can’t read.” My objective was to have her do a story retell, but I wanted her to have a positive experience with reading even more. We held the book together, I read aloud and she moved her finger under the words. She felt empowered.
Books are so rich with language, I love using them to stimulate language and build vocabulary. Working with books can take a little more time and thought. And while it can be more difficult to get measureable results when talking about books; the conversational back and forth is so much more naturally occurring than worksheets and drill.
Since I have been reading The Book Whisperer, I have been talking to my students about books. I ask them what they are reading and I don’t roll my eyes if the say Pokemon. I ask them what their favorite books are and why. I am learning a lot.
Kids love a good story. If we can help our students and clients learn to equate reading and book time with entertainment and imagination, we are giving them a gift that will far outlast the short time we spend with them.
I have been reading Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer and I’m hanging on every word. Yes, I am a book nerd. I have always been an avid reader. I love everything about books: the colorful covers, the back flap, the different fonts and the feel of the edge of a page as I get ready to turn it.
Through books I travel, I make friends, I build character, I open my mind, and for a brief time, escape the demands of the day.
When I was a little girl, about 8 or 9 years old, my mom took me to one of my favorite places, the library. She told me I could stay while she went across the park to the grocery store. This was in clean, green Boulder city, a safe little town (back in the day). I was in heaven and quickly became lost in my book reverie. When I had my stack of books, I placed them on the counter and waited to check them out. And waited, and waited.
I was really shy then, but soon called out a timid “Hello?” No answer. I had been so quiet, the librarian didn’t realize I was there and had left. When no one answered, I went to the door. Locked. I was scared and trapped. No cell phones back then, I had no way of contacting my mom.
I opened the mail slot in the heavy wooden door and looked out into the street. I must have started yelling because I remember a lady on the sidewalk saying “Little girl, are you locked in there?” Luckily, the police station was right next door and my mom came to pick me up right as the police were helping me out. I’m sure she got a scare!
I still love libraries, no permanent damage was done. My point is how many of the kids that we work with love books and reading so much that they can get lost in them? How can we get them to be enthusiastic about books when they have language impairments and reading disabilities? Is it possible?
Donalyn Miller says a resounding “Yes!” and I agree with her. But it’s not going to be easy and many things will have to change.
The Book Whisperer is all about making reading magical again. In Donalyn’s classroom there are no book reports, comprehension worksheets and group reading. The focus is on independent reading and individual choice of reading material. The kids get excited about reading and learn authentic reading behaviors. Her 6th graders read 40 books a year AND achieve high scores on standardized tests. Best of all, she is creating a new generation of readers! I want to do that too! Watch for upcoming posts on what I try.
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