Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lunch with the Book Whisperer

“Reading changes your life. Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time. Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education. Through characters – the saints and the sinners, real or imagined – reading shows you how to be a better human being.” 

Thanks to the thoughtfulness of a passionate colleague, I had the honor and privilege of eating lunch with Donalynn Miller (A.K.A. –The Book Whisper) yesterday. Her down-to-earth, no nonsense approach to reading instruction has inspired my teaching practices in so many ways, and over the course of the last few years I have shared her book with every educator who crosses my path.

Last spring I recommended The Book Whispererto Cindy Deville after she and her team visited my classroom to observe Café literacy in action. She jumped at the chance to read the book, and of course she brought other teachers along for the ride. They spent the spring and summer conducting a book study of Donalynn’s work, and she boldly contacted Mrs. Miiller via e-mail, requesting an opportunity to visit about their experiences. Once the details of the “teacher date” were nailed down, Cindy wrote me and requested I join them for lunch, claiming I was their muse for launching the book club. I accepted the invitation without hesitation.

Several teachers from Nelson Elementary met at Café Italia in Grapevine for a delightful afternoon of connection and collaboration. Donalynn shared about her experiences with publishing a book, and she told us a little about her newest project, Reading in the Wildwhich she is still working on. She shared about her new role in Northwest ISD as a 4th grade self-contained teacher. Her pragmatic approach to teaching and learning was a breath of fresh air, and we all took turns bombarding her with questions about best practices. We talked about everything from conferring to the common core.

Of course it wasn’t long before our conversation turned to BOOKS! She shared several new professional titles I can’t wait to buy on Amazon. I’ve already logged onto the Denton library to reserve several young adult novels she recommended like One for the Murphy’s and The One and Only Ivan. My “to-read” list on Goodreads is overflowing now!

This experience was definitely one of the highlights of my summer. I aspire to be a teacher leader like Donalynn, and thanks to her willingness to share her gifts with the world, educators across the country are now motivating and inspiring their children to read voractiously. As we were preparing to leave, she happily signed my copy of The Book Whisperer, and she humbly commented, “My students never believe me when I tell them folks want my autograph.” I assured her, she is definitely a teacher celebrity, and I thanked her for letting her light shine. Donalynn Miller is a linchpin, and I am grateful to have spent a few hours soaking in her wisdom.

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