This post was originally posted on my old classroom blog on December 31, 2012. I'm moving some of my favorite old posts from that blog to this one :)
“I am a reader, a flashlight-under-the-covers, carries-a-book-everywhere-I-go, don't-look-at-my-Amazon-bill reader. I choose purses based on whether I can cram a paperback into them, and my books are the first items I pack into a suitcase.”
I have always been a reader. From the time I was little, I loved books. Our house was filled with books. When my dad would take me shopping, I could always count on a new book. He never said no to a book. Ever. As an adult, I still love books. I belong to a book club. I trade books with friends and colleagues. My mom buys me books every time she goes to her local hospice store. And I can count on her having a stack of books for me every time I visit. I love that I teach in a school where the teachers are readers. We read professional books and books for pleasure. I have always been a reader. But this year, something changed.
I read The Book Whisperer.
The first time I heard about this book was in the Area 3 Writing Project Summer Institute. As I began reading, I kept thinking about how the ideas in a sixth grade classroom could work for me, a first grade teacher, starting the first day of school. I wanted my students to read every day, to have choice, and to love books. But some of my students didn’t even know all of their letters and sounds. I struggled with how to get my 5 and 6 year-old students to make connections and get them talking about books.
I also read Aimee Buckner’s Notebook Connections, and got my students little reader’s notebooks that they store in a fabric book bag that hangs from their chair. Armed with a few ideas and a lot of enthusiasm, I began to experiment. And I began to read. Every afternoon after lunch, I read to my students. Now, this idea wasn’t new. But, for me, reader’s workshop in first grade was new. By reading to my students, I hoped to model strategies for my students as I read. After the read-aloud, they worked together to try out the strategies, first in teams, and then in their own notebooks. It wasn’t quiet. It was messy. But they were talking about books, writing about books, and loving reading more than I had ever seen in 16 years of teaching.
And then I heard Donalyn Miller speak.
“Work on the love, and the rigor will come.” I loved this. I’m not sure if it’s the exact quote, but it’s the thing that I remember most from that night. Along with the pictures of her students proudly showing off their book goal signs at the end of the year. And the doors of the teachers displaying the books they had read.
And then she said something else. “If you’re not on Twitter, you should be. Literacy is happening on Twitter.” Pajama professional development she called it. I had no idea how much or how meaningful 140 characters could be. Since joining Twitter, my reading life is on fire! I follow librarians, authors, teachers, principals, and writers. I have read books I would have never discovered on my own, and have a reading community filled with people I do not know, but that I know share a love of reading.
This Christmas break, I have read 15 books in 10 days. One day I never got out of my pajamas! It feels so good. I’ve read young adult books, poetry, and fiction along with a few new picture books. I read Frankie Pickle and The Closet of Doom, and I’ve got the 1930 Newbery Award winner (along with others) in my to-read pile. I’ve read books that may win the 2012 Newbery, and some old favorites. And yet, I feel like I am just beginning! There are so many books to read, and although I am loving being on vacation, I can’t wait to get back to my first graders. We have a lot to talk about and so many books to read together! I am also looking forward to setting a personal reading goal for 2013, and helping my students set goals. I want to celebrate reading schoolwide, and have reading doors to shout out to the world that we are a school of readers. I want to blog more about books in the new year. I want to know about what you are reading, and I want to read every day this year. How many books might that be?
And so, like Donalyn Miller, please don’t look at my Amazon bill. When I am shopping, I pretend my dad is the one buying. He would never say no to a book.
What are you reading? I’d love to hear your thoughts and reading goals for the new year!