Thursday, August 30, 2007

Meet a Reading Mentor

Teacher Magazine is giving new teachers an opportunity to learn from 6th grade teacher Donalyn Miller who is passionate about kids reading.

"A self-proclaimed “book whisperer,” 6th grade language arts and social studies teacher Donalyn Miller says she has yet to meet a child she couldn’t turn into a reader. On average, her students at Trinity Meadow Intermediate School in Keller, Texas, read between 50 and 60 books a year; last year, one of her students read 300 books. According to school lore, Miller's 6th graders have been known to become so engrossed in books that they walk into walls and insist on being photographed with their favorite books in class pictures. Even her former students return to borrow from her library, which has more than 2,000 titles and extends beyond her classroom into a storage closet across the hall. And her methods have also produced more than anecdotal results: Last year, her students received a 100 percent passing rate on the reading portion of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, with 90 percent receiving a "recommended" score. "

Don't you wish every child could have a teacher like Ms. Miller for 6th grade? Teachers can submit questions through the website to learn what has worked for her. There is general concensus that new teachers who receive mentoring (and it doesn't have to be face-to-face) are less frustrated and more successful in their teaching jobs. So kudos to Teacher Magazine for making this possible. Website registration is free.

The White Giraffe

Making a virtual journey to another place and being held captive throughout the duration of the story is one of the great discoveries of reading. Learning that people in other places struggle with the same issues is an important concept for young readers to understand. In The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John, 11-year old Martine Allen's life changes dramatically on her birthday night. Martine loses her parents in a tragic accident and must move to Africa to live with a grandmother she's never heard of. Her grandmother manages a game preserve. Transplanted into an exotic locale with a grandmother who seems put out by her very existence makes Martine feel alone and afraid. Almost as soon as she arrives, Martine begins to hear tales of a "mythical" white giraffe, and she stumbles upon some clues about her grandfather's death two years before. Readers will identify with Martine's struggles to make friends in a new school in a new country where everything is different from "home". The wild animals and their habitat on the reserve, their need for protection against predators (mostly the two-legged kind), and the growing awareness that things are not always as they appear make for a good adventure story. Martine comes to find her place in this new world, helps solve a mystery, and learns to accept her special gifts. First-time novelist Lauren St. John grew up in Zimbabwe on a farm that was part game preserve. Her love for the landscape and the people is evident throughout the book and she clearly identifies with Martine's quest to find a home in this new strange land. ISBN978-0-8037-3211-7. Dial Books for Young Readers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


I am making the leap. I'm starting this blog to celebrate the adventures of reading. If kids get hooked up with the right books - ones that pull them into the stories - they will become lifelong learners. Granted there are a lot more distractions today than there were when I was a young reader, but the richness of the brew when an interesting location meets well-defined characters and terrific storytelling just can't be beat.

My mother started reading to me when I was an infant. As the oldest of an extensive brood, my mother was still reading to me when I was in high school (that is, if I chose to grace the family with my presence) as they gathered each evening before bed. And all the hours I spent cuddled with my own fresh-from-the-bath boys are some of my sweetest memories of their growing-up years.

Sometimes I think our culture has lost its moorings. So much attention is spent on things that are unimportant. Reading with a child provides the opportunity to share so much more than the words on the page. What all those things are and why they're important will be part of what I'll write about here.

But mostly we're going to talk about books. Good books.