How do you awaken the inner reader in someone? You teach them to read for pleasure. It sounds like such a simple concept really. Forcing spinach down a kid's throat doesn't make a kid love spinach any more than forcing boring books down a kid's throat. But serving that spinach in a souffle and giving a kid a book that they enjoy just might work.
The author pulled me in from the beginning by being a reflection of what I'd like to see myself be as a literature teacher. Mainly, she's able to turn non-readers into readers and to turn book loathers into book lovers. Her 6th grade class is challenged to read 40 books each year and most go even beyond that goal. But I work with adult ESL students in an American literature class. Could her methods work for them as well? In one week, I'd already noticed an excitement from my book loathers when I announced that it's time for pleasure reading in class. They know that if they don't like something, they're not going to be forced to read it for "pleasure". And that seems to make all the difference to them.
I felt the need to underline passages and write in the margins of this book (a rarity for me) as I read. Miller talks about how important it is that students read to become good readers. This is why she feels so strongly about giving free reading time in class. She also feels that teachers should re-evaluate class activities to determine whether such activities are accomplishing anything or are mere busy work that could be replaced by reading time. She also expresses the importance of reading leading to private dialogue or "whispering" between student and teacher and between student and student. This whispering can be accomplished through letters back and forth between student and teacher and from individual student-teacher conferences. It can also be accomplished through book reviews and class projects like book commercials.
Miller seems to have reached many of the same conclusions I've reached within the past couple of years. For example, I recently added a class library from among my own books and let students choose their own novel to read rather than reading a group novel. However, many of the things I've felt haven't been working for my class but have had no solution to are things Miller was able to find a solution for. For example, she gives alternative ideas to students stumbling over reading aloud in class round-robin-style. And she discusses alternatives to reading logs which students aren't likely to keep up with. I also added many of her beginning-of-the-year interest survey questions to the survey I had been using to give me a deeper insight into my students' minds.
In just 7 weeks of incorporating methods from this book, my ESL students improved 75-80 points on their TOEFL reading score rather than their regular 25 points for the same time period. And I also had a girl fall in love with reading as her "new hobby". :)
I feel that every reading and literature teacher should take the time to read this book. I think that any open-minded, book-loving reading teacher with enough time can use the strategies in this book to help their students develop a genuine love for reading.Note: While I critique both purchased and free books in the same way, I'm legally obligated to tell you I received this book free through the Amazon Vine program in return for my review. Blah blah blah.