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Karina Barriga Albring

Equinox Staff


On Thursday, Oct. 25, the Department of Education presented the annual conference from the series “Diverse Voices from the Field.” This fall, the event featured Donalyn Miller, author of the book “The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child.”

Teacher and writer Miller from Fort Worth, Texas, came to the school and presented “Creating a Classroom Where Readers Flourish,” during a conference about innovations in teaching reading to middle school kids.

During her conference, Miller focused on how reading needs to be approached from a different perspective than the traditional way. “We cannot stick to the same literature that has been studied and analyzed for too long; we need to find things that kids want to read.” She suggested her colleagues and students majoring in education to be active in reading clubs and organizations.

She said, “If we have a culture that values reading, children will want to be part of it.” For Miller, part of a teacher’s role is to motivate kids to read.

“If, after 12 years of education, children are not getting that reading is something they should enjoy, then it is not them; we are doing something wrong,” Miller said.

For that, she said “surround your kids with reading models. If we are teachers that don’t read, we are not being as effective as those who do. Teachers need to know the books that kids are reading nowadays.”

One tip the author gave is to separate time in the classroom just for reading. According to her, reading improves students’ skills in numerous aspects. Miller explained, “The kids that read are the best writers, the best in spelling, do great in social studies class, in science class.”

Miller said she believes reading helps more than even test preparation activities. “I think that a lot of the test preparation that we do in the classroom actually harms because it replaces real reading and writing. Research has shown test preparation has no impact in the test performance and no impact on the reading achievement.”

Education Professor and former school teacher Amy Lapierre agreed with Miller that “one of the biggest challenges now is finding time in the day to let kids just read”.

Nevertheless, for Miller, finding time is crucial. She presented facts about her own students in Texas and showed the audience the progress they have accomplished with what Miller refers to as “free choice independent reading.”

Miller’s students read an average of 56 to 57 books per child per year, and voluntary take out reading books from the classroom to read during school breaks.  She says, “100 percent of my students pass standardized tests, and 85 percent of them score the 90 percent and above.”

She referred to the gender discrimination that has often been done around reading. For her, it is a myth that boys don’t read. She said, “If we have boys that are not reading, then we are not giving them the right thing.”

Chelsey Rothermel, special education graduate student, said one problem is that a traditional education method “is not engaging the students to read, it is just forcing them, so they are not enjoying it. We need to introduce the books to children in a different way, that there are things in books that will interest them.”

She also presented a video of high school students who barely read and then became passionate readers because of a method that allowed them to select the texts they wanted to read.

Social networks like Twitter, different blogs and online publications are a major resource in education, according to Miller. “Literacy is happening in Twitter. We should be involved in any literacy network our students might be involved in.”

Miller recently stopped writing for Education Week Magazine, after four years. Currently, she is writing for “The Nerdy Book Club.” She said, “I’m dedicating most of my efforts to that because it is something I really believe in.  I think that all of us as professional have a lot more to help each other than just one person.”

In education, we hear the same five people over and over again. I feel that I know a lot of great teachers out in the field that just don’t have an opportunity to share.”

She recalls her blog “The Book Whisperer” in Education Week Magazine as her first professional writing. “If it was not for that I probably would not have written a book.” “The Book Whisperer” is Miller’s first book. She is finishing her second book, “Reading in the Wild.” It will be ready in March or April 2013.

Diverse Voices from the Field is a subcommittee of the Education Department of KSC. According to Dottie Bauer, the aim of the project is to “bring personalities from different backgrounds to speak in the college about diversity and education affairs.”

The series has been done since 2000 and has been managed by different faculty members of the Education Department. Bauer said it has always been “well received by the community.”

Miller expressed she was very excited to be part of Diverse Voice and come to KSC, where over 25 percent of the students are education majors. “It is a great school. It seems like it is providing a lot of opportunities for students. It seems like a very progressive school”.

Professor Lapierre said, “This type of events bring in voices that students would not have heard before. I think the students that were here got a lot out of this.”


Karina Barriga Albring can be contacted at kbarriga@keene-equinox.com

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