Book Love: Chapters 5-6

Chapter 5:  Book Talk

For me this could be the most important chapter in this book.  After all, how do you convince a non-reader to pick up a book.  You can’t just say, “Do it, it will be okay.”  By the time my students enter my room they may be several years behind the expected reading level leaving them frustrated and willing to settle for a lack of a reading life.  “It’s too hard!” has become the mantra of these students.  They are not going to read anything unless they want to read it.

Will the book talk be the answer?  I hope so.  I thought about how to sell reading to some of my students.  I like Kittle’s approach.  As I have read books over this summer, I have made notes while reading some and gone back to make notes for others.  I’ve tried to remember my favorite parts without giving away spoilers and marked pages to read aloud to give my students a glimpse inside.

I have loved every book that I have read this summer and get excited with the prospect of selling on of these gems to a non-reader via the book talk.  I’ve also thought long and hard about how to create learning and writing moments for each text.  It was amazing to read her student responses to Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.    I can only hope that my own students will be so consumed with their own work to decide as a class to try an activity all on their own.  I found a great resource at that has several book talk examples and ideas to help generate student interest.

Chapter 6: Conferences

The conference seems to be the essence of the classroom.  In the conference, the teacher is able to assess students understanding, reading and comprehension skills, and is able to provide motivation, strategies, and support for every student in a one on one relationship.  This exchange builds report with students and makes their own development more likely because they have a vested relationship with the teacher.

I like that Kittle breaks down the primary goals for different types of conferences.  Clearly this makes the conferencing more fluid and able to adapt to each student’s needs as they arise.  Helping each student one on one will create readers.  It is in the conference that we can sink our hooks into our non-readers and truly help them become readers through our own excitement for what interests the student.  We can show them that their reading isn’t about checking boxes and answering questions about what they very likely consider irrelevant topics in their own lives.


Book Love: Chapters 7-9

Penny Kittle’s last three conventional chapters in Book Love are the core ‘How to’ chapters of the book.

Chapter 7: Responding to Reading

In this chapter, Kittle brings forth several writing exercises that demonstrate a student’s comprehension of the text without involving quizzes or essays.  I like how she models the question response and has her students write her letter about the books that they are reading.  These letters are not that time-consuming and demonstrate higher level thinking skills.  Encouraging students to support their thinking with evidence from the text helps students to grow as readers, writers, and thinkers.

I really liked how she has students respond to passages in a book.  It encourages students to find topics on their own and to quote/cite from their books.  This leads to the students answering the essential higher level thinking questions: What I think; What this says about the book; What this says about the world.

Chapter 8: Nurturing Interdependent Readers in a Classroom Community

Who knew that putting a simple label on a notebook of and title upon it to represent a big idea in literature could so easily turn into a multi-annual writing activity for students to share their reading and work on their writing skills at the same time.  I am totally borrowing this idea.  In these notebooks students can reflect on their own reading and learn about how others may notice things in the same material that they themselves have read.

I like the quarterly reflections where students look back at their reading to acknowledge their accomplishments and to set goals for the future.  I don’t think that many students are given the time to reflect upon their learning and to see how they have grown outside of a letter grade.

Having students group to establish a system for ranking books and setting goals seems like a very effective way to have students value their own accomplishments and desire to meet the goals set upon them by themselves and their peers.

Chapter 9:  Creating a School Community

I wish that I could convince my small district to create a 20 minute per day reading time as Kittle discusses.  It would be great if that were to happen but the reality is that I feel I would get a wall of opposition from teachers that either do not value independent reading or are too worried about trying to cover curriculum — even when they claim to understand that covering a book from cover to cover does not teach any subject.

Currently our district mans the public library during the summer months to try to keep the community reading in the off months.  Sadly, hours have been cut down to four hours a day and the summer reading program has been reduced to one day.  I have personally been to the library dozens of times in the last few months.  I have only seen one person, that did not work in the library, one time this summer.  Our community does not seem to value books.  I suppose this will be my biggest challenge over my career — changing the value of books in my community.  I suppose I will have to take Kittle’s advice and meet them where they are at.

Book Love: Chapters 3-4

One of the biggest ideas that I will walk away from these chapters is that “good teaching is based not on a system but on a relationship” (35).  This quote stuck with me because it is pretty much what brought me to teaching.  I understand that the system may not be broke, but it is in dire need of repair.  I think what we all need to consider is that no one person is the same as the next.  We have had embraced difference, as long as it is not too different, yet we still take the same approaches to education.  We expect kids to care about going to school to get a job and excel while contributing to society but we seldom take the time to build a relationship with our students.  The students seldom care about education without reciprocation from teachers who genuinely care for their development.  Meanwhile many teachers complain about class sizes because of work-load, not because of relationships with students. I think we can bridge the gap with every student be taking the time to care enough for them to suggest paths for them to learn the skills they need to tackle new challenges. I could envision about half of my eighth grade class as Keith from the Nudging One Reader section.  It is not that I have hellions.  I have great kids, they just only do the work that they actually HAVE to do.  If they can fake it… they will. I loved the chapter “Opening Doors into Reading.”  I thought it was great how she had each door represent a trait or book type that every reader needs to discover, especially struggling readers.  Pairing each door with a suggested reading was excellent.  I learned a great deal and made a giant wish list of books to try and pass along to my administration.

I think I am going to have my students sign out books on a Google Document so that no one can sign someone else’s name and they will be time stamped.  I hope this may cut down on the number of books that walk away so that I can continue to add to my library.  Although Kittle teaches on a block schedule I will be modeling my classes on her Reading/Writing Workshop schedule from page 57 with some adaptations for the differences in time.

Book Love: Chapter 1-2

It is hard to imagine delving into the teaching world without ever having read the words and advice of some masterful teachers like Nancie Atwell or Penny Kittle and my heart yearns for a first year Do-Over.  After only a few chapters of Kittle’s Book Love, I have found several reasons to change the way I have gone about teaching my seventh and eighth grade language arts classes.  She is completely right about so many things.

It is easy to skip through grades six through twelve by playing school.  Students are very able to pretend they are working and progressing by paying attention to the conversations of others, asking friends, and getting a few tidbits of information from CliffsNotes.  They can easily go from fifth or six grade through graduation without ever actually reading what is required from them.

 In all honesty, I was one of these kids.  I hated assigned reading.  What was the point?  I could fake my way through a discussion about Fahrenheit 451 or Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, by asking my friends a few questions before class and either regurgitating the comments that others made or simply making up something that seemed logical like, “They realized Huck wasn’t a girl because he couldn’t thread the needle,” I spat forth when discussing how the disguise of Sarah had failed Huck (my teacher thought it was a brilliant observation).  I hated that I could get by so easily.  I vowed that if I were ever a teacher I would pay attention to my students and understand there was so much missing from many students education.  It was my goal not let them pull the wool over my eyes.  I read one required book between sixth and twelfth grade, Dalton Trumbo’s book Johnny Got His Gun.  If my teacher had not made the link between Metallica’s

“One” and the book, I would have given up after the second chapter.  He promised to play the video in class after we finished the book so that we could compare the two.

I planned on going into the Army and I was horrified by the story.  I picked my job based on the fact that I wanted to be sure that I would not suffer like Trumbo’s character — armless, legless, and faceless in a foreign country begging for release rather than life — when the recruiter told me that Cavalry Scouts were in front of the military force and had a life expectancy of 36 seconds in a full-scale war, I signed the contract right away.  I thought that either I’d be dead for sure, or collected by other soldiers pushing through the battlefield and returned home.

In the Army, I found myself with a lot of free time on radio watch and grabbed Anne Rice’sInterview with a Vampire from a friend.  At the age of eighteen it was the first book I read in three years.  Over the next few months I had read all of the Vampire Chronicles.  Looking back, I hated that it was so easy to fake my own education.

After discovering reading during my time in the U.S. Army, I wanted to become a teacher.  I wanted teach kids how to enjoy learning English, not to hide from it.  Then I hit college.  I was not at all ready for the amount of reading.  I enjoyed reading, but my pace and stamina was no where ready to digest a book every other week in American of British Literature.

Again, Kittle is right we are not preparing our students for life in general, let alone college, if we do not first give them a love of reading that they can develop over time to build stamina.  Though I love Jane Austin and Shakespeare now, I would have avoided them like the plague in school I never got hooked on reading enough to explore the depths of either author.  Those authors, as great as they are, are not the answer.  They are a target to aim our students at while allowing them to read for the love of reading.

We can assess student comprehension through simple conversation, book reports can change from tedious actions to fun defenses of literature and non-fiction.  I look forward to reading how Kittle gets her students to share what they have taken from a text.