Are You A ‘Book Whisperer’?

Our librarian is always reminding moms that it’s not enough to read TO your children.  To raise readers, you also need to read in front of them.  You have to model your value of reading for it to really stick.

Now, to be fair, there are times in a mom’s career when extra reading just isn’t possible.  I’m just coming off one of those times myself, when my oldest was very sick for an extended period.  So, I don’t want to pile guilt onto moms who are in one of those black out times of motherhood. It’s ok to take a break for a while.

But now that things are back to normal at my house, I’m ready to jump back in.  Of course, even during the easy times, it can be very challenging to find time to read.  Which is one reason I’ve appreciated The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller.  While much of what she writes about is applicable only in a classroom setting, her ability to inspire children through her own knowledge and love of kids’ books is pretty amazing.  She includes copies of handwritten notes from the students–many of whom come into her class hating to read but leave hooked.  One boy had read no books at all the previous year, but as a student in her class he read 40 books, many of which he read on his own time and for no classroom credit.

So, today I’m asking myself, am I excited about reading?  If so, do my kids see that?

One of the keys for Ms. Miller’s success in getting her kids to read is in the way she teaches them to capture extra moments throughout the day for reading.  She lets her kids read in class, but she also teaches them to read while standing in line for the bus or in between classes.  She writes about how her husband showed her the value of always keeping a book on hand while out running errands or going anywhere at all.

If I’m going to be a mom who reads, that’s how it will have to be–stolen moments in the day.  So I thought it would be helpful (and also funny)  to share with you this list made by Ms. Miller’s class, as a way to get us thinking about some of those wasted moments that could be redeemed.



empty bathtub

under the bed

grocery store




on top of brick mailbox

hedges and trees


using dog as a pillow

in the open trunk of a car

I just love that list.  It always makes me smile to imagine little preteens hiding around my neighborhood with a good book.  (Instead of throwing rocks, for instance….)  My husband says he has read in the shower, too, though I have to admit…some zones like that will probably always be book free for me.


So, here’s what I’m promising today.  The one thing practical thing I’m going to do to increase my adult book intake is to add a new audiobook to my mp3 player and listen while I’m cooking and cleaning by myself.  It won’t add that much time, really, because much of my cooking and cleaning is done with my kids, helping them and singing with them and teaching them how to do tasks around the home.  But some of it is done alone, and I could listen to a book instead of just random radio.

How about you?  What’s one thing you could do to steal time for reading this week?

Since we’re starting Reformation Month at our site, I think I’ll listen to Pilgrim’s Progress.  Anybody care to listen along or know of a good, cheap version I could download?  If I find one, I’ll link to it here soon. 

And if you’d like more practical advice and encouragement about reading, try Janie’s Raising Writers in Four Simple Steps.  Or our Ereader Safety podcast with Malechi Tech Guy. This title is also part of our Literary Nightstand Series.





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  1. Janie on October 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I used to read while washing dishes. In fact, I looked forward to washing dishes so I could prop a book beside the sink and get a few more pages in. I was a big bathtub-reader, too, but don’t think the kids ever witnessed that. And for all the merging of reading and water, I only dunked a book one time!

  2. Betsy on October 4, 2011 at 7:56 am

    I used to invent chores to do around the house (pre-kids) so that I could finish up audio books; one time, I just plopped down on the couch and listened to the remaining hour of a book because I just couldn’t stop :-).

    My daughter–who’s just learning to read–told me the other night that she could read to her brothers now and I “could work on other things.” I hastened to assure her that I had no intention of giving up reading to them and she could just read, too!

    I have several books in progress and they’re strewn all over the house; I’ll sit down and read a few pages here and there when I get a chance.

    Incidentally, this is one big advantage of e-readers: load them up with some of those groups of classics (I have “25 classic young adult books” or something like that–includes Anne of Green Gables, Polyanna, etc.) and then you’re never without a reading option.

  3. Marlo on October 4, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Although not original, I sneak in reads on the elliptical while my daughter is playing on the floor and my son is doing seatwork. I always find it challenging to keep my eyes on the words as I’m going up and down and the book doesn’t, but it helps pass the time (I hate exercise for exercise sake), and it gets me a few pages farther along. I carry my book with me whenever possible to appointments or pick-ups too. I’m addicted to reading. 🙂

  4. emily on October 4, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    I agree with you, Betsy, about the handiness of ereaders when it comes to old books. It would be interesting to do a cost comparison of all the free books you can get on each ereader verses what you’d have to pay for cheap and even used copies of the paper version.

    Janie, how on earth did you prop up books while you were washing dishes? I think I would need much better engineering skills to pull that off.

    Marlo, I am with you on the exercise reading time. I recently tried to read a book entitled Housekeeping while doing my indoor bike riding. I wasn’t all that fond of the book, though it had its merits. The fun part was reading about Housekeeping instead of actually doing the housekeeping.

  5. emily on October 4, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Oh, and I did find a reasonably priced audiobook of Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s abridged, so I’ll only be devoting 3 hours to the story instead of 12. (I know, I’m a wimp.) But 3 hours is better than nothing, right?

    Here’s the link in case you interested: I’m planning to talk more about Pilgrim’s Progress on Thursday, and maybe I can give a fuller report of the differing versions I found.

  6. […] to generate book discussions is to allow free-range reading, as much as possible.  Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, simply stocked her sixth-grade classroom with books to appeal to a broad range of reading tastes […]

  7. Six Ways to KILL the Love of Reading - on March 30, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    […] to generate book discussions is to allow free-range reading, as much as possible.  Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer, simply stocked her sixth-grade classroom with books to appeal to a broad range of reading tastes […]

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