The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

Image of The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child
Release Date: 
February 26, 2009
Reviewed by: 

Do you believe that every child has the potential to be a strong reader? Author and Texas sixth-grade teacher, Donalyn Miller, does. In fact, she shouts, rather than whispers as much on every page of The Book Whisperer, her first book. In it, while taking what some might consider a controversial stand, she addresses what she sees as a culture of reading poverty, the need for reading role models, and “the reading crisis.”

This book is a worthwhile read for every educator, but it is quite the departure from a “teach to the test” classroom approach. Instead, Miller focuses on motivating readers and giving them time to read (“and read a lot”) while documenting impressive results. It also has a place in principal-established professional book discussions or an impromptu book club among elementary- and middle-school teachers.

With such a focus, the average parent might not select this book to read. It certainly is not the typical “pick-up-and-read” title that answers all families’ questions about their children and reading. Having said that, the messages contained in Miller’s genuine, frank approach make this book an easy read that provides an alternative viewpoint, one that parents may be secretly looking for if they perceive their child falling away from or struggling with reading.

Inspiring quotes from authors, educators, statesmen, and entertainers introduce each chapter, and Miller frequently interjects “whispers” of real student voices, “losing and finding themselves in books.” She provides tips for teachers on transitioning students at the end of the school year and helping them retain an often newly found taste for “reading freedom.” Miller finishes with resources including a “how- to” for building a classroom library, an “Ultimate Library List” (one created not from her own perspective but from that of her students for their peers), and samples of actual student surveys she uses to persuade students to teach her how to teach them. As much by example as anything, Miller’s words challenge teachers to examine their own approach and consider an alternative.

The Book Whisperer, at the very least, gives readers a glimpse into a vibrant reading classroom, its teacher and its students. At best, it sends “the thunderous message” that an authentic, in-depth approach to teaching reading is more critical now than ever. At a time when U.S. educational policies are on the verge of change, this book offers fresh view of a real teacher making a real difference with real students.