Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Discovering Preferences: #cyberPD Week 3

The #cyberPD conversation continues to grow.  Today we are discussing chapters 5 of Donalyn Miller's book:  Reading in the Wild.
  • Chapter 5:  Wild Readers Show Preferences
  • Coda
  • Appendix 
Stop by Michelle Nero's blog today, Literacy Learning Zone, for today's discussion. 

To Participate:

Preferences and Wild Readers
Reading in the Wild
Reflecting on the young readers in my classroom last year, I still smile when thinking about their preferences.  There were students who read by authors, some who preferred characters, and others who read widely within topics.  There were those who preferred familiar books and those always on the lookout for something new.  Even as primary readers, there are those who get caught up in series (I might be using this term a little loosely):  Cat the Cat, Elephant & Piggy, Pete the Cat, Fly Guy, Henry and Mudge, Poppleton, Rainbow Magic, Junie B. Jones, and even nonfiction series such as National Geographic Readers Series among others.  I could easily list the names of students who preferred fiction and those who were all about nonfiction.

When talking about reading preferences, "social readers" cannot be overlooked.  In my opinion there are three kinds of social readers, there is the "compliant social reader."  This reader reads whatever his/her friend is reading, providing little input into book selection, not demonstrating the same satisfaction with the book as the lead reader, and doesn't take these reading selections into his/her personal reading life.  I worry about this reader a bit, but if I take the time to determine the motivation behind this behavior next steps are easier to find.  There's the "friendly reader."  This reader loves to join groups and talk about books.  She/he is often sitting beside friends ready to listen to discussions about books and use these discussions to shape personal reading.  This reader selects books to discuss them with friends, share discoveries, and be a part of the group.  The "lead reader" is someone everyone comes to for book advice.  If the lead reader wants a book, it is most likely the book will become a hot title in the classroom library.  All three of these readers thrive on the social aspect of their reading lives.  It is the social interaction that brings them into the process and keeps them in "next books."

In the last ten years of my teaching, I've become more aware of the need to discuss reading preferences and their importance in building a reading life.  As I read Donalyn's book, I realized there still is need for me to look beyond the school day and link these conversations to reading outside of school.  Finding opportunities across the year for short "reading preference" surveys, might be an interesting way to look back at the end of the year to see how our reading lives have grown and build plans for the summer with greater purpose.

Beyond Preferences 
Finding friends who share preferences can help us know who students can talk to when finding next books.  I'm always trying to find ways to turn readers back toward each other as it seems the advice of a peer carries more power in moving forward.  It also builds those connects which might help in the years following our time together in our classroom.  Understanding preferences supports readers in finding next books, but it also opens the door to conversations about filling our reading gaps and trying something new.  When I think about those readers who get stuck in an author, character, or genre, it seems knowing preferences can help us to find those next titles and work toward balancing our reading more.

Next Steps
As I think about working with developing readers in the upcoming school year, Donalyn has made me think about the significance of helping them to build a reading life that extends beyond our school day.  In relation to preferences, ideally in the first weeks of school as I hope to work beside students in their classrooms and discover their preferences and habits as readers.  In the first weeks I will do this in a survey, but also by watching the choices they make and their social interactions within their workshops.    In the following months, I would like to quickly follow up on these preferences to look for signs of growth and change.  As students transition away from support, I will want to make sure students have in place reading habits  and connections that will help them continue to move forward independently.

Here's a form, adapted from experience and the many points shared by Donalyn Miller in her books, that I hope to use in the first weeks.  My plan is to link the form in Evernote and then complete it in beginning conversations with readers.  It's still in progress, but here's what I envision:

Scheduled #cyberPD Events.


  1. Cathy, I sooooo enjoyed your paragraph on the three types of social readers. I realized I am all three depending on the situation. I feel the most pressure with being the lead reader in my building as a literacy support teacher/ coach. When a teacher comes to me...I want to respect their time and give them a home run! I need to reflect on reading preference questions to have in my back pocket for teachers! Thanks for hosting and for nudging more thinking!

  2. I really enjoyed your thoughts on the three types of social readers and I completely agree with the way you've broke them down. I have all three types of social readers in my room every year. My concern is that once summer starts, these students will no longer have a social link to keep them reading. I must be aware of showing these social readers how reading can be engaging beyond the social interactions and help them discover their own preferences so they are no longer relying on others' suggestions or feedback.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  3. Cathy, I enjoyed reading your thoughts on preferences. This comment really stood out for me, "It seems knowing preferences can help us to find those next titles and work toward balancing our reading more." I know I can do a better job with this. Helping students to identify their preferences and using this information for next steps will truly support our readers.
    I also want to help students build a reading life that extends beyond the school day. I like your idea of a survey and I'm playing with the idea of creating one that I could send home for parents to complete with their developing readers. In past years I've sent home reading surveys/inventories prior to the start of a new school year and it might be something I need to revisit.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights.
    PS I would love to see your survey but it looks like you need permission to view it. Would you be willing to share it via Twitter? Thanks!

  4. Thanks for sharing! I really like your characterization of the different types of social readers - I feel like it links in well to the discussion of "epicenter" readers and can help us think about how to help scaffold different readers to build on their own (and their friends') preferences. Great idea!

    I think you may need to change the permission settings on the form you linked to, as all I can see is a warning about how permission is needed to view it ...

  5. I have known social readers too, but hadn't really thought as deeply about it as you! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. When Twilight was so popular, I had a girl in my class whose older sisters were crazy for the books. Even though she could read them (excellent reader!) they were beyond her maturity level as a grade 3 student. She and her best friend were dying to read them though! I tried to find all sorts of other vampire books they could read so they could feel they were part of the Twilight craze. It was a very powerful motivator for them. Of course, I was trying to make the two of them read "Little House in the Big Woods" when I discovered this. Three-quarters of the way through I wised up and gave them an abandoning books lesson instead. :)

  6. Yes, I couldn't see the form either? Let me know if I need to do something to view it, I'm intrigued!
    I have so many ideas on how I want to change things for this year. Being a specialist makes it a little trickier because you can't barge into classrooms, but help lead teachers to think this way. I'll have some who are on board and some will need some incentive.
    I'm trying to find a way to get admin on board to use this as a book study for our staff this year. I'm thinking even our specials teachers could read this and use it in some way. I'd also like to put together a parent night on this subject. I'll post about it if it ever happens :)

  7. Your three types of reader analysis was spot on, Cathy. I think that there can be a classroom synergy between these three types of readers, each helping the other type read more and want to read more. I couldn't access the google doc, but I'll be back. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Teachers for TeachersJuly 23, 2014 at 9:37 PM

    Hi Cathy,

    Your observations and reflections about "social readers" made us stop and think. How can we help "social readers" build an intrinsic love of reading that moves beyond the social interactions? How can we support their interest in talking with friends yet also help them to see the power of reading. Thank you for pushing our thinking on this topic. We would love to talk with students about this topic and hear their thoughts.

  9. Cathy,

    I enjoyed reading and thinking about your description of the varying "social reader". Interesting and I can name students that fall into all three categories! Yet, still knowing the social reading status, helps us know how to move them forward as readers too! I think depending on who I am with and what books we are talking about, I can fall into all three categories! Teaching students to take on all three roles is important as a wild reader too!

    I think your foundation for getting to know your readers in the beginning of the year is essential to help wild readers grow, building a reading life, and pushing them forward to independence!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I look forward to the coming year, learning about your new position and the successes and challenges that you will face. I'm glad to be on this journey with you! I also can't wait to see how all these new wild reading ideas shape our classrooms in the fall! Let's keep the conversation going!


  10. Cathy,

    I really enjoyed reading your take on the three types of social readers! This was really insightful.

    Prior to reading "Reading in the Wild," I don't think I had ever really considered reading to be a social activity. I'm not sure how I missed it before, but the thought had never occurred to me. In the past, I have often kept my reading to myself. However, when I think about the times when I was most excited about reading or about starting a new book, it all centered on relationships I had with other readers (what they were reading, how we all felt about the characters in books, etc.). Reading truly is a way to connect with other people - and connecting with other people makes reading more fun!

    It sounds like you have some great plans for your classroom this year! Best of luck to you. Thanks for co-hosting this Cyber PD event. I have learned so much from it and, while they don't know it yet, my future students have benefited from it.