Reading in the Wild: A Forested Review


Perhaps my favorite professional development book of the year was Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild. To me, reading is an integral element  of the classroom. This book reaffirmed that believe and also showed me practical steps to make that a reality. 

Donalyn separates her book into four chapters, all packed with quotes, research, and examples. 

“Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read”

In her first chapter, Donalyn Miller explains that wild readers actually take time to read. She writes about “reading emergencies,” which are times that readers could fit in reading time: a bus ride, doctor’s appointment, or dead spaces in class. She teaches her students that wild readers take advantage of these “reading emergencies” to fit in reading time they wouldn’t have otherwise had. In this chapter, Miller also gives advice for setting up workshop that works in your class, confronting a student who is faking in workshop, and advice on how to help students keep track of their reading life. 

“Wild Readers Self-Select Reading Material”

The second chapter is a look at how readers actually select reading material. It might be from colleagues, book displays, blogs, or award winning lists. Wild readers have a method of choosing books. Many students simply do not know how they might go about selecting a book, or they might lack the confidence to do so. Donalyn Miller gives advice on how to build reading community through read-alouds and classroom libraries. She presents research that supports read-alouds, as well as advice on how to implement them in the classroom. She also explains how one might curate a classroom library. 

“Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers”

In her third chapter, Donalyn Miller argues that sharing reading is one of the most important steps in the process. Wild readers share their reading with colleagues peers, blogs, or other social media outlets. Miller gives practical steps for allowing the same communication opportunities with her students. She also discussed building a reading community in and out of school. She reaches out to parents, students, and colleagues of all subjects to foster a reading community. At the end of the chapter, Donalyn Miller further discusses the importance of conferring. She explains it is not a checklist, but a pivotal part of workshop that helps writers to grow. 

“Wild Readers Have Reading Plans” 

In the final chapter of the book, Donalyn Miller explains that wild readers have a never-ending reading plan. There is a constant growing stack of books, which can either be physically or mentally collected. When one book is done, they already have a replacement selected. She tries encourage her students to develop a reading plan by providing book challenges, getting students involved with series or authors, and creating reading resolutions. Miller’s final challenge to us is to create our own personal cannon. In order to foster wild readers, we must be have a vast book knowledge for conferring and recommending. 

I am purchasing myself a copy of this ASAP for compulsive highlighting and margin writing. I’m also heavily interested in her resources at the back (eek!). I suggest every wild reader aspiring to ignite a fire in their students do the same. 


4 responses to “Reading in the Wild: A Forested Review

  1. This is definitely one of my favorite PD books. After I first read it, I restructured my Children’s Lit class to try to create those wild readers. Still trying to get it right but I like the class much better when it’s focused on building readers.

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