Creating Readers

I recently read an interview with Donalyn Miller titled “Creating Readers.”  Her teaching techniques are truly inspiring to me as I am studying to become a middle school teacher in English and mathematics and she teaches language arts and social studies to sixth graders


desk and test -300pxThe focus of her class is reading comprehension and not just passing a standardized test.  She mentions that she does not implement the Accelerated Reader (AR) program because it forces students to be focused on “memorizing discrete facts from books.”  She does utilize silent sustained reading (SSR) in class but does not tie it to any exams like some traditional SSR programs.  According to Miller, students who start reading their book in class will be more likely to continue it at home.

motudo-WeightLifting-300pxI am impressed with her dedication to the students.  As she explains in her article, she raises the bar with high expectations but provides an environment that allows her students to have control over the books they read within a particular genre.  It is enough to keep them on track with the curriculum but still sends the message that she values what they think and how they feel.

She shows compassion (which I personally believe is often lacking in an education system that gets funding based on test scores.)  When she addresses the students that are still struggling with reading and are possibly below grade level, she steers away from finding blame and looks for a solution instead.  She starts by referring to them as “developing or dormant readers” and allows some leeway for them to read something on their level and of interest to them.  She rewards their efforts with praise, not prizes.

I suspect that her students’ lives are greatly impacted in areas other than reading as well…  Boosting their self-esteem.  …Providing a role model.  …Allowing personal self-discovery and problem-solving by providing book choices that deal with issues they presently have.  My plan is to implement some of her ideas and passion into my own future classroom.


**All clip art provided by


8 thoughts on “Creating Readers

  1. She is a great lady! I really like her feelings about AR. Books should be read to be enjoyed, not to tie to tests. My favorite line in the article is about how you aren’t going to pull a diorama out of your pocket when discussing a book with a friend. Her model is great, and still gets the desired scores that the powers at be desired. I will try to follow her as well.


  2. This is a wonderful analysis of Donalyn Miller’s strategies and rationale! I especially love the clip art of the weight lifter next to the line about her extreme dedication to her students!

    I am also working towards a middle grades English and math endorsement. How do you think we can shape our student’s reading lives? What challenges do you foresee in creating a classroom reading environment that mirrors Miller’s classroom? What evidence can we provide our communities, administration, colleagues, parents, and students, that this method of authentic reading will benefit our students?
    I’m interested to hear your thoughts.


    • Thank you for the compliment! That is really cool that we are both studying education with a middle grade endorsement in English and math. As I read the article, I was really fired up to change the world. After a few days the reality of the work involved in making change set in. I can recall several co-workers this past summer commenting on the summer reading list that their kids are frustrated with. How can we get students and parents on board to something that could be very challenging for them? After all, it is not the avid readers that are going to resist. I try to visualize myself in a classroom and just trying to set a good example as I work through developing a change in how students view reading. I like the idea of presenting the results that Donalyn Miller made with her students to a group of parents… maybe on a meet and greet night complete with potluck just prior to the beginning of the school year. As for convincing everyone, I don’t think I would be up to the challenge as a new teacher. Baby steps.


      • I think the biggest step to get students and parents on board is CHOICE! If we let them meet the requirement in a way that seems reasonable to them, I think we will have more people buy into the idea.


  3. I could not agree with you more when you said, “She shows compassion which I personally believe is often lacking in an education system that gets funding based on test scores.” I think educators focus too much on the prize instead of the individual student and their needs. Mrs. Miller sounds like a teacher every school should have. Nice job!


    • I just hope that I can stay as inspired as I am right now. I told my mom that I am really excited to create a library like Miller has in her classroom and my mom told me I should really pay my tuition before I go creating a “library” for a job I don’t even have yet… ahhh priorities.


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