The Book Whisperer - Chapter 4 - Mrs. B's First Grade

The Book Whisperer - Chapter 4

Hi! I am back talking about chapter four from Donalynn Miller's amazing book, The Book Whisperer today!

I have been applying this book while thinking about my teaching SO much. I think about what I learned at the Teacher's College last week and what Donalynn suggests and writes about fits right in. With that being said, I felt like chapter four was a bit tricky to think about in terms of first graders. I did, however, find some areas that I think could bring the level down a bit.

The chapter starts by talking about how students can pick books and that it is okay to abandon a book. She writes about empowering students to make as many of their own book choices as possible, including the books that they read together as a class. These were two areas that I could relate to and have written about in previous blog posts. I have not truly given my students choice of our read aloud, have you?

The chapter then goes into the forty book requirement she gives her students and how she requires them to read various genres. She speaks a lot to this, but this is where I had trouble relating it to my class the most. She talks about how she teaches students to pick various genres and the importance of giving approval when students make their own reading choices - no matter what books they choose. I do this by teaching my students to make choices with "just right" books. Going deep into genre is difficult for my 6 and 7 year olds though!

She suggests students writing in a reader's notebook. This notebook can include:

  • Tally List - Page divided into columns for genres and number of titles read
  • Reading List - Students fill in with all of their books
  • Books to Read List
  • Response Entries
I have tried various reader's notebooks with my students. Last year I tried to create a digital version for our 1:1 iPads, but did not have very much success. This chapter inspired me to start re-working on that for next year. I started with the tally list. I am going to have my students create a reader's notebook on Book Creator app. Then, I will send them a screen shot of the pdf below and they will insert it to a page.
Click this picture to download the pdf!
I will have my students make tally marks as they go and it will look a little like the one below. I decided to break each page into just 50 books to make the goal small for my students. They can easily read ten books during one reader's workshop. I chose to just have two genres - fiction and nonfiction to also make it simpler. I think that I will provide some sort of incentive for filling up a page.
I plan on writing a blog post going into A LOT more detail on how we will do this when I have it done. So, stay tuned!

The chapter finishes with a whisper of information from a student's readers notebook. This was great to see how it works with Donalynn's students. We are half-way through the book now. Please let me know what you thought of the chapter! 


  1. I finished this book last week. Unfortunately I just now found your post :( I wish I would have been able to link up with you from the beginning!! I teach 3rd grade and would love to implement the 40 books challenge. But like you, I'm trying to think how to actually do it with third graders. I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    1. Sarah,
      Please feel free to join in and start posting now! Chapter 5 is up tomorrow and it's a chapter each week. My post will be up with the link up link tomorrow at 7:00am.
      :) Elisabeth

  2. I'm struggling with what this looks like for my first graders, too! I love the idea of starting with just fiction and non-fiction. I usually teach fantasy and realistic fiction, too, so I'm going to try and add those in later in the year. I really want to work more on Reader's Notebooks, too, since I haven't been successful when I tried them in the past. My lit coach just passed me the Lucy Calkins Reader's Workshop for primary grades so I'm hoping to find some inspiration there, too!


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