The Book Whisperer


You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.

Richer than I you can never be —


I had a Mother who read to me.
My mother read to me.  She read to us at bedtime and in the car.  My mother’s mother read to us also – when we got to Grandma’s house she often had a book prepared to read to us while we were there.  (My parents now read books aloud to each other.)  
I transitioned from picture books to “big girl” books over Christmas vacation in the second grade.  I had been excited to check out The Grinch from the school library, but one of my friends asked why I was reading little kid books.  Instead, I read Little House in the Big Woods.  That did it, I was hooked on books.  I am still a big fan of Laura Ingalls!  
In high school I was still reading.  During the summer I loved to lay in the sun and read.  During the winter I was often found sitting by our fireplace reading.  I read while I walked home from school.  One of the hardest parts of college?  Not enough personal reading time.   I was still in college as a newlywed, but after Mark’s parents took us to see Les Miserables on stage – I devoured the entire unabridged book that next weekend.  
I graduated from college and Nathan was born a week later.  Four weeks after that I was working full-time.  Reading time was fading, but that was ok.  We subscribed to the Dr. Seuss book club and had thoughtful grandmothers who gave books as gifts to the children.   Nine months pregnant with Jackie, I recall finishing a James Michener novel, The Source.  That was my last “big girl” book for a long time.  Three children – no books… or were there?  It was about this time that I ran across the poem “The Reading Mother” and I wanted to begin to read to the children, not just picture books. 
 I started with an old book that I had – a really old book that I had found at a garage sale.  It was set in Colonial America and had something to do with an Indian attack.  It was torture!   It almost seemed like a punishment to make the boys sit and listen.  What was wrong?  We got through the book, but they were in no hurry to do that again… What to do?  I tried a new strategy… Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  There is something about that book.  It is silly, it is magical, and we all wish that we could get a tour of that factory, especially that chocolate waterfall!  

Our favorite books.  The children’s
books worth keeping are in the attic
(where these Halloween decorations
belong).  We have given away many
books over the years.

Just like that… we were a reading family.  Reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory each time the youngest child was about 4 or 5 years-old helped them to enter our family reading time.  We read through so many books over the years; how I wish I had kept a list.  A few of my favorite reading memories:

  • Harry Potter Clean Up:  This meant that when it was time to clean the room, I would sit in the recliner (usually with a baby), and read a Harry Potter book until it came to an exciting spot.  Then I would close the book and choose a number.  If the number happened to be “4”, each child ran and put away 4 items.  Then they would hurry back to listen and we would begin the cycle again.  This only works with action-packed, suspenseful books.
  • I remember many nights, after Jackie had gone to sleep, trying to rock little Natalie to sleep, while Nathan and Greg took turns walking with Baby David to try and keep him happy until he had his turn in the rocking chair.  Those big boys were about 9 and 7 and I can see them in their pajamas, walking back and forth – so carefully holding that little baby for me.  I would rock and read.
  • Once the boys came home from school and caught me reading ahead in Treasure Island.  They were so disappointed!  We made a rule then and there – No Reading Ahead!  I never, ever broke that rule.  It was more fun to discover stories together.
  • When the children were older, I usually had one book going in the girls’ bedroom, and another in the boys’.  Sometimes I would put them all to bed and sit and read aloud in the hallway so everyone could hear.


Mark’s books.  He likes to keep them
where he can see them.  Many of them
are work related and safe from us.
  • All time favorite series:   Little House on the Praire and The Chronicles of Narnia.  We also love Beverly Cleary books, especially if they have Ramona in them.  I like the first four Harry Potter books, but couldn’t make it to the end of the series.  
  • When we were in the car we always had an audio book going.  This became more difficult when the children began to drive because you really cannot listen if someone is missing.  Both grandparents live 13-14 hours away, so long road trips still mean audio books.  Two years ago The Count of Monte Cristo ran for the entire Spring Break and beyond.
  • My children each developed a great attention span – so rare in this world of video games!!


Jackie’s nightstand.
Her personal collection.

I often had to stop reading because I began to lose my voice so easily.  I blame this on years of high school cheerleading.  Maybe it was too many books.  Going to bed without a book being read was sad.  Greg’s chemotherapy treatments were so disruptive to our schedule that we completely lost the habit.  How sad – but this brings me to The Book Whisperer – my mysterious blog post title…
Last  year my Dad was telling me about something he read/watched regarding the way that schools are killing reading.  By making children stop and analyze everything they read – reading has become a drudgery rather than a pleasure.  I totally agree.  I have homeschooled every child for at least one year – usually around 3rd-5th grade.  I could hardly stand the reading assignments I found for them.  I have often wondered why my children didn’t read more often… When I looked for information on my own – I discovered The Book Whisperer…

Natalie’s favorites on her
nightstand.  The Book
Whisperer is quickly
expanding her repertoire.

She is a sixth grade teacher who expects her students to read at least 40 books during the school year.  Many of them end up reading 60.  Her lowest every was a young man who read only 24 or 25… considering most of them used to read 3-5 books, these numbers are astounding.  How does she do it?  In a nutshell, she provides them with a wide array of choices, and then expects them to read.  It is that simple.

Kimberly’s Christmas list – a
bookshelf nigh stand at the top.

I blogged earlier about now knowing what kind of “program” to use over the summer – (none, we just played), and when school came I still had no ideas.  On the way home from dropping off Jackie I listened to The Book Whisperer (audio book) and realized that this would be a fun program for the family.  I typed up a form for each of us and that is all that it took.  We have very few rules, just make sure to cover the required genres and any book over 350 pages counts as two.
The best part?  Mark and I are required to read!  We are so excited.  Reading has been such a luxury over the years (especially for the one of who doesn’t travel and spend hours on airplanes).  Now we have a great excuse to sit on the couch and read.  I really don’t know if I can pull off 40 books, but I am having a great time trying!!

Here is a copy of our book whisperer forms….
The Reading Mother 
by Strickland Gillilan
I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.
I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.
I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness lent with his final breath.
I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch.
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.

4 thoughts on “The Book Whisperer

  1. This is sooooooooo good. I really enjoyed reading to them when they were little, never try as a family. I have to try , and try again. It will be a miracle…maybe I will really focus on helping them read the books they like or the Spanish assignments they get. Thanks for reminding me how fun this can be and how much I have missed it.


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