This Week’s Quote, July 1, 2018

“At its best, conferring is the daily choice we make to give our wholehearted and undivided attention to one reader at a time, intentionally noticing, celebrating, and moving their reading life forward.”  -page 2

If you want to read more, you can visit the Stenhouse website to order your own copy of our book, To Know and Nurture a Reader; Conferring with Confidence and Joy.  If you’d like to be part of the conversation, come on over and join our To Know and Nurture a Reader Facebook Group. If you want more content like this delivered right to your inbox, click the Follow button below and  you’ll never miss a post.

We’re so glad to have you with us on our learning journey.  – Kari & Christina

Why Confer with Readers? 10 Compelling Reasons

Our wish for every reader is that they are supported by a teacher fiercely committed to conferring. Why this passionate commitment to conferring?  Today, we share ten of our favorite reasons.

We confer because we want to . . .

  • KNOW readers.  We confer because there’s so much we want and need to know about what goes on in the heads and hearts of the young readers we care about. So, the first reason we confer is to better know each and every child as a reader and a person. Knowing who a reader is, what they love, what they hope for, and what gets in their way is the foundation on which we help students build sturdy, vibrant reading lives.  We show up first to learn and only later to teach, offering our wholehearted presence to one child at time, in a ways that say, “You’re important to me. Knowing all about you and your life as a reader will help me be the best possible teacher I can be for you.”


  • NURTURE readers.  We confer because it is the truest way we know to meet the needs of each and every reader in our classrooms.  Because we are committed to helping students build reading lives that flourish and thrive in the classroom and beyond, we need to consistently peek in on them while they engage in self-directed reading. There we can pair what what we know about individual readers with what we know about how to nurture reading growth, moving each student forward with personalized, just-in-time, bite-sized nudges.  In a conference are both intentional and responsive, as we follow precisely where a single reader may lead. By doing so we say to readers  “As we talk and think together about how things are going for you as a reader, we can find ways to keep strengthening your reading skills, habits, and love of reading.”

Continue reading “Why Confer with Readers? 10 Compelling Reasons”

Some of my students just hop from book to book! What can I do to support them?

Question: A few of the readers in my class just seem unable to stick with a book from beginning to end. What can I do to help them commit?

Daniel, a fourth grader, seems to have picked up and put down more books than almost any other student in his fourth-grade class this year.  In fact, his teacher worries that he may not have finished a single book all year aside from the ones read in small groups or with book clubs. Daniel’s ability to read is on par with his grade-level peers, but he just doesn’t ever seem to find a book that he really wants to commit to. His teacher knows Daniel needs support with this, so she decides to investigate the issue a little further through conferring… 

We all know those readers who have a difficult time committing to a book. In fact, as readers ourselves, we both know we’ve sometimes been in Daniel’s shoes; buying or borrowing a book we couldn’t wait to dive into, and then later finding our interest or attention waning. In reading as in poker, knowing when “to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em” is a very real challenge. Students like Daniel, who abandon book after book, are sending a definite signal for help. Offering a series of focused conferences can be a lifesaver for these students.  Today, we offer some ideas about how you might structure a series of conferences to support readers like Daniel. Continue reading “Some of my students just hop from book to book! What can I do to support them?”

How can I support readers who pick the same types of books over and over again?

Question: I have some readers who pick the same book or types of books again and again. Shouldn’t I be pushing them toward more variety?

Juan is on a mission to know as much as he can about outer space. Day after day in his second-grade classroom, he immerses himself in books about space. Every single informational book he’s read in the past month has been about space. When he reads fiction, he prefers books that take place in space. If he can’t find a new book about space, he chooses to reread one he already spent time with. When Juan’s teacher suggests it may be time to move to a different topic, encouraging him instead to try out an ocean book or something from the sports bin, his interest in reading takes an immediate dive. It seems as though if Juan can’t be reading books about outer space, he’s not that interested in reading at all. 

Sometimes students fall so in love with a topic, a series, an author, or a genre that it seems nothing else will do for them as readers. As teachers who know the importance variety can play in developing well-rounded readers, it’s not uncommon that we try to push students in another direction and in doing so, unintentionally create disengagement. 

We worry less about about what many perceive as a reading rut – reading the same topic, book type, or title over and over again – and more about the level of engagement we see in a reader. Because Juan is so intentional and committed to his book choices, we don’t think he’s really in a rut. We think of a rut as a place we get stuck because we don’t know a better option. Students in true ruts look very different. They are students who aren’t truly engaged or excited about their reading. They are simply choosing the same types of texts over and over because they haven’t found or don’t know how to find a better or different option. These students will definitely benefit from our use of conferring time to support book choice. Continue reading “How can I support readers who pick the same types of books over and over again?”

How do I Confer with a Student Who’s Reading a Book That I Haven’t Read?

Question: I haven’t read the book myself, so how will I be able to confer with a reader about it?

Sylvie’s fifth-grade students are voracious readers. On most days, at least one of her students brings a book into the classroom that is completely unfamiliar to her. Even though Sylvie has tried to keep up with her students’ book choices, she has found that it is just not possible to know every book that every child in her class is reading. She wants to confer with her students, but she isn’t sure how to talk with them when they are reading a book that is unfamiliar to her. 

Trying to read everything our students are reading is a noble goal, but it’s simply not realistic. In fact, if you have read every book your students have read, your students probably aren’t reading enough. There are just way too many great books in the world to limit the choices of our students to those we’ve read ourselves!  So, in this post, we offer some suggestions for how to engage in meaningful conversations with students, when they are reading something you have not read.  Continue reading “How do I Confer with a Student Who’s Reading a Book That I Haven’t Read?”

Welcome from Kari & Christina

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 8.41.01 AMWelcome to our blog, To Know and Nurture a Reader! We’re so glad to have you join us.

A couple years ago, we began a writing journey together with the goal of supporting educators in creating a joyful conferring practice to support all of their readers. Fast forward to now, and we’re excited to say that our book, To Know and Nurture a Reader; Conferring with Confidence and Joy is available for preorder and will be in the hands of teachers in May.

As a complement to our book, we decided to launch this blog. To begin we offer a series of posts dedicated to supporting teachers as they tackle some of the predictable challenges of developing a thriving conferring practice.  Each blog post in the “Tackling the Tricky Parts Series” will focus on a common challenge we’ve encountered ourselves or that we’ve heard about in our work with teachers across the country. Each of the posts includes a question, a classroom scenario, and some ideas you might consider when tackling this challenge. The posts will fall into one of three categories:

  • Setting the Stage for Success
  • Meeting the Needs of Every Reader
  • Embracing the Messiness of Choice

But this isn’t a one way conversation.  We’d love to hear from you as well! What are the reasons you value conferring with readers? What do you find tricky or troublesome?  What works for you? What ideas do you have to share with other teachers that we haven’t thought of or included?  Please help keep the conversation alive by reaching out in the way that suits you best:


Here’s a preview of what you can look forward to in the coming weeks: 

Sunday, April 1st: Helping Students Develop Independence so You Can Confer

Sunday, April 8th: Conferring with Students Who Are Reading Books Unfamiliar to You

Sunday, April 15th: How might I use conferring to support students who are reading significantly below grade level?

Sunday, April 22nd: What can I do when students pick the same books over and over again?

Sunday, April 29th: How might I support English language learners through conferring, especially those with very limited English?

Sunday, May 6th: What do I do when a reader has trouble committing to a book?


We look forward to learning with you and hearing from you on this journey!

Kari & Christina