We’re trying a school wide reading challenge for the first time this year. It’s a 40 book challenge, and I was able to get a page in the student agenda for it (so the students can hopefully keep up with it for the entire year.) I’m both excited and nervous for this. I have no idea whether it will be a big win or go over like a lead balloon. Some of my kids are ‘come every morning to get three new books’ types of readers, some are ‘follow them around and hound them with suggestions’ types of readers, but the vast majority fall in the middle. They are the ‘eh, take it or leave it’ types of readers. It’s them I’m hoping to target and infect with the love of reading. I planned all of this with my former principal, but we had an administration change over the summer, so I’m not sure how it’s going to work. Additionally, we no longer meet in year long, small advisory groups, through which I was hoping to push a lot of the accounting and celebrating. I’m kind of at a loss, and I don’t want to add another thing onto the language arts teachers’ load.
So far, I’ve had the opportunity to introduce it to the students and explain the concept. But what I’ve conceived may be very different from what they’ve done in the past or what you might expect, because I’ve tied it to my goals as their librarian. I’m not concerned, as their classroom teachers might be, with them reading a variety of books, or books from a list, or ‘on their level’. I’m only concerned that they are reading. I want them to read. I want it to become a habit, an addiction if you will. I want their go-to response to free time to be “YAY! Time to read!” If I can move some of them from ‘only when I have to’ readers and into the ‘eager to find out what’s next’ column, I will be happy.
In service of this, the list page on their agenda has 40 slots for book title and date finished. That’s it. I’ve asked them not to put in books they feel are below their reading ability that they read to their younger siblings or while babysitting, etc. Other than that, it all counts. Graphic novels, audio books, fiction, nonfiction – I really don’t care. I just want them to read. This is my ‘all carrot, no stick’ approach. I honestly wish they could all love reading the way I did when I was their age.
So, this Friday I’m meeting with my new principal to brainstorm ideas for reading celebrations. I want to mark milestones as a community, rather than handing out individual rewards. I’d like the students to be able to participate if they choose, and to question themselves as to why they aren’t if they choose not to. My new principal seems to be up for many options – she mentioned a ‘read-in’ with sleeping bags in the gym. (I’m a little skeptical of anything involving eighth grade students and sleeping bags…) So, my question for you is, what is the most exciting/fun/motivating reading celebratory event you’ve ever participated in? Have your kids done anything at school that sincerely motivated them to read? What should I ask of my principal?
Let me know in the comments. And happy reading!