A couple of years ago, I was validated and inspired by Ms. Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer. If you have not yet read this book, it is a must. Immediately after turning the last page, I went straight to my computer and tried to format and create an effective and explicit way to begin a book challenge. I cannot express enough how this program has not only liberating me, but also my students. See you later points, benching students with a book in hand, read only at your level regardless of your interest, ugh. I’m over all of it. And Ms. Miller’s book allowed me to feel confident to do what I knew was right all along.
Let’s teach and treatour students as real life readers, so that there just might be a chance for them to unlock and cherish the joy of reading as we all do.
This post will be a number of pictures to better visualize how this might work in your class, tips and lessons learned over the years.
Tips for the 40 Book Challenge:
Composition Books were assembled and explained in class during the first week of school. (St. HW was to bring in photos, mag pics of things they loved or were interested in, already cut out in a plastic bag. We modge podged the covers in class.)
Read Alouds are a must! Let the students experience the joy the picture book. (Patricia Polacco, Chris Van Allsburg, Dr. Seuss are some of my favs.)
I made sure to have 15 minutes of silent reading time everyday! It was sacred-never missed. (I still feel 15 wasn’t long enough. Would have liked 20, but we had SSR during intervention block as well.)
Get rid or your “extra” stuff. You know, the “What can I do when I’m finished?” type work. Just let them READ if they finish tasks early.
Start reading children’s books now! You need to be able to recommend and guide students to fit their interests and needs, and you can’t do that unless you have read a great number of your grade level’s books. This was my favorite part of this endeavor. I now choose to read young adult or children’s novels because they are sooooo amazingly crafted. It’s been enlightening and kept me “in-touch” with my students.
Make your first order with Scholastic Books the MAX, meaning over $250. You’ll get the most points at the BOY and that’s how you build your classroom library. (I’ll post more on that later.)
Allow students to abandon a book. It’s up to the teacher, but my “rule” was that students could only abandon 2 books a trimester. They had to write a letter explaining why they wanted to abandon this book, only after they had given it a solid try (i.e. read 50 pgs. or a couple of chapters).
Any book you read aloud to the class whether it’s a picture book or novel counts towards their challenge.
Share what you are currently reading energetically and often. Let them recommend books to you and actually read them!
Start a book club. Mine was once a week before school. (I’ll post details later or see earlier posts.)
Make a book recommendation wall or system. Because you are requiring reads of certain genres, this will help students select ‘good’ stories. Seeing what their friends have read is great motivation.
Even though January is coming to an end, I still feel the need to share our awesome holiday party. The kids had such a blast and I’m always looking for new activities/crafts/games for the students.
Some teachers at my school do an ornament exchange or cookie exchange, but gor the past couple of years, I have conducted a Holiday Book Exchange. A letter goes home asking parents for permission to bring one, wrapped book to participate. Of course, I always have extra wrapped books for the students who are unable to bring one. It’s important that no on misses out. And, I must admit, I have some wonderful parents each year. It never fails that students that are able to bring a wrapped book bring extras for those who cannot. It’s a beautiful thing.
As far as the actual exchange activity, I put all the books in the center of my circle of students. My students (34) all pick a number out of a hat to determine what order they will select books. This is the fun part! We run this with the same rules as the always-entertaining-White Elephant. For me, this is a classic Christmas. *Helpful Hint: The first year I did this, I allowed a book to be stolen three times. This made the game last forever, and for me, it was too long. So my rule is a book can only be stolen twice and it’s “dead”–meaning belongs to the person that stole it for a second time.
What kinds of activities do you have for your class parties??