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Year End Update: #MustReadin2016

Year End Update: #MustReadin2016

mustreadin2016challenge

#MustReadin2016 is a personal challenge to commit to reading books of your choice.  Visit creator Carrie Gelson’s site here for more information and for links to other #MustReadin2016 book lists. 

In 2016, I created a Must Read list of 12 books that had been recommended by my reading community and set a goal of reading 100 books by the end of the year.  I read 11.5 of the 12 Must Read books (halfway through The Thing about Jellyfish) and met my goal of reading 100 books (barely!) with the 101st book completed on December 31st. Highlights from my Must Read list, which you can find here, included Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate and Wish Girl by Nikki Loftin, which I enjoyed reading with my sons, as well as Personalized PD by Jason Bretzmann, which has greatly influenced my work with teachers this year.

As I reflected on participation in this personal reading challenge, I realized that I have gained valuable insight into how to cultivate reading communities for our students. Rather than reviewing the books on my list, I believe the real take-away is to consider how the lessons I learned from this experience can influence the ways in which we approach reading in the classroom.

Lesson #1: Set goals but allow adjustments.

For me, the goal to read 100 books in 365 days was lofty but gave me a target to shoot for.  When fall came around, I was teaching grad school and the kids soccer schedule suddenly equated to practice or a game every day of the week (yes-all 7 days!). I felt anxious that I wouldn’t meet my goal. Self-talk related to my reading goal became pretty negative.  How could I possible meet the goal I had set, given the limited time I now had for reading? I adjusted my goal to 75 books, which I felt was achievable. Once I hit 75, I talked myself back into that goal of 100 and ended up accomplishing it.  However, I believe that meeting the loftier goal is due to the fact that I could adjust it to a more manageable number when I felt stressed about meeting the deadline.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What systems are in place for students to set reading goals in the classroom?
  • Do students have the ability to reflect on and adjust their goals, or are they fixed targets?

Lesson #2: Lack of choice is detrimental to developing a reading identity. 

I believe choice is the number one motivational factor in accomplishing a reading goal. If someone had handed me a list of books and declared them to be the Must Reads of 2016, I would never have completed this challenge, even if the books were outstanding and even if they were books I would have been likely to choose on my own.  The power is in the choosing.  In fact, I didn’t look at the 12 books that I had deemed Must Reads and check them off one by one.  If I had, I would have missed The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, Raymie Nightengale by Kate DiCamillo, The Night Gardener by Terry and Eric Fan, Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt, and Mindsets and Moves by Gravity Goldberg, which turned out to be some of my 5-star ratings this year. I learned that I needed to read “off list,” even the list I had made for myself. Again, the power is in the choosing.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What is the balance between the percentage of books that students are assigned to read versus the percentage of books that they choose to read?
  • What happens when a student dislikes a book that they have chosen or wants to read “off-list”?

Lesson #3: Access to a large volume of books is critical. 

To increase the volume of reading, one must have access to various avenues for obtaining reading material. Sources included the public library, school book fairs, bookstores, online vendors, conferences, colleagues, and friends. I read audio books, eBooks, and good old-fashioned print.  I read in the car, on vacation, and in the doctor’s office, using an iPad or a phone.  If access to these sources had been removed, my reading goal would not have been attainable.

Questions for Reflection:

  • How much time are students spending looking for books that could be spent reading if high interest books were easily accessible?
  • How can we increase access to books both within and outside of school?

Lesson #4: A system for tracking progress is necessary.

My system of choice is Goodreads.  I was able to use the goal-setting, logging, and rating features to track my reading progress and estimate how close I was to my goals.  Goodreads allows users the capability of keeping lists of books, indicating books to be read, books read, and books categorized into customized lists. I could keep track of genre or recommended ages of readers and create lists for my kids. At any time, I could mark a book as completed or enter the number of pages read to track measurable progress. Most importantly, all of this tracking was done by myself, for myself.  Others could view my progress, but the only person holding me accountable was me.

Questions for Reflection:

  • How are students tracking their reading progress? Do students have ownership of this system?
  • Are options in place that are consistent with the way adults track progress toward goals?  Are they authentic?

Lesson #5: A reading community encourages and inspires an authentic reading life. 

Books beg to be discussed, to be written about, to be shared. A reading community provides a forum for recommending your next read, cheering you on as you work toward your goals, sharing reviews that showcase the uniqueness that each reader brings to the experience. Goodreads friends, as well as the “Must Read” and “It’s Monday, What are You Reading” groups, have served as in-person and online communities in which books are honored and readers are celebrated.

Questions for Reflection:

  • How are reading communities cultivated within the classroom?
  • How can we strive to create a space in which authentic discussion around books is the norm?

I’m kicking off 2017 with another goal of  reading 100 books and have started with some that I have been waiting to read for quite awhile: Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson, Pax by Sara Pennypacker, and Who’s Doing the Work? How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris. I’m putting the finishing touches on my #MustReadin2017 list and welcome your recommendations for my next reads!

The book is in your court…

IMG_4918Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to participate in the #IMWAYR community.

 

Fall update: #MustReadin2016 & #CrenshawFoodDrive

Fall update: #MustReadin2016 & #CrenshawFoodDrive

#MustReadin2016 is a personal challenge to commit to reading books of your choice.  Visit creator Carrie Gelson’s site here for more information and for links to other #MustReadin2016 book lists. 

mustreadin2016challenge

While I have been tackling my Must Read in 2016 booklist, many other books have crept in that weren’t on my radar when creating this list at the end of 2015.  Favorite additions to my 2016 list include All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan KielyMindsets and Moves by Gravity Goldberg, Echo Echo: Reverso Poems About Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer, and DIY Literacy by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts. All of these books deserve five star ratings and a spot on your Must Read lists!

I set out to write brief descriptions of several books on my Must Read list that I have recently completed, but I have since decided to dedicate this full post to Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate.

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My nine year old son and I read Crenshaw together this summer.  And we couldn’t put it down. Applegate tackles the topics of poverty and homelessness gently and through the eyes of a child.  Jackson’s imaginary friend, Crenshaw, seems to appear exactly when Jackson needs him the most, helping him cope with his family’s mounting financial stress.  There is an excellent book trailer that brings Crenshaw to life and can be shown when recommending this book to others.

Crenshaw is a difficult book to read without being moved to take action. Jackson and his sister are often hungry and without food or resources. Applegate engaged in research for the book at the Monarch School whose mission is to educate students who are impacted by homelessness. According to Applegate’s website, “Nearly one in five kids in America lives in a household that struggles to put food on the table.

So how can you help?

Applegate is sponsoring a Fight Hunger with Crenshaw campaign, in which schools can win a Skype visit with her by being one of the top 3 schools to collect the most food for a local food pantry by November 30th. She includes resources for schools and libraries to use to promote the campaign on her website.

crenshaw_food_drive.png

This image is part of the Crenshaw Digital Toolkit that can be downloaded as part of the Fight Hunger with Crenshaw campaign that is linked above. 

Many thanks to Carrie Gelson who organizes the Must Read challenge!  Participating in this annual challenge requires setting goals, monitoring progress, and reflecting on outcomes or changing course.  There are numerous benefits for educators to join reading communities, including modeling these processes for students, being able to recommend quality selections to colleagues, and helping students find the right book at the right time. There’s nothing more powerful than connecting the issues faced by a character to issues within our students’ communities, and Crenshaw provides a perfect opportunity to teach empathy and the power that readers have to take action.

“I hope children will experience losing themselves in a book; at same time I hope they’ll experience finding themselves in one.”

~Kylene Beers on Twitter for #WRAD16

Check out what others in the Must Read challenge are reading here.

Do you have a recommendation for our next Must Read lists?  If so, please comment below.

The book is in your court…

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Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to participate in the #IMWAYR community.

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