How about a New Year’s Resolution that doesn’t require us to give up food and drink we love? What about a resolution that increases opportunity for what we love and spreads that passion to others? Sound good? The 25 Book Challenge might be just what you and your classroom need!
Children get better at reading BY reading.
The research shows that children who read more have higher vocabularies, score better on standardized tests, show greater verbal intelligence, demonstrate greater declarative knowledge, have expanded world knowledge, improved memories, have reduced stress and increased empathy.*
So HOW do we get our students to beHIGH VOLUME readers?
1. It becomes the expectation.
2. We create the conditions to make it happen.
If we really want our students to develop lifelong love of reading they need to develop reading habits. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell examined what factors led to high levels of success. From his research he hypothesized the “10,000 Hour Rule”. His claim was that the key to success was practicing a task for at least 10,000 hours. (That’s 600,000 minutes) If our students only read 20 minutes a day it would take them 30,000 days to meet his criteria (82 years!). If they read for 2 hours a day it would only take 5,000 days! That’s about 13 ½ years. Just about the amount of time we have children in public school.
2 hours a day is not unreasonable for most of our kids, IF we have time in our school days devoted to immersion in reading. I’m not talking the old model of ‘the book flood’ where you just have books available and reading takes place through osmosis. But time with REAL reading tasks could replace some of the isolated skill work students are sometimes asked to do. Reading aloud to our students EVERY day would be part of this time.
Time can be difficult to track however. Unless you have a stopwatch with start and stop and recording features it becomes cumbersome to log the minutes spent reading each day. What IS easy, is tracking the number of books you read. This is something your students can do independently. Setting a high expectation for volume reading IS a reasonable goal for teachers to have for their students, we need to find ways to help students rise to our expectations.
WHY 25 or 40?
Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer) requires her students to read 40 books each year. We don’t have a complete school year left, so 25 books is somewhat arbitrary, but the reasoning is consistent. We have about 20 weeks of school left starting in January. That is asking students to read about 1 book a week and then 5 more. If a student reads a particularly long book one week, he or she could read a few shorter books the next. Some students may say, “ha…that’s easy, I’m going to read 40 picture books.” I’d say, “GREAT! That’s 40 books you probably never would have given the time of day.” I also believe that when they see the books their peers are reading, that they will diversify their selections. The goal is attainable for all if we set up the conditions for success.
How do we create conditions to promote success? Here are what I think are essential elements we need to consider to help our students become HIGH VOLUME readers this year.
1. Have LOTS, and LOTS, and LOTS of books available for your students.
2. Have LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of time for reading (during the school day!)
3. Have a manageable accountability system.
4. Promote an environment that is PASSIONATE about reading- LOTS, and LOTS, and LOTS of passion!
How you do this is as varied as there are classrooms in this country, but I’ve put together a unit with ideas that might help. Clink here 25 Book Challenge for the unit. I would also encourage you to read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Igniting a Passion for Reading by Stephen Layne for more inspiration and ideas.
I would LOVE to hear how you have ignited a passion for high volume reading in your schools. Please leave ideas, suggestions or questions in the comments section.
* Research References
What’s on My Book Radar?
With Christmas vacation coming up, I have already reserved a pile of books from my local library. I am going with these Nerdy Book Club Recommendations:
The 2013 Nerdy Award Ballots are out! You have until Saturday Dec. 21st at 11:59 pm to vote. Here’s the link the Nerdy Award Ballots so you can weigh in your favs this year!