In her groundbreaking book on reading instruction, The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller describes the challenge that she sets out each year for her middle grade students - to read 40 books. And not just any 40 books! Her students are required to read a certain number of books in a variety of genres. In my own classroom, I made a few tweaks from Miller's book to meet my students' needs. Below is the division of 40 books that I designed:
Last year, I implemented the 40 Book Requirement fairly successfully. Of my 24 students, 5 completed the challenge and the remaining students each read over 20 books. The important thing is that they read more than ever - so I consider last year's work to be pretty successful. However, this year I am hoping to have more students complete the 40 books. To accomplish this goal I made a few changes:
1. Changed the name from 40 Book Requirement to 40 Book Challenge to make it seem less threatening.
2. Set up a large display of posters for students to sign when they complete 10, 20, 30, and 40 books. This makes their progress more public, allows us to cheer for them, breaks up the challenge into manageable pieces, and increases peer-to-peer accountability.
But the BIGGEST CHANGE I made is:
3. Completing the challenge myself.
I'm a reader. My students know that I love books. I eat books. I devour books.
But I figured - if they need to do the challenge, then so should I.
By modeling my own progress and devotion to the challenge, I increase their fervor for it.
I set up a display in my classroom modeled off of a photo posted by Pernille Ripp in her Twitter feed @pernilleripp. This way, my progress is on display and I am publicly accountable to my students.
Since I am already complete lots of books, my challenge is to do DOUBLE the work.
So I am challenging myself to complete 80 books instead of 40. On top of that, I won't be giving myself double-credit for long books like the students get.
I'm excited about this challenge because I think it will motivate my students. And because I have some serious genre gaps in my personal reading. For instance, I almost never read biographies, but now I will read 4!
I plan to post a quarterly update on my progress, but you can check on my progress at any time by checking out my 40 Books Challenge Page.
UPDATE 7.2.2014 My students did an amazing job with the 40 Book Challenge this year. An incredible 14 of 19 students completed the challenge. Check out more details at my 2 reflection posts:
* Reflection on My Own 40 Book Challenge
* Reflection on Student Progress