Donalyn Miller is one of my eduheroes- her books "The Book Whisperer" and "Reading in the Wild" are must-reads if you teach in a primary/ intermediate school or secondary English. The basic premise is that learners are encouraged to read at least 40 books (students set individual goals but 40 is a good minimum number because it is gives enough of a challenge that learners have to work steadily at it throughout the year.) Some girls set the goal of 50, 65 or even 80. Some of these girls will make 80 and need to reassess the goal later in the year. Others might not make 40; like any goal, not meet it is not the end of the world because I guarantee that with this challenge in place, these girls will read more frequently, more deeply and read more widely than they did last year. They will also learn a huge amount about where and how to find reading material they enjoy and they will leave Year 8 with a number of favourite genres and authors. Perhaps most importantly, we will see, as we have in the past two years, 8CF transform from being a collection of children working independently in the same classroom to a truly supportive learning community where girls discuss and share reading experiences, sharing their favourite books and helping each other be successful.
Today was the third 40 Book Challenge Kick-off party I've held for our Year 8 girls. The girls are now well aware of the challenge before they join Year 8 so today the 40 Book Challenge announcement was met with a mixture of fear and trepidation.....and great, unbridled enthusiasm. Either reaction is perfectly understandable!
This year, after feedback from last year's girls, I've made some changes.
1. Picture Books-
I'm sort of shocked at myself for not including picture books in the challenge before now. I'm a huge picture book lover so I'm a bit disgusted at myself for not including these sooner. Ten picture books = one book and we did discuss the importance of variety in these books but the girls "get it" and are grateful for the opportunity to explore the way text and visuals combine to tell a story.
2. No specific genre numbers-
Previously I had set the genre guidelines eg 3x Fantasy, 3 NZ Literature and 10 Free Choice. What was I thinking? This year, I've scrapped that but do want them to read at least one book in each category. After that, the world's their oyster so to speak.
So after sharing the slideshow, we set goals and then we laid out piles of books including many from the National Library. The girls were so, so excited to select books, I was actually concerned there might be a punch up over, "We Were Liars" by E. Lockhart. I had two thoughts as this unfolded......
a) Why didn't I bring a first aid kit?
b) How much longer will children around New Zealand get this much joy from National Library books for? (sigh........that's another post!)