Finally, a Reading Challenge for the Rest of Us!*

pileEvery January, a slew of reading challenges circulate. However, most of them made me (Beth) feel like a complete failure as a reader. “Tackle a book a day!” (Which I assumed was a joke, since I’m lucky to read through everything my kids schlep home from school each day.) “Enjoy a book a week!” (More humor, as I am often trapped under piles of student essays each week.) While I absolutely love reading, most of my pleasure reading happens during summer vacation–which is the same for many of my busy students. (That is, until the fabulous, book-whispering Donalyn Miller challenged what I did in the classroom–which now includes setting aside ten minutes in the beginning of each class to read for pleasure.) Until recently, no reading challenge had felt attainable.

Enter book-loving blogger Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Her 2015 Reading Challenge calls for devouring twelve books in twelve months. Finally, a reading challenge for the rest of us! In fact, it was so feasible that I turned it into a class activity to promote a love of literacy. I recreated her list in chart form, asking my high school students to select a title that fulfilled each category. (And dang it, her categories are fun!) The next step required my students to log into their Goodreads accounts (which we set up earlier this year), create a new bookshelf entitled “2015 Reading Challenge,” and then add these twelve new titles to their shelves. The catch? They will cull their next few independent reading assignments from this list. (Next year, I will have my students create a similar version in September and independently enjoy one book a month–regardless of what we are studying together in class. I’m still ironing out the details; however, I know that reading conferences and the standards will play a role.)

Assignments like this are what I call “Literary Sandbox” activities: quick, real-world tasks in which my students get to “play.” Often technology is involved, as it is here, but only when it fits. (And fit it did right before the holidays, when my students created their own Amazon Wish Lists called “What-to-get-for-the-adolescent-who-has-everything.”) These Literary Sandbox activities promote and foster a love of reading–the professional goal Chris and I have committed to this year–and the reason many bibliophiles pursue a career in teaching in the first place.

Feel free to beg, steal, borrow, modify, or ignore the assignment.

Happy reading!

*This post was originally published at http://www.fortheloveofreading.org, Beth’s collaborative blog with colleague Chris Gosselin.

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