When it comes to reading I’ve always felt like a bit of a fraud.
Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild have inspired me to give time and space for children to regularly read in class. Yet at the beginning of this year, I was, at best, a sporadic reader. I’d polish off half dozen or so volumes during the holidays, yet come term time, my reading fell dormant except for the novels I read aloud to my class.
With the journey up to Year 6, I knew it was time for a change. Not only had I taught these kids as Year 3 and Year 4s, but upper elementary kids have a special knack for sniffing out adults who don’t ‘walk the talk.’
I decided to take some inspiration from both Donalyn Miller and an upper elementary student living halfway around the world, TheLivBits. This academic year I set a goal to complete Donalyn’s 40 book challenge alongside my students, reading books that were largely accessible to my Year 6 students. I decided to share my reading as Liv has done through social media by posting the books that I read to my class Instagram account using my own hashtag #msStephaniereads.
The hashtag had two functions. Firstly, taking my journey public made me more determined to succeed. Secondly, the hashtag is a place where parents and students can get book recommendations.
Did I have weeks where I didn’t post?
Trying to finish up my master’s degree while doing the 40 book challenge was difficult. The dreaded report writing, proofreading, and data entering season was even more difficult.
Were there a few books I had already read?
Two books were ones I read when I was my student’s age and three others were books I had read in the last five years.
Are there books I started and didn’t finish?
About half a dozen. But I didn’t list them.
How about audio books?
When I’m on public transport I prefer to listen to the text.
Were there a few ‘easy reads’ on my list to get to 40?
Malala’s Magical Pencil was a quick picture book, but I still loved the book and put it on my list.
All too often as teachers we assign learning tasks without really appreciating the reality of our expectations on our students’ lives, particularly outside of school. We rail about our students not completing learning tasks and taking short cuts. By doing the 40 book challenge, I was ‘keeping it real‘ by inquiring into my own reading alongside my students.
Through completing this challenge, I stopped percieving reading as a series of tasks to complete. I now see reading as a complex interplay between knowing how to find the right text for your needs, carving out enough time and, most importantly, having the support of other readers to keep my reading journey going.
I also enjoyed a lot of amazing books I wouldn’t have otherwise have read thanks to recommendations from Twitter, my students, and some very patient children’s booksellers.
Which brings to the final part of my year reading furiously, that was inspired by @FriedEnglish101.
How diverse are my books?
When it comes to the gender of the author, not very.
However, the gender of the main characters featured in my book list are far more diverse.
Most of the authors of the books I read are North American or reside in North America. This likely reflects that I buy most of my books in American bookshops. However, as a Kiwi living in Singapore, I should be making more an effort to reading more diverse authors.
11 out of the 34 authors were people of non-European ancestry and 16 books featured main characters of non-European ancestry.
5 books featured characters with disabilities or chronic health conditions including Tourette syndrome, cystic fibrosis, select mutism, cerebral palsy and autism.
12 books had main characters from non-nuclear families.
None of the books I featured had any characters that were LGBQT+ and none of the book authors publically identified as LGBQT+.
Next year I’m up for another 40 book challenge.
Finding more male authors, less American authors, and LGBQT+ characters/authors is my challenge. I’d also like to challenge myself to read a non-English text next year.
Who will join me in taking their own reading challenge?