“The stories humans tell are a long conversation about what it means to be human.”
Gene Luen Yang
Twitter and Facebook were filled with reading challenges for 2016 over New Year’s weekend. Because I’m always reading at least 2 books, I don’t usually pay much attention to these challenges. But I was drawn to the last item on New York City’s Strand Book Store’s “Reading Resolution” list: “Read the book you’ve lied about reading.”
There is one Very Famous Children’s Classic that I have never been able to get through. As an English major and a reading teacher, this has bothered me for many years. I have tried reading it as an adult to no avail. So I vowed this would be the year. (I’m not telling which book, but I am currently on page 112.)
Back at school last Monday, I was meeting with Anita, our 5th grade Language Arts teacher, about their current reading unit when I noticed their 40 book challenge display. Some kids were making great progress, but others only had one or two books listed. “Why don’t we make reading resolutions with the kids?” I suggested. She loved the idea, but we agreed that we should change lying about having read a book.
A quick Google search led me to Modern Mrs. Darcy’s challenge. She has twelve categories, one for each month. I took a few categories from her list, along with a few from the Strand’s list to create a list of resolutions for the fifth grade.
I introduced this list with a general discussion about why we read in the first place, and shared the above quote from our new Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Then we talked about resolutions and setting goals in general, and the importance of making a resolution that was realistic. I pointed out to the kids that even though some of them were making great progress toward forty books, the categories on our list might help them if they weren’t sure what to read next.
I offered a few suggestions, including confessing to them about the Very Famous book I’ve never read, although I told them it intimidated me when I was a kid. I think that made a few of them quite determined to read it now! These kids were born in 2005, the year after The Tale of Despereaux was published, so I brought that along as a possible option. The movie version of Roald Dahl’s classic, The BFG, is coming out in July, so I suggested that as a book they could read before they see the movie. We also watched the movie trailer, and quite a few of them thought that would be a good place to start their reading resolutions.
Soon there was a long list of recommendations from friends on the board, and kids were encouraging their friends to try a book they’d abandoned earlier in the year. I created official “Reading Resolution” forms that we all filled out, including Anita, our principal, and myself. These are on display so we can help each other along as we work toward keeping our Reading Resolutions.
A week later, most of the kids are still buzzing about their books, although a few confessed to me yesterday that they hadn’t read over the weekend because they were too busy. I resisted my urge to scream and gently reminded them that there must have been at least ten minutes somewhere over two days when they could have read a few pages. Maybe that’s where our resolutions should have started!
I’ll keep you posted about our progress. What are your reading resolutions?
Thank you to Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Anna, Beth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.