Category Archives: #bookaday

The Eighth Annual #bookaday Challenge

While educators, families and kids walk into every new school refreshed and hopeful, we are all exhausted and brain-fried by the last month of school. We push more and more things into our “I will get back to this when summer starts” pile. For many of us, our summer piles are stuffed with books we plan to read when we have more time.

It’s natural for reading to fall lower on our list of priorities now and then. We can fill our days with a hundred activities that aren’t reading. For every night we spend binge reading a book until the wee morning hours, we can point to weeks when we didn’t read anything more than Facebook posts. It happens to every reader.Our reading lives ebb and flow. Summer’s slower pace gives us breathing room—an opportunity to recommit ourselves to daily reading.

I started the #bookaday challenge in 2009 because I realized that my family and I read less during the last six weeks of the school year than any other time. Overwhelmed by end-of-year projects and school celebrations like band concerts and award ceremonies, we let our nightly reading routines slip by the wayside. When we did talk about reading, we talked about what we wanted to read during the summer.

Announcing the first annual Book-a-Day Challenge was a public declaration of my commitment to read one a book a day for every day of summer break. In the weeks leading up to summer vacation, I talked with my students continuously about how fun and exciting it would be to read as much as they wanted over the summer. We made lists of books they might read. I loaned books out for the summer. If I believed what I told my students, I needed to read more and ensure that my family read more, too. Beyond my responsibility as a reading role model for the children in my life, I needed a challenge. I wanted to kick start my reading life and push myself to read more than I ever had.

 

you cant read all day

 

I read 75 or so books that summer and rediscovered my reading mojo. My summer memories included wonderful reading experiences—languid days spent reading under my ceiling fan, taking my children to the public library and checking out a Radio Flyer wagon full of books, and connecting to the burgeoning online world of book lovers and educators. Beyond the personal benefits of Book-a-Day, the challenge reinforced the power of book talking to connect my students with engaging books. I walked into my classroom that fall with two overflowing bags of books to promote and share with my new students.

 

Over the past seven summers, Book-a-Day has grown and changed. In 2010, Book-a-Day became #bookaday and participants began using the hashtag to connect and share books on Twitter. In 2011, I met Colby Sharp online during the #bookaday challenge. The Nerdy Book Club community grew from the conversations #bookaday participants were having online every day. Folks started shorter #bookaday challenges during winter and spring holiday breaks. Jillian Heise created the picture #bookaday challenge, pledging to read one picture book with her middle school students for every day of the school year. Teri Lesesne and I shared the origins and benefits of the #bookaday challenge with colleagues at the Texas Library Association conference last month and invited everyone to join. More than a summer reading challenge now, the #bookaday community continues to share books and celebrate reading all year.

 

colby's first #bookaday tweets

Colby Sharp’s first #bookaday tweets in 2011.

 

The summer #bookaday event endures as an annual opportunity to hit the reset button on our reading lives, connect with other readers, celebrate books, and remind ourselves how much reading matters to our lives and the young people we serve. If you have participated in past years, welcome back! If you are new to the #bookaday challenge, don’t be intimidated!

It doesn’t matter if you actually read a book every day or not. Dedicate more time to read. Celebrate your right to read what you want. Make reading plans. Share and collect book recommendations. Connect with other readers.The #bookaday challenge is personal, not a competition. Finish that series. Tackle that epic historical your mother gave you for your birthday (last September). Try audiobooks. How would you like to grow as a reader this summer?

The #bookaday guidelines are simple:

  • You set your own start date and end date.
  • Read one book per day for each day of summer vacation. This is an average, so if you read three books in one day and none the next two, it still counts.
  • Any book qualifies including picture books, nonfiction, professional books, audio books, graphic novels, poetry anthologies, or fiction—children’s, youth, or adult titles.
  • Keep a list of the books you read and share them often via a social networking site like goodreads or Twitter (post using the #bookaday hashtag), a blog, or Facebook page. You do not have to post reviews, but you can if you wish. Titles will do.

 

Since I work year round now, I never really stop my #bookaday challenge. I read on average a book a day all year. Some days, I read twenty picture books. Other times, I spend a week or more savoring a lush book. The measure of a reading life isn’t how many books we read. It’s the experiences, the knowledge gained, the connections we make with other readers that make our reading lives meaningful. The summer #bookaday challenge gives us the chance to remember what we love about reading.

I am planning a wonderful summer of travel—inside and outside of my books. I hope our paths cross during the Eighth Annual #bookaday challenge or during my summer road trips. I look forward to connecting and sharing with you.

Reading Is Its Own Reward: Summer Reading and the 7th Annual #Bookaday Challenge

I cleaned the season’s first melted chapstick out of my car yesterday. Summer must be around the corner. Time to check the expiration date on last year’s sunscreen and buy some new flip-flops.

Our bleak winter weather lasted too long, and I’m hungry for the sun. I long for the first day that’s so hot I can feel it warm my bones. I look forward to summer’s easy-going vibe, too. Released from the confines of winter clothes and school calendars, summer feels lighter. More freedom. Fewer rules. Although I travel quite a bit during the summer, the pace seems slower—more relaxed. As a mom, I’m relieved that our lives won’t revolve around Sarah’s high school schedule for the next few months. The Millers can gravitate back to our nocturnal natures—staying up too late watching movies and eating kettle corn.

Summer liberates my reading and writing life, too. I indulge in reading and writing binges instead of snatching time in between other things. I dream of languid days curled up under my ceiling fan—reading and writing for as long as I wish. Delicious as eating peaches over the sink.

Unfortunately, summer doesn’t offer reading freedom for all. As another school year winds down, I see renewed emphasis on summer reading programs, required summer reading lists, and contests. Teachers and administrators know that children who do not read over the summer lose significant academic ground when they don’t read. Summer learning loss is cumulative and creates an achievement gap between low-income and middle-income students that widens over time (Allington &McGill-Franzen, 2012). No matter what children accomplish during the school year, if they don’t read over the summer, their learning stalls or regresses (Cooper, Borman, & Fairchild, 2010).

summer reading meme game of thrones

Concerned about students’ summer reading, many educators and parents implement reading incentives and competitions to motivate children to read more. These well-meaning folks may be unaware of the negative long-term effects of such rewards. A meta-analysis of 128 studies on the effects of rewards concludes that, “tangible rewards tend to have a substantially negative effect on intrinsic motivation. Even when tangible rewards are offered as indicators of good performance, they typically decrease intrinsic motivation for interesting activities (Deci, Koestner, and Ryan; 1999).” Readers motivated for personal reasons are more likely to remain interested in reading than readers who are externally motivated through rewards (Marinak & Gambrell, 2008).

In his landmark book, Punished by Rewards (1995), Alfie Kohn describes why reading rewards undermine long-term goals to engage children with reading, “What matters more than the fact that children read is why they read and how they read.  With incentive-based programs, the answer to “why” is “To get rewards,” and this, as the data make painfully clear, is often at the expense of interest in reading itself.” Short-term reading excitement for a contest does not spark long-term reading engagement.

Reading contests can harm students’ reading self-efficacy and interest. Why would we employ reading initiatives that derail internal reading motivation and divide kids into reading winners and losers? I have never met an adult who became a lifelong reader because they won a theme park pass or a t-shirt. Talking to kids around the country, many admit to me that they overestimate the pages, books, or minutes they record on summer reading logs, so they can win a prize or avoid negative consequences.

When we communicate to children that the only reason to read is to earn a reward or grade, we fail to impart reading’s true value. Reading is its own reward and it bestows immeasurable gifts on readers.

While you may be able to share the success of individual summer reading programs, there is little evidence that such programs foster lifelong reading habits or engage children with reading after the program ends. I suspect that most schools with successful summer reading programs invest in students’ reading lives all year long. If we want to engage our students with reading over the summer, we must focus our efforts on the fundamental best practices that encourage children to read for a lifetime instead of short-term external goals.

allington summer reading

Launching a successful summer reading initiative is not easy, but you don’t need incentives or competitions to do it. These factors have been proven to engage children with reading at school and at home:

  • Time to read. We must communicate to our school communities the importance of reading over the summer. Reading is a wonderful way to stave off summer boredom and increase students’ vocabulary acquisition, fluency, and background knowledge. Share research about summer reading loss and the benefits of summer reading with family members and school staff. (I recommend Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen’s recent books on summer reading.) Brainstorm with students a list of reading emergencies when they could read over the summer, such as car trips and rainy days.
  • Access to books. We must ensure that every child has access to engaging reading material over the summer. Many students lose their book access when school and classroom library close for the summer, and lower-income students feel this loss the most. Consider opening your school library for a few hours a week over the summer. Arrange for students to borrow books over vacation. Invite the local public librarians to your school to share their programs and pass out library card applications.
  • Choice in reading material. We must provide opportunities and encouragement for students to self-select their summer reading material. Choice is a powerful factor in human motivation. Providing children choice in what they read fosters engagement and increases reading motivation, interest, and effort (Gambrell, Coding, & Palmer, 1996; Worthy & McKool, 1996; Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000). Children who are given choices for summer reading read more and report higher reading engagement and motivation after summer ends (Kelly & Aligne, 2015; Allington & McGill-Franzen, 2012). Summer reading lists should include titles selected by students and provide students diversity in reading levels, formats, genres, cultural and historical perspectives, and topics. When offering books for summer reading, provide students free choice options. Celebrate children’s book choices. When we value all reading, we value all readers.
  • Family and community involvement. We must encourage our school communities to model and share positive reading habits with children. Parents who read and share reading with their children influence children’s future reading habits. Teachers who are engaged with reading are more successful at engaging students with reading (Nathanson, Pruslow and Levitt, 2008). Invite school community members to set and share their own summer reading goals. Encourage adults to invest time reading aloud and alongside children over the summer.

For the past seven summers, I have challenged myself to read a book for every day of summer break. I launched the first summer #bookaday challenge on my Teacher Magazine blog in 2009. The #bookaday challenge began as my public commitment to read more over the summer, and invite others to do the same. Over the years, #bookaday has grown into an online community for celebrating books and supporting each other as readers. Participants post recommendations and queries all year under the #bookaday hashtag and many people have forged professional and personal reading relationships that last far beyond Labor Day.

Beyond the goal to read and share, #bookday celebrates reading freedom. We can choose what we read, when we read it, and how we respond to what we read. No strings. No arbitrary markers of success. The #bookday challenge is the antithesis of a summer reading contest. No one keeps score. No one competes. Everyone who reads is a winner.

That best seller sitting on your nightstand collecting dust? The books you got for your birthday last August? That series you never finished? The picture book pile stacked on your office floor? Don’t you have books that glare at you because they sit unread? What would you like to read this summer?

The traditional #bookaday guidelines are simple:

  • Set your own start date and end date.
  • Read one book per day for each day of summer vacation. This is an average, so if you read three books in one day (I know you’ve done this!) and none the next two, it still counts.
  • Any book qualifies including picture books, nonfiction, professional books, audio books, graphic novels, poetry anthologies, or fiction—children’s, youth, or adult titles.
  • Keep a list of the books you read and share them often via a social networking site like goodreads or Twitter (post using the #bookaday hashtag), a blog, or Facebook page. You do not have to post reviews, but you can if you wish. Titles will do.

While #bookaday encourages people to read more, the challenge is personal, not public. The only reading goals that should matter are the reading goals we set for ourselves. If reading more books doesn’t meet your reading needs, what would you like to accomplish as a reader this summer? Commit to reading a little more. Push yourself to read outside of your comfort zone. Reread old favorites. No matter your goals, #bookaday offers a community of readers who will embrace you.

In the spirit of increasing book access and sharing books and reading, I am challenging myself to give away a book for every day of summer break. Every Saturday, I will randomly select one person who is actively using the #bookaday hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. Winners will receive ten gently-read young adult and children’s books from my personal and classroom library collections. #Bookaday drawings will begin on May 16th and occur every Saturday until September 5th. Books will include a random assortment of advanced reader copies*, paperbacks, hardcovers, picture books—whatever I put into the box. All I ask is that you read the books, or give them away to kids who need them. One book will take them farther than any pizza coupon or award certificate ever could.

Enjoy a wonderful summer of reflection, rest, and a little reading. I hope our paths cross online or in person this summer. I look forward to meeting you and swapping a book recommendation or two.

*Selling publishers’ galleys or advanced reader copies violates copyright laws. If you receive an ARC you do not wish to keep after reading, donate it or throw it away.

Winter Break #Bookaday Event

Walking through my school’s lobby–escorting students back from our perfect attendance assembly–I noticed a long line of parents signing in for winter holiday parties. The line stretched through the office and out into the foyer. In that moment I realized that we don’t pay our office staff enough.

If you need evidence that teachers and school staff are underpaid, mission-driven saints, visit any school campus the week before a major school break. The blurr of exams, final projects, and school-wide assemblies wreak havoc on schedules–the linchpin of campus management. Students coil tighter each day closer to vacation–springs of excitement or anxiety (or both). Each day drains energy from adults in equal measure. There are fewer adults at a school than kids. You do the math.

I haven’t read a bit this week.

I haven’t written a bit this week.

I used my book as a pillow this week.

I know you understand.

As I picked glitter out of my hair this afternoon and scrubbed icing from desks, all I could think about was how much I wanted to spend a few hours reading. When I don’t read for a few days, I get weird. I don’t think well. I’m edgier. I need the headspace. I need to power down.

After a super-sized week at school, I feel the need to read.

I realized on the way home that I didn’t announce my usual winter break #bookaday event this year. Then, I remembered, “I have a BLOG now! I can fix this!” Sending an exploratory tweet this afternoon to gauge interest, it’s clear I’m not the only one who needs some reading time.

bookaday tweets

My annual #bookaday challenge takes place each summer, but we’ve celebrated smaller #bookaday events during winter and spring break vacations. If you’re not familiar with #bookaday, here are the guidelines:

Read one book per day for each day of winter break. This is an average, so if you read three books in one day and none the next two, it still counts.

You set your own start date and end date.

Any book qualifies including picture books, nonfiction, professional books, audio books, poetry anthologies, or fiction—children’s, youth, or adult titles.

Keep a list of the books you read and share them often via a social networking site like goodreads or Twitter (post using the #bookaday hashtag), a blog, or Facebook page. You do not have to post reviews, but you can if you wish. Titles will do.

I will not be getting any books for Christmas this year. You know why? I have so many unread books piled around that you couldn’t squeeze another book into our house. I cannot get any new books until I read some.

Whether or not I read a book a day doesn’t matter. I know grand adventures and new friends lie ahead in the pages. And maybe a little shelf space.

**While you’re making reading plans for the break, take a moment to reflect and celebrate the great books you read in 2013. Don’t forget to cast your vote for the 2013 Nerdy Book Club Awards, the Nerdies. Voting ends tomorrow night, December 21, 2013 at 11:59 pm Central Time.