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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.

Best Books of 2016 (so far) March Edition

During the Michigan Reading Association Conference this weekend, I shared my recommended children’s and young adult literature titles for early 2016. I have expanded the list and posted it here for anyone interested. This list is current as of the books I read today. Thousands of books are published for young readers each year. I read approximately 350-400 books each year, which is a drop in the bucket!

feminism

Qualifiers:

  • do not recommend books that I have not read.
  • “Best” is subjective. I filter my evaluations through my own book knowledge, my teaching and reading experiences, and the reading experiences of my reading community, which includes children. I don’t think every book on this list is perfect or exemplifies award-worthy criteria, but I do believe there is something for every reader.
  • I receive many ARC’s from kind publishers and authors. Receipt of a book does not guarantee promotion.
  • I buy hundreds of books a year. I often have to wait for a book’s release before I can read it. Tuesday, which is a popular book release day, is my favorite day of the week! I don’t think my UPS delivery person agrees.
  • When creating any book list, I strive to balance diversity, genre, reader interest, and recommended ages. I am bound by what books I can acquire at any given time.
  • If you do not see a personal favorite or much-lauded title, assume that I haven’t read it or I haven’t acquired or borrowed a copy, yet. 

 

In years past, I have sorted my annual lists into several categories including poetry, graphic novels, picture books, middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, and nonfiction. I chose to divide books into only three categories this year: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. I want to reinforce that picture books and graphic novels are formats for storytelling and do not define or limit a reader’s age. Picture books and graphic novels are for everyone.

 

the first step

I use many sources to locate and research books I would like to purchase or borrow including recommendations from friends, colleagues, family members, and kids; children’s and young adult literature conferences and workshops; book review publications and blogs; and publishers’ catalogs & websites.

Here is the list of my recommended children’s and young adult titles of early 2016.

 

gertie's leap to greatness

I hope you enjoy the list and find some new titles to read and share. I will update this list throughout the year and share new books as I read and evaluate them. I post a lot of my presentations and lists to my slideshare page. You can subscribe and get an alert when I add new content.

Happy Reading!

Famous

One of the best things about being a published writer is that you run into people at conferences who have read your book. I enjoy meeting colleagues who share my professional interests. Talking to other teachers and librarians about the importance of reading excites me. These conversations engage my brain.

I know that I’m a better teacher now because I have learned from some of the best teachers in America—the ones I meet while presenting at professional development conferences and workshops. Anyone who gets up early on a Saturday morning to learn about reading instruction is my kind of person.

And sometimes, these kind colleagues will ask me to sign my book for them. It is awesome. Signing books is fun. It is one of the best things.

But, it’s not the best thing.

At the end of every school year, I cull our class library and my students help. My class librarians and I examine every book and I pull out damaged books, duplicate copies, and out of date books. I dig out books no one has read all year and booktalk lots of them. Kids recommend books to each other and take more reading risks—branching out to try books they haven’t already read this year. Our class has renewed excitement for reading.

Every morning, I fill one marker rail with discarded books, scrawl “Free to good homes!” on the whiteboard and invite my students to take these books. I know many of my students don’t own books, and I would never sell my used books when I can give them away to kids.

A few students each day grab a book off our giveaway rail and bring it to me, so that I can write “discard” in it. Wednesday, two girls in my afternoon class shyly asked, “Can you write your name in our books, too, Mrs. Miller? When we donate books to the class library, you always ask us to write our names in them. You should do it, too!” I smiled, “Sure, girls.” All of the kids wanted me to sign their books. I’ve been writing “donated by Mrs. Miller” in books all week.

My favorite book signings ever.

It’s true that some teachers are famous for what they contribute outside of the classroom.

But all of us are famous for what we contribute inside of the classroom.

Teachers feed more dinner table conversation than Beyonce and Peyton Manning. We are famous (or infamous) to our students and their families. These relationships matter. One of my favorite poem is “Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye, my fellow Texan. This poem centers me, and I read it often. (Read it. I’ll wait.) “famous as the one who smiled back,” that’s how I want to be remembered.

As we end another school year, reflect on how you’re famous to your students. How will they remember your class and you? What can you celebrate? What do you still need to teach them before they go? What can you do together to end this year memorably?

I wish you the best for your last weeks with your students and colleagues. Enjoy your time with them.