100 Book Reading Challenge

Capitol Hill Books

This year I’m teaching an amazing class of 28 Year 3 & 4 students – aged 7-9 – 18 boys and 8 girls.

I noticed during term 1 that whenever we did silent reading (SSR/DEAR/personal reading) that many students wouldn’t read, or they would choose books with more pictures than words and then just flip through them.

As a reader myself this bothered me a little, but also as someone who has done things like daily 5 reading this was problematic. I had a range of reading abilities from an ESOL student who was still learning to read in English to a number of students who enjoyed gutsier books.

One day early in Term 2 I came up with an idea and shared it with my class. I would challenge them to collectively read 100 books over the term. If they managed to get 100 then they could plan an afternoon of fun activities. They thought this was a great idea – and given that the Hell Pizza reading challenge was starting at the same time they would get double rewards. I drew up a thermometer (along with an interesting discussion on that that was and how it was normally used!) and ambitiously put a top count of 500.

Term 2 started on April 30th. By May 24th – less than a month – they had read 100 books! Less than a month after that (June 22nd) they had read their 2nd 100 books – they were on a roll. By the end of term they had hit their 3rd hundred (July 6th).

We had a few rules:

  • They could read any book they liked but only fiction books would be marked off – on both my spreadsheet and the Hell Pizza wheel;
  • I allow graphic novels – but if they are reading a series of them and are capable readers I only record the first one;
  • They are allowed to choose their own books – I don’t look at a book and tell the student it’s too hard (or too easy) for them – I let them make that choice.

The results?

I have a class of readers. It is quite normal for some students to have several books on the go.

My students who just love reading – almost more than breathing – have permission to read whenever they can. I note down the titles of their books – my most prolific reader read 21 books in 10 weeks – he reminds me of my younger self.

And the parents are noticing. One parent waylaid me on my way to class to ask me what on earth I’d done to the children – they were all sitting at their desks reading while they waited for me to finish crossing duty and come back to start the day.

I was away sick for a week – when I got back I overheard one student say to another student – “Great – now we can get more reading done!” (Apparently the relieving teacher didn’t realise that the norm for them is to always have a book on their desks so they can read whenever they have finished a task.)

And the unexpected results?

Everyone’s reading improved – without me pushing them. I have 7-9 year olds who say to me – “don’t count that last book – it was too easy for me” or “I didn’t really get into that last book so I’ve swapped it for something else” or “I’m bored with the type of books I’ve been reading and am going to try a different type”. They are becoming discerning readers as well as readers who love to read. And my ESOL student – his reading has surpassed where I wanted it to be for the end of the year – not because I’ve done wonders but because he’s had choice of his own reading material – and reads.

Research

It seems I stumbled upon something that others have written about. By giving students choice over their reading, they become motivated to read. There are many articles about this:

What about Term 3?

Guess what’s going to be happening in my class next term? Yep – we’re going to be reading again (and yes I read as well!). I wonder if we will hit 500 books this term?

Inclusiveness in Education

I attended an NZEI seminar yesterday at NZEI in Wellington for members of the Women‘s and Rainbow Networks.

Building Human Rights Communities in Education

The presenter of the above session was Jill Chrisp from the Human Rights Commission. The session was inspiring and thought provoking. She talked about being HR advocates vs HR violators and specifically looked at the education sector. We brainstormed areas within our own schools where HR were advocated/violated. By far the largest area was that of special needs children in our schools.

Some quotes:

  • Education is both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realising other human rights.
  • Right to Education Framework
    • Availability
    • Accessibility
    • Acceptability
    • Adaptability
  • Rights, Respect and Responsibility (RRR) Initiative
    Cape Breton, Canada & Hampshire, United Kingdom

  • a cross-border primary human rights education initiative in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland
  • The right to education is an essential feature of democracy. The development of the citizen is the fundamental objective of the education system.
  • Education should not be solely construed as the preparation of an individual for the workforce.

We then split up into sector groups to discuss what the Right to Education framework meant for us in our different sectors.

Sometimes, when you work in a school that actively works to make sure the rights of all individuals are met, it’s important to see the bigger picture and realise that not all teachers work in the same conditions.

Inclusive Education – Are we there yet?

This was broken into two parts – the first led by Trish Grant, IHC Advocate and the second by Missy Morton. This looked at inclusion of special needs children into our classrooms and the problems faced by the children, their families and their teachers.

Points from this session:

Afterword

The whole day was valuable for me – I was able to network with other Rainbow network people as well as others interested in the whole inclusiveness issue. I also saw IHC in a new light – I guess I’m guilty of seeing only their public face not the advocacy one that is almost more important than the public one. It was also good to be provoked regarding Human Rights issues – it is a right that all children receive a quality education – what implications does that then have for me in my classroom?

Another thing that my sector group (Rainbow) raised was the whole diversity issue – we talk about our classrooms containing a diverse range of children from many different nationalities and cultures but look at the majority of our teachers – mainly white, middle class women!!

  • We discussed how it is easier to be a woman and ‘out’ than it is to be a man and ‘out’;
  • we discussed how hard it is for a man to be involved in Early Childhood Education because of the implications that they are there for ulterior motives;
  • we also discussed how hard it is for some GLBT teachers to attend national/regional meetings if they are during the school week because their circumstances preclude them being out in their workplace
    • even though there is all the advocacy for GLBT teachers, the fact remains that many schools are conservative and that makes it difficult for those teachers to be out
  • and we discussed the need to network with other GLBT teachers – both in our own regions and nationally

I hope this will be a start of a group of us networking – the Rainbow people and those teachers interesting in nutting out how exactly we work for full inclusive education in NZ.