10 Books, 24 Hours: Winter Break Reading Challenge

Posted on December 29, 2018


Today an article arrives in an email from Troy Hicks. It discusses a report about literacy instruction. It says,

The brief stresses the responsibility of schools and educators to allocate more instructional time and resources to well-stocked classroom libraries and to preparing teachers to engage in ef­fective, interactive read-alouds.

Reading time needs to be a priority, not an afterthought,” says ILA Executive Director Marcie Craig Post. “When you carve out time for these practices every day, you send the message that you value students’ reading lives and build habits that carry over into their home lives.”

From Teacher-Led Read-Alouds, In-School Independent Reading Key to Effective Literacy Instruction By Alina O’Donn (Dec 19, 2018)

I couldn’t agree more.

Building, strengthening, deepening, and widening students’ reading lives is a top priority for me. For four years now, since I made independent reading a priority in my high school classroom, I’ve watched many proclaimed “non-readers” become avid readers. Few things in life give me such joy.

As part of prioritizing reading in my classroom, I do what I ask of my students, so that I am able to engage as a participant as well as in my role as the teacher. As we talk about our reading lives, we learn about books and interesting ways to document the journey toward our goals in reading stamina, range, depth, and fluency.

Sometimes my students say that they can’t reach the expectations I have for them as readers, but I believe they can (most do), so I decided to put myself in my students’ shoes and give myself a Winter Break Reading Challenge: 10 Books in 24 Hours. When I looked at my calendar for break, I saw that there were a couple of days when I’d be alone, so I decided to spend that time reading.

As I was taking on the challenge I set for myself, I thought about my students. I imagined that I was a student who had not kept their reading commitment for my class, and I imagined how a student could use a short period of time to get on track to reach the goal they set for themselves as readers. By taking on the challenge, I thought about how my decisions about what to read fit into the categories on the Independent Reading rubric, and how, as a student, I could talk about my growth with the teacher in a conference like those I have with my students.

Did I succeed? No. I failed. I didn’t read 10 books in 24 hours; I read 8 books in 24 hours. I read 11 books in 36 hours. But really, did I fail? Hardly! I read amazing books, and I’m excited to read still more!

More importantly, I practiced the kinds of thinking that I hope my students will. I thought about how, through my reading, I was increasing my reading stamina, range, depth, and fluency.

My Books:

  1. The Truth Pixie by Matt Haig
  2. Maybe Yes, Maybe No by Dan Barker
  3. A Way Out of No Way (Anthology) Editor: Jacqueline Woodson
  4. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf by Ntozake Shange
  5. Swing by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess
  6. Teaching for Black Lives by Wayne Au and Jesse Hagopian
  7. Just Pretend by Dan Barker
  8. My Name Is Stardust by Bailey and Douglas Harris
  9. Seeker of Knowledge by James Rumford
  10. Older Than The Stars by Karen C. Fox
  11. I Wonder by Annaka Harris

This reading challenge has increased my reading stamina. I don’t know how many hours I spent reading, but I read 1360 pages.

To expand my reading range, I read 27 authors; 7 genres/categories (verse fiction, verse drama, poetry, picture books, history, science, and nonfiction). The time periods represented in the books I read range from before the Big Bang, to ancient Egypt, to the Jazz Age, to the 1970s to now.

I’m increasing my depth of knowledge in Nonfiction: five of the titles are nonfiction. Focusing on creating depth as a nonfiction reader allows me to read LOTS of genres and categories of books (like picture books!), all based in fact, and many with amazing artwork.

This reading challenge has increased my fluency as a reader by introducing me to new vocabulary and information about cosmology, skepticism, education, black histories and cultures, cultural competency, and the history of writing.

More than anything, I discovered, once again, the pleasure of reading books that I wanted to read because I wanted to read them. I read books at all levels, from picture books suitable for elementary school children, to a professional development book aimed at educators–and I found each book to be valuable to me as a reader.

I’m glad I took on my reading challenge, and I hope that, like me, my students are spending time reading over break. I hope that they find books that speak to them where they are and books that urge them on to new horizons. I’m excited to hear about what they’re reading. I’m excited to tell them what I discovered by doing my winter break reading challenge.

Other Posts In This Series:

Part 1–Reader’s Workshop in Senior ELA : A Journey of Discovery

Part 2–Returning to Reading Research