Would it be possible to read 100 books in a whole month? Can you read too many books to a class?
As December was approaching, I was thinking about my reading instruction, especially in the area of comprehension. I was thinking about all of the activities we do in December…the fun things that the kids love, like Santa pictures, Elf Mart, Christmas crafts, ornament making, and many more. I was even thinking about the reading-related activities we do in class, like filling out sheets that correlate to reading strategies, completing practice pages, and station games that may(or may not) relate to a phonics strategy.
I knew that December would be busy and short, and I was feeling like my students’ reading comprehension strategies were fair at best. I read some articles and a few professional books on the subject, and what I came to realize is that the number one most important thing I can do as a teacher to increase reading comprehension is to…well, read. Not just two or three books a day, either. I’m talking about reading a lot of books!
I approached my students with my idea to have read more books in our short-but-full month of December, and they came up with a goal of 100 shared read-alouds.
Whew! Would we have time for this?
We made time. I really had to look at my reading-related activities and decide the purpose for each and every one. Was the activity necessary? Was it more important than actually reading?
We read 104 books in the month of December, and yesterday, on the last day of January–which was filled with snow and ice days (we came for one whole 5-day week)– we finished our 102nd book of the month. Since the beginning of December, we’ve had 206 shared read-alouds in Mrs. Givens’s classroom.
Today, we had a class discussion about the impact of so much reading in two months. How have we changed? What have we gained? What have we learned?
Here’s what we came up with:
1. We have connected with the books. When you read and read and read, you can’t help but connect to the different texts. The most natural connections, which were connecting between two stories, came swiftly and without effort.
Hey, this reminds me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears! I think the author is trying to write that story, but with different characters.
That’s the same guy who illustrated Max and Maggie in Winter. No wonder the pictures remind me of each other!
All of her books have characters who are ducks! That must be her “thing”!
Once I pointed out the connections that were being made by the students, they came even more swiftly. Not only were kids connecting between two texts; they also started connecting the book to their own lives and to the world around them.
This story reminds me of a song I heard on the radio.
That grandma reminds me of my grandma.
This book taught me a lot about Antarctica. I didn’t know scientists could go there.
The Gingerbread Boy taught me that you should never talk to strangers. They may want to eat you up. <yikes!>
Making connections to a text helps readers to understand the characters, the events, and the outcomes. It simply helps people to become better readers. Our text connections were my favorite part of the 100 book challenge.
2. We have read a variety of books (or as one child said “a varlogaty”).
I have read a lot of books! I’ve read so many that I previously would have looked over in the busy-ness of the day. I’ve found so many wonderful works of literature, and several of my kids have started forming interests and preferences based on authors and styles. It’s amazing to hear their conversations.
I like Mercer Mayer books because I feel like Little Critter is my friend now.
I like to read the Jan Brett books because she writes fairy tales in a new way. I might try to do that during Work on Writing at stations.
I like nonfiction books about animals. I’ve learned a lot about fish by listening to those and reading them myself.
In reading a large volume of children’s books, I’ve learned what I already knew about my own favorite reads as an adult…
Not all books are created equally.
Some books just aren’t that good. The writing is shoddy, the characters aren’t developed, and the story doesn’t seem to complete itself.
Student: I didn’t really like that book. <everyone gasps in horror and looks at me>
Me: You know, you’re not going to like every book you read. Guess what? I don’t like every single book I’ve ever read. Good readers know what books are good fits for them.
We’ve had a whole new revelation in my classroom. Sometimes we are not going to like the book that we’re reading, and it’s okay. However, there are times in life when we may need to read things that we don’t like (college textbooks, account summaries, etc), and we will have to make meaning out of those things. That’s why reading comprehension is so important. And that’s why we need to read a lot to and with our kids.
3. We have learned a lot of new words.
Our vocabulary bank has exploded. We have had multiple natural encounters per book with new vocabulary words. We’ve used picture and context clues to figure out those words, and most importantly, we’ve started using them in our every day speech.
Child (holding up the story The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog): This book is so inspiring.
Me: Really? Is “inspiring” a word you want to use for that book?
Child: Yes! It inspires me to write a hilarious story…I’m going to call it The Bluebird Found a Corn Dog.
Another Child (with three different tellings of The Gingerbread Man): I think that it is okay to read the same story over and over. I like to read different versions of the same story.
4. We have learned a lot of content.
The amount of background knowledge, vocabulary, and facts that we’ve tucked away is exciting to me. In looking back at our December chart, we discovered that we read way more fiction stories than nonfiction, so our January goal was to read at least 100 books and texts together, and to make an effort to read more nonfiction stories. My first choices for nonfiction books was informational stories on snow, winter, and polar animals. The kids listened with rapt attention.
I was startled to realize one day that most of my students thought that only books with real photographs were nonfiction books. Many thought that stories with “drawn illustrations” had to be fiction because of the pictures.
This led us into a series of discussions about fiction vs. nonfiction, a concept that I had thought we were solid on in kindergarten. We delved into nonfiction text features as well, like glossaries, tables of contents, and indexes.
In January, we tried to have a more balanced approach to reading fiction and nonfiction books. We marked our nonfiction books with “NF” by the title.
Without our 100 Book Challenge, I may never have discovered this misconception among my students about nonfiction and fiction stories.
5. We have developed a love for books and reading.
Sometimes during our literacy stations I will notice how quiet the room has become, and I will look around at my kids. Several will be lounging on their bellies on the rugs, chin in hand, with a book in front of them. Some may be sitting in our tiny chairs, pretending to be the teacher, reading each page and then showing illustrations to their pretend students, stopping to ask questions about text connections. Others may be writing a response in their notebooks about the last book we read as a class.
These precious moments, if there was nothing else, make our shared reading goals worth reaching.
Questions I’m Asked:
*Where do you get all the books?
My librarian is my friend!!!! I quickly found out that my classroom library only lasted about a week. While I don’t consider my classroom library small, I definitely don’t have 100 books per month to share.
After reading through my classroom books, I visited our school library, which led our class to about three-fourths of the way towards our goal. Then, I borrowed from other teachers and invited students to bring in books pertaining to our current holidays, themes, and units of study.
Note: I did NOT simply read any random story just to put a book on the board to 100. I was careful to make sure our stories had purpose and meaning.
*How did you count chapter books towards the goal?
I read a chapter a day every day, so I counted each shared reading experience as one shared reading. Our current chapter book, Little House in the Big Woods, has been a surprising favorite for many students who didn’t necessarily look forward to the story at first.
*How many books did you read per day?
*How did you find time to read that many stories?
We made time. After careful consideration, we did get rid of some busy-work activities to make more time for reading. I also have had to stay on my toes and keep my eyes on the clock in order to make every minute count in my day. I keep my books for the day on a counter behind my “Reading Chair” and the stack itself keeps my mind on our reading goal for the day.
*How do you keep up with how many books you read?
We have a simple chart and some little sticky notes (pictured above). I just write the name of the story on the sticky note and post it! In the future, I plan to let students fill out the sticky notes and chart our titles themselves.
Do you have shared reading goals in your classroom? How do you accomplish those goals? What growth have you seen in your students’ reading comprehension? Let us know!