Weekly reflection: the 40 Book Challenge

The 40 Book Challenge

During my planning for 2014, I discovered a bunch of chat about the 40 Book Challenge.  Donalyn Miller was the inspirational figure behind the book titled, ‘The Book Whisper’.  The book outlines Donalyn’s journey to inspire and motivate her students to read 40 books during the school year.

Spectacular! I was looking for a way to motivate and challenge my 2014 class to read – good readers need practice and I wanted my readers to develop a thorough understanding of the genre of texts that exist and to link this to their writing.  Plus, boys are naturally competitive and I really wanted to hook them into reading.

We started in week 5.  At first, the class was exasperated, ‘Miss Turner, 40 books that’s too much’ and ‘it takes me all term to read one book…’ it is not hard to imagine the retorts from year 6 and 7’s about why they couldn’t possibly read that many books.  However, after a discussion about what books, how many pages, who gets to choose the books and if books that were read before could count, I noticed a glint in the eyes of some of my readers as we ventured to the library.  Once we arrived, a small number of students ran up to me and asked, ‘what sort of book is this one?’ and ‘I only have this much to go so this one counts eh?’.  

A great thing happened a few weeks later as I reminded the class about the 40 Book Challenge and asked the class who would be the first person to complete a book.  A girl came into class and smiled triumphantly and exclaimed, ‘Miss Turner, I finished my book’.  The look of utter triumphant was plastered on her face.  She was the first to attach her sticked to our chart.  From that point on, more students were finishing books.  I set the challenge to my boys to be the first boy to complete a book.  One of my boys told me each day how many pages he had left until he finished his book as he was sure he would be the first boy to complete a book.  He was and has read two more books since then.  I marvel at how the added competition has ignited some of my boys to strive to out do each other.

At this point, I have noticed when we go to the library each week, I return less books and renew slightly more.  I place a big presence on making our reading count – record all night reading in your reading log – no matter what type of reading you do.  Choose books you want to and can read.  I have also noticed the students choosing books in their genre list and stepping outside of their reading comfort zone.  One young lady in my class noted that she needed to read a book of poetry and went to the library and actively looked for a poetry text.

A new development has occurred in that my class would like to set up a reward system for progressing through the challenge.  We are discussing this currently and I have decided to elect a 40 Book Challenge team to set the milestones and achievements.

So, what is my take so far on the 40 Book Challenge? Great and I have noticed a shift, if only slightly, in the attitude some of my readers have to reading and I see a persistence in some to complete books.  Likewise, my readers that love to read are being rewarded for reading.  Finally, all my readers are practising their skill at reading which must occur to develop reading progression and understanding.

The challenge continues and I am still slogging my way through my first book and shamelessly have yet to add my own star to the class chart.  80 books seemed so attainable at the time – note to self , ‘don’t choose books with 600 pages’.