It's a new year and time for new reading goals. Last year I discovered the goodread widget that you can add to your blog. In September, I added it and set it at 40 books. That was our family goal. Our goal was to read 40 books as a family before Christmas. We read 48! I set a family reading goal for the first time last summer. Our goal then was also to read 40 books by the end of the summer. I told them if we made our goal then we would go to Great Wolf Lodge. I know, a complete bribe, but you know what, it worked.
I few years ago, I read Donalyn Miller's book The Book Whisperer. Her book completely changed my way of thinking about how to get kids to read and how to get them to become readers for life. Because of her book, I've been reading more children's literature, picture books, middle school books, and YA books and it makes all the difference in the world because now I can say, "I read this book and thought of you. I think you will like it." I can talk with my kids when they are reading a book and I know exactly what they are talking about because I have read the book. I can ask them specific questions about the characters and make connections with them, "When that happened in the story it reminded me of the time it happened to us."
Donalyn Miller sets a goal for her students to read 40 books at the beginning of the year. This sounds like a lot, but with the right guidance, with the right conversations, with the right books in hand, students can do it. Last week, I read this great blog post about What Counts As Reading? This is a lesson that I have had to learn as well. I have come to learn that it's okay for Molly to read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. They count! It's okay for her to read the Dan Gutman series My Weird School even though they are below her level and she can read a book in a day. They count! It's okay that Timmy just found the Origami Yoda series and they are also below his reading level. They count! And it's okay that Ryan once in a while will read a picture book for his 30 minutes of reading time. They count!
Kids need to know that they have some say in what they choose to read. They also need to know that we value their choices. But by me reading lots of kidlit myself and being aware of the books that they do choose, I can make recommendations for them to read more books. After reading the book Wonder, I recommended it to Timmy. It sat in his room for a while. He said that he read the first two chapters and it didn't interest him. But then, something happened at school and I wanted Timmy to read it because Wonder has a theme of choice kindness over being a bully.
He was reluctant at first but then started to read and read and read and after only two days he had reached the end. During those two days, he sat in the family room and read while I cooked dinner. "Mom, I can't believe those kids did that!" While I put a load of laundry in the washer, Timmy would say," I'm up to the part when..." While I helped Molly with her homework, Timmy would express his disbelieve by the cruelty of some people in this world. And when he got to the end, he said, "You were right mom, that was a great book!"
Right now the Nealons are reading: