One of my favorite truths from Donalyn Miller’s wonderful book, Reading in the Wild, is that readers have plans. I love to make reading plans. I am constantly cooking up some new plan for myself. Sometimes, maybe even often, I spend more time making reading plans than I do actually reading. I’m not sure what Donalyn would say about a reader who gets more enthusiastic about making plans and collecting the books necessary to execute the plan than actually reading the books. Is that some kind of special reading dysfunction?
While I know it’s weird and not entirely productive, it’s also a source of great pleasure to me–discovering new books, seeing which of my libraries has them, requesting some from interlibrary loan, collecting them and organizing them into giant stacks, making plans to read them. And then sometimes, maybe, actually reading some of them.
As part of our study of how readers make plans, I asked the students in my Children’s Literature course to create a reading challenge for themselves. We used this helpful article from School Library Journal as the foundation for our exploration of reading challenges. I shared a few challenges from elementary and middle school teachers that I found online. Then I sent them off to do some searching and crafting of their own. They were welcome to join or modify an existing challenge, or be like me and create their own Frankenchallenge from bits and pieces of other challenges.
I invested/dedicated/lost/completely wasted (depending on your point of view) a delicious week or so of my reading life to crafting a reading challenge for myself and then researching books to slot into the different categories and then visiting libraries to collect books. I especially liked finding ways to slot in books I already had checked out from the library but hadn’t read yet or books I’d bought but not yet read. I also found a way to work in a couple of lingering reading challenges I never completed (like Elizabeth Bird’s Top 100 Children’s Novels. I only have 5 or 6 books left on that list, though I fear that the Frances Hodgson Burnett books are going to kill list completion for me. I have tried to read The Secret Garden about a hundred times and can’t make it past page 20. It totally counts if I’ve seen the movie, right??) I left some categories blank so that I could add more books later on.
And I even read a little bit! Martha Wells’s All Systems Red is a super fast-paced sci-fi novel about a rogue AI. I finished all three nominees I selected from the South Dakota Children’s Book Awards list. I’m nearly finished with the Schneider Family Award winners this year (always one of my favorite awards). Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess is a wonderful verse novel, and Silent Days Silent Dreams might just be my new favorite Allen Say picture book (though not an easy read). And I’m making good progress on the Golden Sower nominees (Nebraska state book award). I also started and abandoned two more books on the list so will need some new titles for the “first book in a new-to-you series” and “translated novel” categories.
If you’re the kind of person who stresses when you cook up a plan but don’t fully follow through on it, reading challenges might not be for you. The purpose of a reading challenge shouldn’t be to add stress to our reading lives. After all, what happens if you don’t finish a challenge you create for yourself? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. If your reading life takes you in a different direction, as mine surely will, that’s okay.
Do you join or create reading challenges for yourself? Do you encourage your students to create reading challenges? What books would you recommend to me for mine? (I especially need help with a new series and a retelling of a myth, fairy tale, or classic, but all recommendations are welcome.)
|A first book in a new-to-you series||Foundling (D.M. Cornish) (Abandoned)|
|A Newbery book that you haven’t read yet||Piecing Me Together (Renee Watson)|
|A book published in the year you were born||The Summer Book (Tove Janssen)|
|A memoir or autobiography by a children’s book writer or illustrator||The House Baba Built (Ed Young)|
|A biography of a children’s book author||Little Author in the Big Woods|
|A superhero novel||Miles Morales (Jason Reynolds)|
|A translated novel||Bronze and Sunflower (Cao Wenxuan) (Abandoned)|
|A book on NYT Children’s Lit bestseller list|
|A book written as a series of letters|
|A book written as a journal||This Journal Belongs to Ratchet (Cavanaugh)|
|A retelling of a fairy tale, myth, or classic|
|A short story collection||Meet Cute|
|A book recommended by a stranger in library||PS I Love You (Kasie West)|
|A book recommended by a student|
|A true crime book||The 57 Bus (Dasha Slater)|
|A horror book|
|A mystery novel||The Girl I Used to Be (April Henry)|
|A book from Top 100 Children’s Novels list|
|A book you loved as a child|
|A book from a country you’d like to visit|
|A book from a country you want to learn more about||Where the Streets Have No Name (Randa Abdel-Fattah)|
|A historical novel||Ahimsa (Supriya Kelkar)|
|A book with a Muslim main character||Saints & Misfits (Ali)|
|A book about Hinduism|
|A book about Buddhism|
|A diverse romance||When Dimple Met Rishi|
|A book you borrowed or received as a gift|
|A book in a series you already started||Sweet Hereafter (Angela Johnson)|
|A book by an author on your 2017 top ten||Patina (Jason Reynolds)|
|A book from each Prairie Book Award list|
|A book from each Golden Sower list|
|A book from year you graduated high school||Afternoon of the Elves or Winter Room|
|A book from an author you love|
|A National Book Award Winner||Far From the Tree (Robin Benway)|
|A book set in your state|
|A Children’s Choice Award finalist/winner||The Losers Club (Andrew Clements)|
|A book you recently abandoned||Dear Martin (Nic Stone)|
|A Stonewall winner||Little and Lion (Brandy Colbert)|
|Schneider Family Award winners 2018|
|A Morris Award finalist or winner||Starfish|
|An Alex Award winner 2018|