Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Caldecott Challenge

If you have been following my blog for a while, you will have an idea of my passion for reading.

If you haven't, or if I have in some way made myself unclear, let's remedy that now.

I love reading.  I don't ever remember learning how to read, though my mother claims I learned by watching Sesame Street (yes, I am a child of the 70s).  I do remember reading being a source of incredible comfort to me all through my childhood and adolescence - and into adulthood, really.  I remember the cool oasis of the public library, with its cracked, vinyl-covered chairs and musty smell, that was such a relief in the sweltering heat of the Mississippi summers of my childhood.  I remember the sound of my mother's voice on the back porch, as we sat on a swing and she read to me from "Little House in the Big Woods."  I remember the thrill of being a library assistant in fifth grade, with the authority to use the adjustable date stamp to mark due dates in the book pockets and check out as many books as I wanted.  I remember waiting anxiously for the latest edition of Sweet Valley High to come in my classroom Scholastic book order. I remember getting lost in the worlds of Madeline L'Engle, Ray Bradbury, Louisa May Alcott, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Ayn Rand, and James Michener as I continued to grow.  And I remember reading to my own children when they were little, rediscovering classics such as "Where the Wild Things Are," "Goodnight Moon," and "Chicken Soup with Rice," and finding new beloveds such as Harry Potter.

I love to read.  Reading has made me a better person, and it has made my life richer and fuller.  It has helped to make me successful.

And so I want my students to love to read.  I believe that students who love to read are usually better readers - we all are willing to practice something we love, right?  And the more we practice the better we get?  (If you haven't read Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, get it.)  I believe that students who love to read become lifelong readers.  And that lifelong readers lead richer, fuller, more successful lives.

The question becomes - how do we get students to love to read?  That is a complex question (hence the plethora of books, blog posts, scholarly articles, and opinions on the subject), but I believe that a huge part of getting kids to love to read involves reading a lot to find what they like - wide reading.  James Patterson says that there's no such thing as a kid who doesn't like to read; there are simply kids who haven't found the right book yet.

Or something like that.

I really should Google quotations before I use them.  But it's pretty close.


Now we ask, "How do we get kids to read widely?"  Again, there are tons of different ways, but one way I like to try is through a reading challenge.  No big incentives (I'm not a fan, but that's for another blog post).  Just a group of people working together through a reading challenge, talking and borrowing and sharing their way through great books.

I've tried a 30 in Third Challenge (similar to what Donalyn Miller does), and it was somewhat successful.  Admittedly, I probably didn't follow through as I should have with it.  But I thought I'd try something different, and a Caldecott Challenge sprang to mind.  We have three quarters left, plenty of time to read our way through the Caldecott Award books!

So, we'll be starting this week.  I've made a booklet for each kid to have to check off their reading as they go, from the 2015 winner all the way to 1938's award.  If you want a free copy of it, you can get it here from my TpT store.  For accountability purposes, I'm planning on having them take an AR test on each one.  Even though I have a love/hate relationship with AR, but that's for another post.

I have many of these books already in my classroom library.  For those I don't have, I'll probably be purchasing a lot - after all, these are the best of the best, so I should have them in the room - and others I'll be checking out of the library.  I'm also thinking that for long or particularly challenging ones, such as The Invention of Hugo Cabret, we may have book circles during lunch to read it aloud and talk about it.

Also, I have never read through the Caldecott books, so I'll be doing it right along with them!  Eeeeeek!!

But, I hope that this challenge will get the kids reading some great stuff before they leave third grade - particularly since some see picture books as "too babyish" for older kids.  (Which is a rant for another blog post.  Again.)  And that, in the long run, it will help them to love reading.  There is a time and a place for "fluffy" reading, but there's also a time and a place for the good stuff.

And this is it.

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