Tag Archives: Kids Reading

The Book Flood takes off!


Well, it is happening. Year 9 and 10 started slowly, not quite believing a) I expected them to read everyday, b) I expected them to choose their own books and read things they really wanted to read, c) there wasn’t a ‘catch’ where they would have to do some kind of ‘assignment’. The first breakthrough came when a year 10 students asked if he could go to the Library because ‘there isn’t really anything I want to read on the shelves here’. The answer was , of course you can and four other students joined in. All four dutifully went off and got themselves a book they really wanted to read! Another 3 in the same class came the next day with books from home. One is working his way through his Dad’s fantasy collection, another is starting a new series by David Eddings, the third is reading the two books he got for Christmas! I could never wait that long to read a book I got for Christmas.

Almost all of Year 9 are ‘in the zone’ during reading time. I still have two students who are super resistant but are at least quiet when we are reading because everyone else is quiet. One Year 9 student has chosen to read only the picture books and graphic novels. I don’t have many graphic novels yet so need to get some pronto. We are just getting to know each other so I am building trust with him and trying to engage him in conversations about the things he likes in each book. I pointed out to him that I had enough picture books that he could easily read a lot of the genres through picture books and graphic novels.

My motto of  ‘read anytime and anywhere’ is starting to sink in. I’ve noticed kids picking up their reading book when they have finished a task early or someone comes to the door and interrupts me (happens often!). This week Year 9 had to begin the process of logging into their DER laptops, so I had one lesson where 2/3rds of the class were at the Library getting that done. The rest of the class had a choice of reading, playing a game on the whiteboard or doing a fun writing activity. They chose reading. (silent cheering from Mrs Tiernan).

I also had a lovely ‘critical’ conversation from a girl who, up until now, has seemed uninterested in the subject and not at all engaged. She had just finished a Michael Pryor book and when I asked her what she thought of it she said it was OK. When prompted further she admitted that it was a ‘bit boring’. I reminded her she didn’t have to finish a book if she wasn’t enjoying it. Her response was ‘I always finish books I start’. I tend to do this too so we talked about why. She then spontaneously said she didn’t enjoy the book as much as she usually enjoyed ‘fantasy’ books because she didn’t feel the writer really engaged her in the imaginary world, which was something she expected from a fantasy book, so that led to a bit more discussion about expectations and best books.

I also responded to Allen and Unwin’s offer of a  free book if I review it. I chose Margo Lanagan’s Seahearts. I found the book difficult at first, even though I am quite used to multiple narrators. There is something about the timing that I found hard to get my head around. But the writing itself is beautiful. So lyrical and the descriptions evoke both mood and image, using the senses skilfully to engage the reader. I have two students who are keen to read it, having just read Black Juice. I plan to get them to help write the review.

It is starting slowly and I confess to being a little disappointed at the seeming lack of response. I realised in the last week it wasn’t lack of response but more a ‘wait and see’ approach from the kids. They are still getting to know me as a teacher instead of ‘head teacher’ so I will continue to be patient.

The 40 book assignment genres


I thought some of you might be interested in the genres I finally settled on for the assignment. After thinking through our course and the syllabus requirements I settled on 10 which I think will cover most tastes. I have left it with the kids to add other genres/classifications if they have a particular interest and it can’t be covered by the genres I have set.

They are:

  •  Biography/Autobiography/Memoir
  •  Fantasy
  •  Historical Fiction
  •  Mystery
  •  Non-fiction
  •  Picture books/Graphic Novels
  •  Poetry
  •  Realistic Fiction
  •  Science Fiction
  •  Short Stories

Class Library roll out


Ok, so I have the class library up and running. A few teething problems with kids checking out books and giving me that blank stare when I enthusiastically tell them how great it will be when they read heaps this year. Despite early apprehensions, over first two weeks the majority of kids have settled into routine and are “in the zone” during reading time. (also read Nancie’s “The Reading Zone”).  Still have some Dormant readers that I am working on. “I don’t read miss’ and’ I hate reading miss’ are the standard responses but really only 2 from each of year 9 and 10. I am working on a) building trust and b) finding the book that will get them hooked.

Kids are pretty compliant ( I am the HT after all) but not keen in the way I would like them to be. I am just going to be patient here. I did notice the ‘recommendation effect’ several times, especially from girls who stay very quiet and a bit cynical until I share with them a story about my reading of a book or refer to my daughters and their favourite books at that “that age” and how I actually borrowed the copy they are reading from the stash both my daughters have left up in the top of the shed!

Speaking of books in the shed. I was sure I had a collection of great books from 20 years ago stored somewhere but haven’t been able to find them. In a search of the shed I did find some theory books on reading and writing going back 25 years. I can’t wait to share them with Zoe, my beginning teacher daughter. Not to mention my entire collection of Ancient history texts ( Aeneid, Virgil, Herodotus etc etc etc)!

Book Flood gathering momentum.


Called into school today and found a spare bookshelf! Yippee. Talked to our General Assistant and he has suggested I get the boss to buy the materials and he will make the shelves. He says it will be cheaper, quicker, nicer shelving and fit where we want them. Isn’t he a darling.

Also bought some cheap baskets and have gathered a heap more books from local charity shop and by raiding my own shelves. I think I’m going with a mixture of genre and types: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Autobiography/Biography/Memoir, Non-fiction, Poetry, Picture books/Graphic Novels, Short Stories. Kids will be asked to read 3 of each and will be able to choose 10 of their own to make up the difference. I think these categories will work well with our programme and satisfy our text requirements.

My next job is to “mark’ the books with coloured tape and put corresponding tape on the baskets. I’m using coloured electrical tape. I know you can get it in pink, purple, orange and different greens but not so easy to get in Australia. If any Australian readers know where to get some, where I don’t have to buy boxes of it and it’s cheap, please let me know.

To begin with I will be using a mix of my own books and the books we have available for free choice reading already. There’s quite a lot of these since we have had mixed reading boxes for units in year 9 and 10 and have kept the remaining books when sets have gone out of fashion. They have already been accessioned through our Library and the kids will need to borrow these through the Library. They can do this as a Textbook loan so that they can keep the books longer and have more borrowing power.

Also finished cleaning out the filing cabinet in the staff room, so am feeling both virtuous and organised.

Book Flood


This is a term used by Kelly Gallagher in Readicide that roughly corresponds to Donalyn Miller’s immersion of students in books in the classroom. As I said in my last post I’m keen to revisit ‘surrounding’ my students with books. Gallagher teaches secondary students, as I do and has a similar view to Donalyn, in terms of giving kids time, space and choice. He approaches the need to balance the teaching of the class text (often iconic or classic texts in the cultural heritage) in some interesting ways, but I plan to talk about that in a later post, so back to the subject of my post – the book flood.

I did a lightning quick re-read of The Book Whisperer noting in particular the approach, goals and methods, and then thought about how this might work in my classroom. Some of the things I’m grappling with include the ‘genre’ approach that Donalyn uses to frame the 40 book assignment. I’m not sure that will be the most useful frame for my students and am thinking about how our syllabus and programmes have some specific requirements, such as close reading of : two works each of fiction, non fiction, drama, film, variety of poems or study of poets. These always drive the close study and critical analysis focus of our programme. The other requirement is about ‘experience’. The syllabus says:

The selection of texts must give students experience of:

  • a widely defined Australian literature and other Australian texts including those that give insight into Aboriginal experiences and multicultural experiences in Australia
  • literature from other countries and times
  • Shakespearean drama
  • cultural heritages, popular cultures and youth cultures
  • picture books
  • everyday and workplace texts
  • a range of social, gender and cultural perspectives.

While these give a little more guidance, they are mostly too broad to frame the reading, particularly for developing readers in Year 9, so I am trying to find frames that  will work with my students. Gallagher’s list of “101 books my reluctant readers love to read” (p119, Readicide) has some potential categories, that I think could be used to organise the books in the classroom, but I’m thinking I might just ask the kids what will work best for them from their perspective of needing to find books they really want to read.

As far as the reading assignment is concerned I’m torn between a mixture of genres and text forms. So far I’m working with: Australian Authors, Aboriginal Experience, Multicultural Experience,  Other Countries, Other Times, Young Adult Literature, Poetry, Picture Books, Informational and Autobiography/Biography/Memoir. I can already see problems with the mixing of Australian authors and Young Adult Literature and feel like genres will help students to identify texts that want to read more easily.

Anyone tried implementing Donalyn’s 40 book assignment in a secondary classroom? How did you frame the assignment? Did you use genres or some other categorizing approach? What success have you had? What refinements can you suggest?

The Book Whisperer, Part 2


Just finished The Book Whisperer and want to go back and read it again. It must be my year to revisit things I did in my first years of teaching. Like Awakening the Heart, this book reminds me of things I used to do and the passion I had for teaching reading and writing that I have some how lost over the last decade. I think it coincides with becoming Head Teacher. Maybe now I feel comfortable enough in that role to be a teacher again!

I loved the book so much I sent Donalyn an email , and I seldom  do that. I have already culled my home shelves for old favourites for a class library and plan to raid the stored boxes of books in the shed for more. I’m planning how I am going to get some shelves into my room and a trip into town to check out the Op shops for more books. And I’m not going to spend Term 1 doing Naplan practice! I have a secret desire that my seniors will start asking to borrow the books when they are surrounded by them and plan to have some space devoted to Related Texts for Belonging and History and Memory.


PS if you are interested in resources I have set myself the goal of adding a resource/lesson plan to the Lesson Plan page every week. My first offering is a workbook on the play Two Weeks with the Queen. It’s not your usual kind of workbook so have look and feel free to adapt. Created for Year 7 in 2011, it worked well with my very noisy, energetic, lively Gen z-y (my term for those on the ‘cusp’)