“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”
-Cheshire Cat, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Every August I set my students up with a reading challenge. They spend the whole class balking at my “assignment” for the year, and coming up with all the ways they won’t be able to meet the criteria. But by the time January hits and they realize they’re much further along in the challenge then they thought they would be, you can bet books fly off the shelves even faster this half of the year.
When I first started teaching, I went into my classroom as a book nerd and reader, not a teacher. And now that I’ve been at it for three years, I still consider myself a reader first, teacher second. My teaching is often unconventional, and I’m heavily influenced by The Book Whisperer and a few other inspiring reader-teachers in how I teach. But it’s Miller’s conception of the 40 book challenge that drives how I share books throughout the year as well as read them and encourage my students to read.
And yes, you read that right–I challenge my students to read 40 books a school year. That’s just about a book a week (counting breaks) and though not all of my students can or will read the 40, several surpassed the marker last school year.
Last year was my first time with the challenge, and from August to May I read 48 books myself! The fun part comes about this time of the year when students realize they aren’t graded on reading the number of books, and that the challenge is more of a personal achievement so internal motivation kicks in. Plus many of them just want to out read me by the end of the year.
The best part of this challenge is that it isn’t just 40 ‘ole books–it’s 40 books spread across literary genres so my readers can be well read. I want to challenge them to not only be wild readers–reading a much as they can wherever they can–but to also get out of their reading box and experience different genres. Though, the challenge always shows true colors, especially in my own reading habits as I often fill up my reader’s choice slots with fantasy novels.
This year, I noticed an abundant number of my Facebook friends sharing that they were going to try a reading challenge this year. What seems like a sudden popularity of reading challenges (I particularly noticed The Modern Mrs. Darcy list) excites me because perhaps the world is catching on to this awesome thing of reading. Did you know that 27% of adults in our nation did NOT read a book last year? Or that 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare? Or that “the link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.” ¹ Or finally that “43% of adults at Level 1 literacy skills live in poverty compared to only 4% of those at Level 5” ²
All of that from NOT READING. Blows my mind friends. But this is also why I’m a huge advocate FOR reading. So, if I haven’t convinced you to pick up more books this year yet, I’m hoping my challenge will.
See, I saw the rise of reading challenges this year and I’ve decided to raise you my own challenge. And you’ve probably guessed it–I’m challenging YOU to 40 books this year. (You should be very happy by the way, you have 52 weeks to read 40 books, unlike my students.)
I’ll be sharing my own reads throughout the year on my weekend reads to keep you accountable. But without further adieu, here’s the specs of my 2017 reading challenge:
Read 40 books in 2017 across the different literary genres.
Yup. That’s it. Below I’ve listed the specifics within the genres to broaden your reading but you also get a handful of reader’s choice so if you’re a fantasy fangirl like myself, you can full up that column with some fantastic reads.
(Also, if you like the checklist below, here’s a link to the full PDF form if you’d like to print it for your year. )
Not sure what some of these genres are? Reach out to me through my contact form and I’ll help you out! If you do know what they are, or that in fact some of them are genres within genres–like sci-fi is technically a fantasy–then you’re awesome and we can be nerds together. I’ll probably also break down some of the genres or at least offer some suggestions over the next months as well. Don’t worry, I’m not turning this into a full book blog, but reading is a huge passion of mine and a major way I nourish my mind + soul, and it wouldn’t do my blog justice if I at least didn’t talk about it some or suggest reads for you!
Don’t worry, either, that we’re three weeks into the year. There’s still PLENTY of time to get your reading on. And you know what? If 40 is too much for you, cut the list in half. Pick 20 books within the different genres that you want to read this year and then go read them!
I also hate to say it so early on, but I don’t have prizes for you if you complete the list. Just look at it as an adventure. You’re not a very big reader? This is the year you read more. You read the same types of books over and over again? This is the year you try something different.
No matter how many books you end up reading, look at this year as the year you become a reader. Or a book worm. Or my personal favorite, a book dragon.
Or perhaps, this is the year you live way more adventures then you thought you ever could.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.
The man who never reads lives only one.
-George R.R. Martin
Here’s to the power of story friends!