The Book Challenge Is Born at CMDS

“The Book Challenge isn’t an assignment you can simply add to outdated, ineffective teaching practices. The Book Challenge rests on the foundation of a classroom reading community built on research-based practices for engaging children with reading. Assigning a Book Challenge as a way to generate grades or push children into reading in order to compete with their classmates corrupts everything I have written and said about reading. The Book Challenge is meant to expand students’ reading lives, not limit or define it.” ­– Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer

by Ruth Thompson

As a lifelong reader myself, I am intrigued by how to create lifelong readers both in my students and my own daughters. This summer I stumbled upon The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. I devoured the book in an evening and began texting my colleagues to tell them about it. This is how The CMDS Book Challenge was born.

CMDS 4th Grade Language Arts Teacher Ruth Thompson

This fall we introduced our own Book Challenge to students in 3rd-6th Grade. They have been challenged to read a specific number of books from various genres throughout the school year.

The idea behind the Book Challenge is that once you read a book, you read another book, and then another.

We have asked students to always have a book in hand. The goal is to teach students to become lifelong readers by showing them strategies such as how to choose a book; what to do if you don’t like a book and want to abandon it; how to keep track of books you’ve heard about and want to read; and how to recommend a book to a friend.

The Book Challenge is not really about a certain number, but it’s about reading more than you read the year before. “What matters is that students stretch themselves as readers and increase their competence, confidence and reading motivation through their daily participation in our reading community,” writes Donalyn Miller on The Book Whisperer blog.

The Book Challenge is based on these core beliefs:

• Everybody reads in our classroom. So let’s get started!

Students who read more consistently outperform students who do not read as much.

• Encourage a wide variety of reading.

We all like to read certain things, but good readers sample various books from different genres. Strong readers should practice a little bit of all types of reading, just like a strong basketball player practices all types of skills.

• There’s a book that is right for every person.

Trying different types of books will help a student find the book that speaks to them.

• Your reading life matters.

Students need to develop a positive reading identity. The classroom and the home are where this happens.

So the big question remains: How can you help to create lifelong readers from your own children?

  1. Put down your phone, iPad, e-reader and laptop. Let your children see you reading actual books.
  2. Buy books! Never say no to purchasing a book.
  3. Let children read what they want to read…even if it seems too easy. We all love an easy read!
  4. Encourage reading by reading what your children are reading too! You will be amazed by how much “credit” you earn yourself by reading what your child recommends you read.
  5. Join The Book Challenge as a parent! Set a goal for yourself and let your children know what your goal is.

Our goal is to develop students’ positive reading identities and develop students into lifelong readers. These must remain our priorities every day, all year long … both as teachers and parents.

Together, teachers and parents can achieve this goal. So, let’s all get to reading!

Christ Methodist Day School first opened its doors in 1958 to 75 kindergarten students. Since then, CMDS has stayed true to its Christian elementary school roots while continuing to thrive as one of the best private schools in Memphis. We encourage you to come see why we are the primary choice for so many Memphis families.




Leave A Comment