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NBMS Challenges Students and Staff to Read 25 Books during School Year

nbms teachers

During the first week of classes at North Belton Middle School, the English Language Arts team of Courtney Crossley, Jennifer Poff and Mia Wilson, introduced a unique reading assignment.

“They were worried at first that it was only about a grade,” seventh-grade teacher Crossley said. “But we want them to just want to read, so we said, ‘here’s your challenge.’”

Students were challenged to read 25 books this school year, primarily by reading outside of school on their own time.

“It’s a way to get them interested and challenge themselves as readers,” seventh- and eighth- grade teacher Wilson said. “We told them the emphasis was, ‘this is for you to compete with yourself on, and not other people.”

Wilson came across the book challenge idea from an education blog, which inspired her to collaborate with her ELA colleagues on how to implement a similar challenge at North Belton. Students are free to choose their own books, which can span any genre and include audiobooks and graphic novels.

“Some of them weigh a little more,” Crossley said about how books of disparate page-lengths are calculated. “So if a kid is reading a 500-page book, we’re going to count that as a few books.”

Students maintain a daily reading log that they keep in their notebooks, and have illustrated mini book covers with brief descriptions of why someone should read that book.

book wall book wall

“They keep track of books they finish and want to read next, so they always have something ready that they want to read,” Crossley said. “Their book conversations sometimes happen organically within the classroom structure, as well as us talking with them and getting them interested in talking about their book by expanding the conversation”

Seventh-grade teacher Poff says the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The three of us are really impressed by how our students have already risen to the challenge,” she said. “If you go into our rooms, we have up on the board written, ‘I’ve finished a book’ and lists of kids who have already finished a book or more by the first few weeks of school.”  

Crossley says her team has also been challenging students to read even more than 25 books, with many taking on that goal.  

“And now, we’re also challenging the staff to read 25 books,” Crossley said. “We wanted to model that behavior for students. If you look around the campus there are signs on all the doors with words, ‘What I’m reading now.’ So, the kids can see my coach reads. My band teacher reads. It’s not something that we only do at school, and then we’re done. It’s not a punishment but something to enjoy.”

What I'm Reading Now

Ultimately, Poff says, the goals of issuing this non-graded challenge is to increase student literacy achievements by “opening those conversations about great books, because we want our kids to be able to see themselves in these books and have a life-long love of reading.”

Joshua Wucher
September 16, 2019