This reflection is in response to the article “Some Rules We Need to Break in Our Reading Classrooms” by Pernille Ripp, reposted by Cult of Pedagogy

Rules every reading teacher should break, and get students to love reading with the Million Word Challenge!

When I introduced the Million Word Challenge to my students, I told them that all I wanted was their word count- no projects, no summaries, not a traditional reading log, and certainly nothing that required a parent signature. I told them I trusted them to be honest about it, because my main goal was for them to enjoy reading!

* * *

Rules every reading teacher should break, and get students to love reading with the Million Word Challenge!

No Assigned Levels

I allow graphic novels and audiobooks, and there is never any suggestion that a book is too low or too high. (Personally, I enjoy books right around the 5th-8th grade level most… Just because I can read at college level doesn’t mean that I want to!)

It’s Okay to Give Up… Or Try Again Later

Sometimes I’m guilty of the “just try it for a little longer,” but only if I sensed that the student was distracted or didn’t really read it at all. In my own experience, it took me several tries to get past the first couple of chapters of Hunger Games, but when I did, I loved the series. If they ask to get another book again, I help them find something new.

Changing the Course of [Literacy] History

I was just sharing with a colleague on the way to FRA convention yesterday how eye-opening it was to hear my students present their literacy histories (in my Reading Intensive). Many of them enjoyed reading growing up, but hadn’t read a book they actually liked in years.

Unsurprisingly, there was a drop usually around 3rd or 4th grade and then it never really got back up. When we push too many informational texts or pick apart every single novel they read, it no longer becomes a joy. It becomes a chore. And since there’s never any “extra” time in a day for independent joy reading, educators need to MAKE time.

Break This Rule, Too

I think this article should add one more unspoken rule that ought to be broken—”that when students read, teachers don’t have to.” I’m guilty of this all the time, although my list of books for my own MWC is on the board for students to see, and my number gets updated, too. I’m talking about when students are reading and I’m checking my email, or grading, or anything else I don’t really need to be doing at that moment. Modeling joy reading for students speaks volumes about its importance in our lives. (And bonus, I get to read, too!)

* * *

So has it worked? Well, in the 8 weeks we have been in school, many of my students regularly carry a book around with them. Many students automatically pick up their book when they’re done early with a task, without prompting. I compliment them in this all the time, telling them how it warms my heart to see so many students reading! I have to say “many,” though, because there are still a few who are reluctant. I haven’t given up, though!

I believe everyone is a reader if they have the right book.


If you want to try the Million Word Challenge with your students, download this 13-page file from Teachers Pay Teachers! (Free for a limited time!)

2 comments on “Breaking the “Reading Rules”

  1. I have questions about your million word challenge, I have high school kids and they are super concrete about things, how do they figure out how many words they have read without counting each word. They and I do not want to do anything so tedious. I am interested in trying this with my students, last year we did book goals like in Good Reads, but I would really just like to know how your students figure that out. Thanks.

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