The 11th Annual #Bookaday Challenge
Like all readers, my reading life ebbs and flows. For every week I stay up until 2 am to finish Tomi Adeyemi’s 544-page epic fantasy tome, Children of Blood and Bone, I can point to weeks where I read almost nothing, but emails and Facebook posts. We don’t commit to reading once, we recommit every time we pick up a book. Over the past decade, my summer #bookaday challenge has given other readers and me an opportunity to recommit to reading and celebrate reading with each other.
I started the #bookaday challenge in 2009 because I realized that my family and I read less during the last six weeks of the school year than any other time. With numerous school events like choir concerts and science fairs and the lure of more sunlight into the evening hours, we let our nightly reading routines slip by the wayside. When we did talk about reading, we talked about what we wanted to read during the summer.
I noticed the same drop in my students’ reading habits during the late spring. While teachers and librarians emphasize the importance of reading over the summer, the systems and routines at school that support our students all year long stop or decline as the school year winds down. We close the library for weeks during state testing. We ask students to return any books they’ve checked out from teachers’ collections and the school library. Students miss dedicated daily reading time because of field trips and end-of-year celebrations.
Recognizing that spring reading momentum often slows down for my students, my family, and me, I decided to recommit to reading during the summer months. Announcing the first annual Book-a-Day Challenge in 2009 was a public declaration of my commitment to read one book a day for every day of summer break. In the weeks leading up to summer vacation, I talked with my students continuously about how fun and exciting it would be to read whatever they wanted over the summer. That series you started, but never finished? That fat book that seemed too daunting during the school year? That book you borrowed from a friend, but never read or returned? Summer reading is the perfect time to revisit those reading plans that never materialized.
If we believe that reading over the summer is important for children, how can we revitalize our own reading lives over the summer? Beyond our responsibility as reading role models for the young readers in our lives, we need a boost, too. Every year, the summer #bookaday challenge helps me kick start my reading life into gear after my annual spring slump and push myself to read more.
As an educator, I have discovered that the summer #bookaday challenge is a great way to build my knowledge of the books available for children to read. Reading 60 or 70 books written for children during the summer gives me a worthy stack of books to recommend to children and educators all year long.
Over the past ten summers, Book-a-Day has grown and changed. In 2010, Book-a-Day became #bookaday and participants began using the hashtag to connect and share books on Twitter. In 2011, I met Colby Sharp online during the #bookaday challenge. The Nerdy Book Club community grew from the conversations #bookaday participants were having online every day. Folks have started shorter #bookaday challenges during winter and spring holiday breaks. Wisconsin librarian Jillian Heise created the picture book challenge #classroombookaday, which began as her personal pledge to continue her summer #bookaday reading and read at least one picture book with her middle school students every day. In 2016, shortly after the Presidential election, I made a commitment to give away a book that represents some aspect of human diversity every day for the next four years. I use the #bookaday hashtag for these giveaways now. More than a summer reading challenge, the #bookaday community continues to share books and celebrate reading all year.
The summer #bookaday event endures as an annual opportunity to hit the reset button on our reading lives, connect with other readers, celebrate books, and remind ourselves how much reading matters to our lives and the young people we serve. If you have participated in past years, welcome back! If you are new to the #bookaday challenge, don’t be intimidated!
It doesn’t matter if you actually read a book every day or not. Dedicate more time to read. Celebrate your right to read what you want. Make reading plans. Share and collect book recommendations. How would you like to grow as a reader this summer?
The #bookaday guidelines are simple:
- You set your own start date and end date.
- Read one book per day for each day of your summer vacation. This is an average, so if it takes you a week to read a long book, you can balance it out with some picture books or early reader books.
- Any book qualifies including picture books, nonfiction, professional books, audio books, graphic novels, poetry anthologies, or fiction—children’s, youth, or adult titles.
- Keep a list of the books you read and share them often via a social networking site like goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Use the #bookaday hashtag to find other participants and share your recommendations. You do not have to post reviews, but you can if you wish. Titles will do.
Beyond reading books, summer is a great time to catch up on professional reading in other formats. Why not read a journal article a day or discover a new blog? I highly recommend the incredible posts for the recent #31DaysIBPOC Blog Challenge organized by Dr. Kim Parker and Tricia Ebarvia, which features the words and work of Indigenous educators, Black educators, and educators of color.
Ultimately, the measure of a reading life isn’t how many books we read. We measure our reading lives in experiences, knowledge gained, the conversations and relationships we have with other readers, or the further reading, inquiry, or action our reading experiences spark. Beyond the reading itself, the summer #bookaday challenge is a community of enthusiastic readers who want to remember and celebrate what we love about reading in the first place.
I am planning a wonderful summer of reading. I travel a lot during the summer and time spent on airplanes or driving rental cars gives me abundant opportunities to read or listen to audiobooks. Here are a few books I plan to read this summer:
Breathing New Life into Book Clubs: A Practical Guide for Teachers by Sonia Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen (Heinemann, 2019)
Game of Stars by Sayantani DasGupta (Scholastic, 2019)
Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds (Harper Collins, 2019)
The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (NYU Press, 2019)
The Line Tender by Kate Allen (Penguin Random House, 2019)
The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake (Little Brown, 2019)
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (Harper Collins, 2019)
Author/ illustrator Debbie Ohi has created these resources to support educators during the #bookaday challenge and created the cool logo and banner. Thank you, Debbie!
I hope you have a wonderful summer of reading, rest, and rejuvenation. I look forward to crossing paths with you during my summer travels or sharing through the #bookaday hashtag. Happy Reading!