Education Opinion

Holiday Plans

By Donalyn Miller — December 11, 2010 3 min read
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This week, my students and I participated in what has become a classroom ritual: planning for reading over an upcoming school break. We will be out for two weeks, and my students know that I expect them to continue reading. We discussed and made reading plans over Thanksgiving, so the children dove into the task early this time--swapping books, carrying out piles, and recording titles in their readers’ notebooks. At this stage of the year, my expectations aren’t necessary--students eagerly look forward to the extra reading time and plan for it.

Ashley begged me to lift my three-book checkout limit because she “needs at least 10 books.” She didn’t have to beg much. Blake promised Kamron he would finish The Scorch Trials, the sequel to The Maze Runner, so that Kamron could take it over the break. During our library visit, my students headed for the book carts, eager to grab the hot titles before our librarian reshelved them.

Dashing from child to child--making recommendations, loaning book bags, and digging into closets for extra copies of NERDS, Smile, Ghost in the Machine and Chains-- I overheard conversations between my students that made me smile,

“Ben, you should take all three books in the Boy at War series. You would hate to finish one and not have the next.”

“Can I borrow your copy of The Knife of Never Letting Go?”

“I asked my mom for books for Christmas. She looked surprised.”

“How many books do you think I’ll need? We are driving to Colorado to see my grandmother and we will be in the car forever.”

Working to encourage children to read both in and outside of school, I notice that many children haven’t picked up this lifelong reading habit--making reading plans. Adult readers download books to Kindles, reserve books at the library, and pre-order books before their release dates. We pack books for trips and always keep a book in the car or in our bags. We anticipate book emergencies-- times when we are stuck somewhere and might need a book.

During reading conferences, my students and I discuss their current books, but I often guide students to consider what they might read next. How can their reading experiences and preferences lead them to the next book and the next?

When thinking about readers, I see two types of reading plans and I guide students to consider their own reading plans with my questions:

Finding Time to Read: When do you see some downtime to read? Are you traveling during the break? How much time will you spend sitting in the car or at an airport? How can you keep up your daily reading habit over the holiday?

Considering their holiday schedules gives students an opportunity to set realistic reading goals for the break.

Choosing Titles: What books have you been reading? What books have caught your attention that you might like to read next? What are you looking for in your next book? Are you in a reading rut? How can you challenge yourself with your next book?

Setting aside titles they want to read, looking back over their reading experiences, and planning to move forward, my students continue to develop their reading lives.

After looking at our holiday schedules and choosing books, my students and I record our reading plans into our notebooks--setting goals and sharing them with each other. Writing down these plans and verbalizing them to each other makes these plans concrete and real for my students. Reading isn’t something we might do during the holidays, we have reading plans!

This is what readers do; we need to read, so we plan for it. I have a staggering tower of books waiting for me to read over the break. Looking forward to long hours at home, curled up in my chair reading, I cannot wait. Do you have books backed up on your e-reader? Stacked around the house? Has that latest best-seller been calling to you? How much time will you spend waiting in an airport this holiday? My Twitter friends and I have revived our summer Book-a-Day challenge for the break, listing books we plan to read and sharing titles. You can join us by posting titles under the #bookaday hashtag and sharing your holiday reads on blogs and lists. Happy Reading!

The opinions expressed in The Book Whisperer are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.