By Dr. Brad Gustafson and Jennifer LaGarde, Guest Bloggers
At a recent conference, I had the opportunity to look on as a local Superintendent received an award for his support of School Libraries during his lifetime of service to his school district. During his acceptance speech, he mentioned that by the time his son was 10 years old, he and his wife “knew something was very wrong,” because their son hated reading.
Having exhausted every strategy he could think of, this Superintendent went to one of the district’s librarians and asked for advice. Her prescription was simple: “find your favorite books from when you were his age, and then carve out time each night before bed, and read to him from those books. Let him see your love of reading and for those books.” The Superintendent admitted that he’d never thought of such a thing and was skeptical about its effectiveness, but was willing to try anything.
Notably, this librarian never mentioned reading levels, completing a reading log or the possibility of earning “points” for the time they spent reading together. Rather, she encouraged this life long educator to simply share with his son the joy that books bring him. With tears in his eyes, the Superintendent choked out a thank you to this long retired librarian, and to all librarians who, in his words, “save kids like mine every day” saying, “I don’t know what would have happened to my son had we not had this experience of reading together.”
As we all stood in applause as he accepted his award, I couldn’t help but admire the simplicity of this beautiful gift: permission to read with a child for purely joyful reasons.
I married my high school sweetheart and we have three beautiful kids. Our oldest two can be found at a restaurant near you trying to read “one more chapter” before supper starts. Our middle child is infamous for milking additional minutes out of bedtime because she wants to read “just a few more pages.” Sometimes their authentic love (and obsession) with reading is exhilarating, and other times it is somewhat socially awkward. (Who brings a book to a sleep over, anyways?!)
Our youngest child is not an avid reader yet. He prefers pretending to be a ninja and playing Legos. We don’t have a formal intervention plan or reading SMART goals for him yet, but we do try to talk about the books we love at home. We model what it looks like to be curious, and this usually involves reading in some way, shape, or form.
We even do crazy things like create videos about books we’re reading while laughing hysterically together. Sometimes our literacy-themed adventures pique his curiosity, and he will occasionally exchange glancing blows using his foam sword while we’re recording book talk videos. I haven’t quite figured out why the reading logs my wife and I complete on his behalf do not have the same draw, but I think Jen’s story above addresses this nicely.
Although my wife and I met and fell in love earlier than most, it took us a little longer to figure out a few important things about our kids (and their formative reading identities):
All kids are different.
All kids have different passions.
Do no harm.
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about book talk videos, reading logs, and even our parenting skills (which are still a work in progress). However, I will also promise you one thing. No child has ever been turned off to reading by an adult who shared the joy of reading in a manner that was authentic, personalized, and respectful to that child.
From Jen and Brad:
These stories illustrate some of the reasons why we created the #30SecondBookTalk and why we continue to be inspired by those who have participated! We know that when adults share their passion for reading and for the books that have touched them, kids respond by developing their own passions. Similarly, we also know that reading for pleasure is a vital part of helping young people develop healthy and robust reading lives.
Simply put, the #30SecondBookTalk provides educators a platform through which they can share their love of reading with kids (without an emphasis on assessment, points, levels, or logs). Yes, battling it out as co-commissioners and placing bets on which team would take home the Vince LomBOOKi prize was a lot of fun, but ultimately, our goal has always been to connect kids with great books.
This is why we’re thrilled to see the amazing ways so many educators are taking the #30SecondBookTalk beliefs to their schools. Take a look:
In Cabarrus County, North Carolina, little learners created promo videos supporting their teachers’ #30SecondBookTalk videos. While the winner of this epic competition has yet to be announced, who wouldn’t want an endorsement from these absolutely precious readers?
Meanwhile, in Cold Springs, Minnesota, 5th grade teacher, Belinda Walsh was awarded $100 in books for her classroom, in an EPIC school-wide assembly, after the school community voted Ms. Walsh their #30SecondBookTalk Champion! Woo hoo!
And then there’s school librarian, Andy Plemmons, who is using FlipGrid to create a Global #30SecondBookTalk competition in which his 5th grade students share their best #30secondbooktalks with the world - and then the world votes to select the winner. How fun! Voting in this competition is still open!
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t once again celebrate the 16 educators who came together to share their love of reading as part of our own #30SecondBookTalk Championship. After nearly 30,000 votes were cast, Bronwyn Merritt’s video, featuring the children’s classic Matilda by Roald Dahl took home the grand prize and we’re so excited for her, and her students, who will soon be selecting $500 worth of books for their classroom library thanks to Scholastic.
However, we’re convinced that everyone who participated would agree that the real winners in this competition are kids. Every time we make sharing our passion for books with kids a priority, we strengthen the connection in their hearts between reading and joy. Every time we share the ways that reading has had a positive, meaningful impact on our own lives, we fortify the idea that reading is an integral, relevant part of living a full life. Every time we let our reading geek flags fly, we help young readers fly their own reading colors too.
To that end, while the official #30SecondBookTalk Competition has come to a close, it’s never too late for you to start modeling the joy of reading through book talks. Feel free to use the materials below to kickstart the book talk battle at your school. And don’t forget to share your own mad #30SecondBookTalk skillz to the Twitter hashtag. We’re always on the lookout for future Lead Learners and Literacy Legends!
Happy reading, everyone.
Resources for the Classroom/Library: