Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Get 'Em Reading: Book BINGO!

If you're stopping by to find resources mentioned in the Moving On Up: Introducing Middle Schoolers to the YA Collection, I'll be posting those ongoing for the next while. You can also check out co-presenter Beth Saxton's blog, Beth Reads. She's much more organized than I and already has up a ton of great stuff. She's clearly a seasoned conference presenter. I have much to learn!

As a middle school librarian, I'm always looking for ways to get my students to love reading and to do more of it. I've found that there are really two key components to getting what I want: CHOICE and REWARD/RECOGNITION.  These two things can come together in a number of ways. The one I want to focus on today is Book BINGO.

My 2015-2016 Middle School BINGO Card
Whether you are a librarian in a public library, a school librarian like me, a classroom teacher or some other person who's made it (part of) their mission to get young people reading, Book BINGO is a fun way to encourage students to read books they enjoy, while also sneakily getting them to read broadly and to explore new authors, formats, genres and topics. To "win" the "player" must read five books in a given horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row. (I also let my students read 4 corners and the center, to keep it spicy.) If they want to really take on a challenge, they can read one book for every square on the board (each book can only be counted once, even if it fits multiple squares) - and get to join at a year-end pizza party in return.

I worked with the teachers in our English department to determine what to put in each of the squares. Together, we decided that we wanted to ensure our students read books in a variety of different formats (graphic novel, novel in verse, short story collection), from a variety of genres (historical fiction, science fiction, suspense) and that exposed them to a variety of characters (protagonist of a different gender*, protagonist of a different race**, set in another culture***). Other options for types of books could be: Audiobook, Epistolary Novel, Multiple Narrators/Perspectives, Book Over 200 Pages, Book Under 200 Pages, Author's First Novel, Book By An Author From Your State, Award Winner, Retelling of a Classic, etc. There are so many different ways to put a board together and none of them are wrong! Make your board to fit with your reading goals.

For my students, I set no minimum page requirements or specific reading levels. Instead, I tell them that in order for a book to "count" it must be something that they have not read previously and be generally at or around their reading level. The book need not come from the school library, and is absolutely allowed to be something "adult" (Stephen King, etc.), as long as they have discussed it with their parents and have their okay. Our school year is broken into trimesters, so we've given them a simple guideline of reading 1-2 books per trimester to keep them on track. There's no grading and no written assignment. If a student starts to read a book and discovers it's not a good fit, they can stop reading and pick something else. All that matters is that at come May, they can identify which row they read, list the authors and titles of the books they have read, sign their name (we have an honor code), and have a parent or guardian sign off on the student's work.

Of course, it's all well and good to put together a Book BINGO program, but it won't run itself. Young people often need help figuring out what to read. In my next post I'm going to lay out some of the different resources I make available to students to help connect them with the "right" books to meet their reading needs.

*We specifically chose to word it "different" rather than "opposite" to recognize the fluidity of gender and respect each student's individual identity.
**We specifically chose to word it "different" to recognize that there are so many more racial identities than simply black, white, Native, Latino and Asian and that many individuals identify as mixed race.
***"Another culture" includes characters with a different religious or ethnic background, immigrant subcultures, even the Deaf community. As long as the reader doesn't identify with the particular culture that the book is set in, it counts!

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