Our school has the best program in the world. Starting at the end of the school year, children are given a sheet of colored paper with twenty subjects listed on it. They have the summer to fill in all twenty boxes. Once school starts, they work their way through five more sheets - eventually reading 120 books by the middle of April. For those who accomplish this goal, our amazing librarian hosts an in-school party complete with fun assembly, prizes, and a special recognition for the exiting elementary school kids who have completed all five years of Reading Bingo Blackout.
Our school has quite a high success rate with this program. Granted, the kids are motivated by the prizes they receive - for each card, our kids get to choose a literary Spirit Stick for their backpacks, and in addition to the End of Year party, they get a T-shirt sporting their accomplishment.
I love volunteering in the library and even more, I love being part of the support staff for the End of Year party. These kids work hard to accomplish these goals -- 120 books in seven months isn't easy! This summer, however, our Reading Bingo challenge has been a little different. My son realized at the end of the party last year that he wouldn't the five year award at the end of Fourth grade, since he wasn't a student at our school for Kindergarten and First grade. He was a little upset. He kept assuring me he would have done it had the opportunity been there, so I asked him how much he wanted that extra recognition.
He spent some time thinking about it, and proposed an idea to me. What if, he thought, he were to do the Kinder and First grade Reading Bingo Blackouts this summer? Forget that that would be 240 books he'd need to read -- not to mention the 20 he'd have to do for his Fourth grade Reading Bingo, it didn't matter to him! He ended up asking the librarian (read: he had me ask her), and because she truly is awesome, she agreed. He came home with a list of 260 books to check off before the end of the summer.
This was a lot harder than we thought it would be. Our library only allows ten books (TEN?! I know!!!) to be requested at one time, and we can only check out fifty items at once. We knew we couldn't go in without a game plan, so I ended up creating a two-page cheat sheet for us to use to check books off. Checking books off has been truly satisfying, but 260 books is a daunting challenge, especially when not all of them are picture books. It was also difficult to keep track of which books go where. With many books coming off of Texas-specific lists, I ended up misappropriating books I'd forgotten were meant for other squares. Oops.
We ended up scheduling not a daily reading time, but a number of books that my guy had to read every day. Weekly, we'd go to the library, return our forty books (we can check out fifty, but I can only carry forty -- back issues), check out forty more, and repeat. More than once, I'd hear someone say "Who could ever check out fifty books?!", see my pile, mutter "Oh ...", and walk away shaking their heads.
I am so, so proud of my fourth grader. He has come close to burning out more than once, but he's persevered, he's found books that fulfill the requirements that also interest him, and he's found some new favorites in the meantime. Assuming he completes the Fourth Grade Bingo (and he had so better after this summer!), he'll have read 360 books (actually more, but I haven't tracked non-Bingo books) in one year. That's a lot!
Would I do it again? Reading Bingo, yes. On this magnitude? No. One of the challenges we've faced is that my kid, who has the memory of an elephant, hasn't been able to retain as much as he normally would while reading. It's like a memory overload for a brain -- for him to retain the last few books he's read, the first few books have fallen right out! It's been hard for all of us to have our lives dictated by what C has to read and by when. Further, I worry about his passion for reading dulling a bit. His willpower to finish this has astounded me. It's truly more than I expected from him. But I know he'll need a break. I have a feeling he's not going to read anything for a month once this last book is checked off!
Overall, this is an amazing program. It provides such a great motivator for reluctant readers, and rewards them for a job well done. I'm so glad we have this program!