and received a 2018 Service Award from MSLA.
The Global Read Aloud was created by educator Pernille Ripp in 2010 with the goal of connecting to others through books. Book recommendations are crowd-sourced throughout the spring and Ripp chooses the final selections. There are books for every grade and interest level: a picture book author study, an early reader selection, a middle grade selection, a middle school/junior high selection and a high school selection. Librarians and teachers around the world sign up to read the books aloud in October/November. Ripp stresses that it’s okay to be behind the reading schedule, but to try not to get ahead. Educators are encouraged to connect with each other via social media to plan collaborative experiences with their students such as Skypes, co-created Padlets, Flipgrid conversations and more. The goal is to enhance the reading experience with connections to others reading the same book.
The GRA 2017 selections for middle school were A Monster Calls and The Wild Robot. I hung flyers around the school and had announcements made in the morning to advertise the opportunity. We created a Google sheet to sign kids up so we could share the names with the cafeteria staff. Some super readers were excited about listening to a book together, but some were just eager to get out of the cafeteria. Eating in the library is a quieter experience and students are allowed to sit with friends, whereas in the cafeteria they are required to sit by homeroom. Yes, this meant that some kids who came to lunch bunch were not interested readers, but that was okay. The ones who were inclined to give it a try did, and those who were completely ill-suited for the experience self-selected to return to the cafeteria. I found connections via the GRA Facebook groups; we did Mystery Skypes with classes, participated in some Flipgrid conversations and co-created Padlet boards about our predictions and wonderings. The experience was such a success that the 6th and 8th grade groups opted to continue reading along during lunch for the rest of the year -- the 6th grade listened to the sequel to The Wild Robot once it came out, as well as The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor.
This year I knew even before the school year started that we would do the GRA again. I was thrilled when our literacy coach and a 7th grade special education teacher agreed to read aloud Refugee with me so each of the three parts would have a different voice (I read Isabel’s part). This year’s 7th grade (last year’s 6th grade) is my most dedicated group of readers so it was nice to make their read aloud extra special. The 2018 Read Aloud choices, Amal Unbound and Refugee both lent themselves well to supplemental information so we often spent half the lunch period watching videos related to the Syrian refugee crisis or indentured servitude to build context. Again, we Mystery Skyped with groups from all over (most were from Canada!), which was a very popular event. Some of the kids just wanted to Mystery Skype all the time, which is understandable since it’s very fun. We also did a co-created padlet in 7th grade and a postcard exchange with the 6th grade group reading Amal Unbound. Kids were thrilled to get mail each day and hear what other students around the country thought of the book.
We finished our GRA books right before Thanksgiving vacation this year, which felt like a miracle given that we only had our short lunch period to read, reflect and do related activities. As soon as we returned, however, we got right back to reading aloud, this time from the list put together by Project Lit. (both Amal Unbound and Refugee are also on this list! Win!). 6th grade finished Wishtree by Katherine Applegate before Christmas vacation and 7th grade is over halfway through Front Desk by Kelly Yang. You may notice that all the books chosen this year are wonderful #windowsandmirrors books perfect for building empathy.
So what surprised me? I was surprised by how much students loved the read aloud experience. I’m not always good at reading a room, so sometimes I would think they needed a break and pause. This was almost always met with indignation and a demand to keep reading! I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed reading aloud to middle schoolers….The Wild Robot involved all sorts of animal voices, A Monster Calls and Refugee are desperately sad and I didn’t hold back for any of them. I read with enthusiasm and emotion (I cried on more than one occasion!) and they responded in kind. It became the very best part of my day. I highly recommend joining the GRA!
Go to https://theglobalreadaloud.com/ to sign up for the 2019 Global Read Aloud and suggest which books should be contenders. Pernille already has a great list started!