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How Do You Measure a Year of Reading?

The last day of school for my students was Friday. For our final activity, students tallied their book totals and drew colorful signs displaying how many books they read this year. I took class and individual photos to celebrate the children's reading accomplishments. My 92 sixth grade students read 5,240 books this year--an average of 57 books per reader. The children were amazed by how many books they read. But as I keep telling anyone who will listen, a number does not reveal the entire story of a child's reading success. Students shared that they read faster, chose longer, more complex books, or preferred different genres and authors than they did at the beginning of the year. Participating in a zealous community of readers facilitated their reading growth--no matter how many books each child completed.

Two weeks ago, I created a Survey Monkey survey asking students to share their five favorite books and three favorite authors. As part of our last class meeting, I revealed students' top choices of the year. Admittedly, composing a list of favorites from a group of students who read whatever they choose is a bit misleading. From Laurie Halse Anderson to Gabrielle Zevin, from To Kill a Mockingbird to Diary of a Wimpy Kid, my students' preferences reflect a diversity of titles, genres, authors, and reading levels only possible in a free-choice reading environment. The books and authors receiving the greatest overall votes (listed in order) are:

Our Favorite Books of the Year

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

4-Way Tie: NERDS by Michael Buckley, Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson; Gone by Michael Grant; Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick; The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey

3-Way Tie: The Giver by Lois Lowry; Peak by Roland Smith; Killer Pizza by Greg Taylor

Our Favorite Authors of the Year

Suzanne Collins

Rick Riordan

Tie: Patrick Ness, Scott Westerfeld

Margaret Peterson Haddix

Tie: Laurie Halse Anderson, Gordon Korman

Roland Smith

3-way tie: Jeff Kinney, Mike Lupica, J.K. Rowling

Combing through students' reading lists and survey responses, reminds me of so many "you had to be there" moments:

playful debates between the Team Gale and Team Peeta factions. Sloane designed a Team Gale t-shirt transfer and sold them to fellow fans. I bought two.

book quotes scrawled across our Graffiti Wall like Peak's "Climb high. Sleep low," and "I am the Circle and the Circle is me," from The Ask and the Answer.

the gasps from the class when I read the climactic scene in When You Reach Me.

Chris folding our first of many Origami Yodas. His version carried a light saber!

daily drawings to see who would claim our copies of The Red Pyramid, Monsters of Men, Chains, or Sent next.

Each book title represents a story--not only the words on the page--but the story of a reader, who discovered something about literacy, himself, or the world while reading every book. No tally or list adequately captures the power of these stories.

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