By October 3, 2017 0 Comments Read More →

Getting Started with the Global Read Aloud

The 2017 Global Read Aloud kicked off yesterday, and I’m here to help.

Author and educator Pernille Ripp founded the program as a way to connect students and teachers from different locales around the topics of books. (Think One Book One School or One Book One City, but on a global scale.) Each year, Ripp creates a short list of picture- and chapter books, and participants vote on the final choice. Once a decision is made, Ripp provides suggestions on how participating schools can communicate with one another—think platforms like Skype or Padletand provides a space for interested teachers to share information via Edmodo

When I first heard about the Global Read Aloud three years ago, I was intrigued. As a librarian, the idea of a Global Read Aloud seemed amazing, but intimidating, too. I’ve found that its structure can be difficult to navigate because I don’t have frequent access to my students—and with 800 students on a completely fixed schedule, the program can be a lot to manage, especially when I’m trying to work with more than one grade level. As I gear up to participate in my third year, I’d like to share the challenges I’ve encountered, as well as how I’ve made the process more manageable.

If you’re interested in trying out the Global Read Aloud—especially in the library—it can feel daunting to get started. Although the idea of the program fits into exactly what I value about libraries, a school library has proven to be a difficult venue.

If you’re interested in trying out the Global Read Aloud—especially in the library—it can be daunting to get started.

The biggest issue is time. The short time I have with my students makes it hard to read chapter books out loud. When I tried to do so last year with my sixth-grade classes, the book was just too long, particularly since those classes had missed too many weeks of library to finish it. Ideally, school librarians would make different connections in different places for each participating class. In my reality, this would mean making distinct connections for 20 classes. (SPOILER ALERT: I’m not making global connections for each of my classes.) It’s almost impossible to keep track of and manage that many different global connections in any meaningful way. Since I’m on a fixed schedule, I also can’t make many of the real-time connections that other school librarians are looking for. Furthermore, there are so many ways to connect with other classes that getting started can feel overwhelming. (Do I have to Skype and use Wallwisher and Padlet and. . . and?)

In spite of these complications, I find myself adding to the program year after year because I think it’s quite wonderful. Along the way, I’ve developed some strategies.

First: Start small. In my first year, I used only picture books with my first-, second-, and third-grade classes, since I was concerned about having the time to tackle a chapter book. Also, I focused on using the global activities that others educators shared instead of creating my own or trying to make a specific connection for each class. Many people share the surveys they create and the work their students have done; we simply read and interacted with those. 

Even after I expanded the program to chapter books and other grade levels, I found great success through partnering only certain grade levels with others. This year, I’m only attempting connections for my third- and fifth-grade classes. I can’t manage a specific connection for each of my classes, so I don’t try. Luckily, there are many ways for my other classes to interact. Other grade levels will use programs to respond to the books, then I’ll share what they’ve produced on the Global Read Aloud groups on Edmodo.

Ideally, school librarians would make different connections in different places for each participating class. In my reality, this would mean making distinct connections for 20 classes.

Next: Get others involved. If your school culture will allow it, ask classroom teachers if they’d be interested in reading the books—particularly the chapter books—out loud. This allows you to focus on activities and global connections during your library time. I’ve had wonderful luck with asynchronous connections. Would it be fabulous to Skype with another class? Absolutely. But scheduling that is difficult, so it’s not something we’ve done. Still, we’ve made marvelous connections, even if they haven’t been in real time.

Last year, two of my classes found very strong connections with other students. Even after the Global Read Aloud was technically over, one of my third-grade classes kept up a delightful pen pal exchange. My city kids got to learn about the lives of new friends in a dairy farming community in Dunsford, Ontario, and vice versa. A group of my fourth graders who connected with a class in Clayton, North Carolina, actually halted their Global Read Aloud process when Hurricane Matthew hit in eastern North Carolina and their pen pals’ school was closed. Instead, we researched hurricanes and sent a small package with letters inquiring after their new friends. 

This year’s selections include picture books by Mem Fox, Peter Brown’s The Wild Robot, Victoria J. Coe’s Fenway and Hattie, Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls, and A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. The last is one of my favorite read alouds of all time, so I’m particularly excited to share it with my current group of middle-school students. One of the most exciting parts of the Global Read Aloud is the surprising directions it takes.

Even though this year’s program starts this week, it’s still not too late to join. Maybe I’ll see some of you on Edmodo!

About the Author:

Gundry Rowe is a K-8 librarian at Walt Disney Magnet School in Chicago, IL. She is National Board Certified in Library Media and has been working in children’s bookstores and libraries since she was 16. Although she prefers to balance reading kids' chapter books with books for adults, instead she finds herself reading Little Blue Truck for the 57,000th time to her three little boys.

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