21 August

Back to School Reading Goals

We are so excited to share this special guest blog from 7/8th grade English and Literature teacher Jennifer Guyor-Jowett!

My earliest memory of setting a reading goal began with a list. I wrote the names of all of the Nancy Drew books into a notebook with a pencil, charting them in order from first published to most recent. My lines separating the columns for Title, Date Read, and Likability Ranking wobbled down the page, and my handwriting certainly wouldn’t have won any awards, but it was all mine. I took great satisfaction working my way through that list, adding the date completed and four or five stars, depending on how much I’d liked the book. Summer churned by as I churned through the titles, reveling as much in the formulaic plot lines and familiar characters as in the completion of my list. Eventually, I read nearly every book that spanned the years from The Secret of the Old Clock, published in 1930 to The Mystery of the Glowing Eye, published in 1974. 

My reading list began intuitively, as a means of celebrating each finished book in a series. As a reader, a parent, and a teacher, I am proud of that list. It acknowledges the journey I took to accomplish my goal, and seeing the few selected Nancy Drew titles that still sit on my bookshelf carries me right back to that summer. My methods of documenting books has evolved from that first hand drawn chart to pinning an image on a Must Reads Pinterest page, which I consistently use as a reference, to my latest celebration, an art journal containing quotes, images, and dates that detail what I love about a book. These various methods have changed as I grew as a reader, as have my reading goals.

Goals can be funny things. The word goal dates back to the mid-1500’s or as early as the 14th century, depending on how strong of an etymological connection there is between the early words. That means we either accept the idea that goals began as the end point of a race (1530s) or as a boundary or limit (14th c). One meaning allows us to reach for an aspiration while the other confines us. 

As teachers and parents, we want to encourage younger readers to challenge and push themselves along to a greater love of books without limitations. It can be a complex task to find a balance between these ideas. If we set our own goals for them, we risk stifling their growth as readers. Reading should be an enjoyable journey, a path we each discover on our own, with hints, tips, treasures, and encouragement offered by experienced book journeyers along the way. The ultimate destination should be one our reading goals can help direct us toward. 

There is great value in setting our own reading goals. After sharing my classroom library with my students last year, I showed them the due date check out card that documents their reading and allows me to see which books have a continuous flow through the room. I held up a card from a previous student who had filled up both the front and back of her card, as well as address labels placed over the completed lines so she could keep going. A 7th grader immediately asked how many books she had read that school year. Eighty-seven. Eighty-seven! He determined to beat that goal. And when he did, he reset his goal to 100. His father later told me he had rediscovered his love of reading that year. Allowing kids to have choice and be the guides of their own journey creates joy and self-discovery as well as accomplishment. 

Reading goals can be simple (the number of books read, read a new author). They can be challenging (read a book a day, beat a previous goal). They should be individual (read more outside of school, try a new genre). But they should always be achievable as a means of determining how a reader wants to grow.

Reading Goal Tips:

  • Make time to read every day
  • Create lists of books that you want to try
  • Be consistent about time and space for reading
  • Document your reading to celebrate what you’ve accomplished
  • Don’t be hard on yourself if life gets in the way of reaching your goal
  • Write reading goals down
  • Utilize an online “bookshelf” like Goodreads for tracking and receiving upcoming book notifications

Tips for Parents/Teachers to Encourage Students to Reach Reading Goals:

  • Provide variety in documenting goals (lists, chart, bullet journal) 
  • Offer different art supplies for creating reading goals
  • Explore images for different methods of keeping a reading goal journal
  • Booktalk the books you’ve loved
  • Read aloud the first chapter 
  • Allow students to sample books and set them aside if they don’t work for them
  • Share lists of books that other students have loved
  • Read the books that they talk to you about
  • Make time and space for reading a priority
  • Discuss reading goals and be open to change
  • Start a book club and make reading goals one of the first activities

Etymology resource:

My Pinterest Must Reads:

Pinterest Bullet Journal Ideas:

About Jennifer Guyor-Jowett:

Jennifer Guyor-Jowett is a 7/8th grade English and Literature teacher whose classes continually morph in response to student interests and the many new books discovered. She also works as an editor and enjoys sharing ARCs with her #booksojourn group. Follow her on twitter @Jenjowett where she celebrates her love of reading.