I was not really prepared for the swag at ALA Midwinter. I mean, I would have spent some time lifting weights or something. My arms were sore. So sore!
I had never been to a conference like ALA. On the advice of some #nerdybookclub friends, I just got myself an exhibit hall pass, mostly hoping to find some people I knew. Before heading down, I made a quick list, using Mr. Schu’s book release calendar, of books I was hoping to find. There were maybe 10 books on that list.
I came home with 75.
The exhibit hall was ridiculous. I confined myself to the book publishers’ area (as interested as I am in electronic library catalogs). And they were just handing books away. I spent the entire day there on Sunday. I would just loop around and around and around. Every time I came by a booth, they had different books out. I had to make a drop at my car three times.
I also picked up stickers, posters (for my classroom and for my kids), pencils, bookmarks, and other assorted paraphernalia. It was endless! It’s a good thing I don’t read grown-up books, or many YA. I wouldn’t have had room in my car! I confined myself to middle grade books.
When I got home, I was presented with a bit of a problem. Here I had 75 unreleased books. Usually, I only put books on my classroom shelves if I have read them, if I know the author, or if #nerdybookclub friends have “endorsed” them. Of the books in the pile, maybe 12 fit that category. Now what? It would take me months to read 60 middle grade novels.
On the advice of Donalyn Miller, I spread all these ARCs out on the desks in my classroom. I gave my 5th graders 10 minutes to browse and make note of the titles that interested them most. Then, by random draw, they selected books to read. The rest went on a “To Review” shelf. The only requirement for reading these advance copies was to give the book a 50-page chance, inform me of anything inappropriate, and write a review if they finish the book. A book with two “acceptable” reviews could move from the “To Review” shelf to the classroom library.
My students really took to this. Everyone found a book they’d like to try out. A few have finished books and are working on reviews. Others are choosing not to read these, because they don’t want to have to review them (they’ll wait until the books gain their two-review approval). Everyone is having fun. That’s what reading is about.