Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-Thon


One of my blog friends recently posted about her experience participating in Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-Thon, and I was so intrigued! I’ve heard of marathons, of course, and even dance-a-thons…but I have never heard of a Read-a-Thon. And immediately, the wheels started turning and I started imagining how this could be developed into a school-wide event to promote literacy.


Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-Thon apparently started several years ago with a single blogger who had a vision. She wanted to put everything aside, for an entire 24 hours, and just devote that time to reading. Of course, being an avid blogger, she wanted other people to join her in this literature-love fest and blog about their experiences as well–and this is what I really love. It’s not just about connecting with a good book; it’s about connecting with each other and bonding over a common hobby. Dewey has since passed away, but her legacy lives on. Dewey’s Read-a-Thon has become a global event that occurs in the blogosphere every October and every April. It has just exploded in popularity, with people signing up to be “cheerleaders” for the readers, people posting and responding to “mini-challenges” during the Read-a-Thon, and all participants posting to their blogs, Twitters, Tumblrs, and Goodreads about their experiences.


I can imagine this being a school-wide event–and not just for reading. I would also want my students to have the opportunity to get online and write about what they’re reading and connect with other readers as well–the full experience. I want them to not just read because it’s a “school thing,” but rather, feel like they are participating in a global community. These events generally take place on a Saturday, so we would need to open up the school building (the library/media center perhaps?) the night before the Read-a-Thon starts. It would start 12:01 AM on Saturday and end 12:01 AM on Sunday. I would encourage the students to pack as if they are attending a sleepover, bringing sleeping bags, pillows, and throw blankets in tow–whatever they need to get comfortable! They would also be encouraged to bring a few of their favorite books along with them. However, I would want to have some blankets, pillows (and of course books!) ready and available for those students who can only come just as they are. If we wanted to turn it into a fundraiser, we could even get students to find people to sponsor them per page read (maybe ten cents a page) and donate the money to a worthy cause. We would need to find teachers and parents willing to sign up to chaperone different “shifts” during the Read-a-Thon, and also provide a steady stream of food and snacks to the participants. The use of electronic devices would be encouraged (phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) so that students could post updates as they read. And of course, it would be great to have some prizes involved for the most prolific readers and/or bloggers–which is only fitting since there is usually a “winner” during a marathon or a dance-a-thon. There’s no doubt that putting on an event like this would take a lot of work and community support, but I can really see it stirring up a lot of excitement about literacy school-wide! What do you think?



Reading Across the Content Areas

Reading is not an activity that should be limited to English class. Rather, it should be embedded in content area curriculum in a way that sharpens students’ literacy skills and their subject-area knowledge simultaneously. Some content-area teachers may feel that it is counter-productive to focus on literacy in their classrooms; however, studies have shown that students who learn specific reading skills for content-area materials (i.e.–strategies for reading historical documents, science texts and lab studies, and/or convoluted word problems in math) will not just become better readers. They will improve in each of those subjects as well! Their sharpened reading skills will help them become better overall learners, and help them to better read their textbooks and improve their grades across the board. Here are some materials that may be useful for integrating reading into the content areas:


Marvelous Math by Lee Bennett Hopkins–Poetry that links to different mathematical concepts (lower level).

 marvelous math

Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voices by Theoni Pappas–A great way to integrate math curriculum with reading fluency.

math talk

The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Magnus Enzensberger–The narrative of a young boy’s Alice-and-Wonderland-esque adventure through a numerical, mathematical landscape.

The Number Devil


We the People by Bobbi Katz–Poetry about American history, spanning from “The First Americans” to “Imagine,” a poem about the future ahead of us in the twenty-first century.

we the people

Lives: Poems About Famous Americans by Lee Bennett Hopkins–Great for giving a more intimate, personal perspective to biographical history lessons.


The Brother’s War: Civil War Voices in Verse by J. Patrick Lewis–A good accompaniment to a study on the Civil War; helps students to see the perspective of both sides.

the brothers war

War and the Pity of War edited by Neil Philip–An anthology of poetry written about the horror and heroism of war, spanning in time from 11th century B.C. to present day.

war and the pity of war

Remember the Bridge: Poems of a People edited by Carole Boston Weatherford–A striking collection of poems and photos that cover over 400 years of African Americans struggling for freedom.

remember the bridge

I Never Saw Another Butterfly edited by Hana Volavkova –A collection of poems and drawings created by children in the Terezin concentration camp from 1942 to 1944. This is the legacy of an estimated 15,000 children who passed through this camp on their way to Auschwitz.

I never saw another butterfly

Eyes of the Emperor by Graham Salisbury–A piece of historical fiction detailing a young Japanese American’s account of the Pearl Harbor attack, and the prejudice that he endured from his fellow Americans during the aftermath.

eyes of the emperor

Hiroshima No Pika by Toshi Maruki–A piece of historical fiction detailing a Japanese woman’s account of how she survived the bombing on Hiroshima.

hiroshima no pika

The Man From the Other Side by Uri Orlev–A novel based on the true story of a Polish boy living in the 1940’s named Marek who hated the Jews, until he ends up befriending a Jewish boy his own age and helping him hide from the Nazis.

Man from the other side

Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells–A piece of historical fiction detailing the life of a young Southern girl named India and her perspective on the Civil War that threatens to destroy her family and her Virginia home.

red moon at sharpsburg


My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States by Lee Bennett Hopkins–A collection of 51 poems written by 40 different poets. A literary exploration of geography, climate, and people across America.

My America

Got Geography! by Lee Bennett Hopkins–A collection of poetry written by a variety of well-known authors who are enamored with the idea of travelling the globe. These poems are great for pulling out to introduce a unit on a particular geographic region.

got geography

A World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme by Patrick J. Lewis–A book of fun, quirky poems about exotic destinations and fun geography trivia.

world of wonders


Redwoods by Jason Chin–A picture book may seem juvenile; however, this book is packed full of facts and trivia about Redwood trees that can be appreciated by all ages.


Ubiquitous: Poetry and Science About Nature’s Survivors by Joyce Sidman–This book pairs well-researched scientific facts with poetry to celebrate the micro-organisms and other “underdogs” of evolution who have managed to thrive throughout time. Sidman is the author of several scientific poetry/picture books that are suitable as introductions and/or supplements to science units.

Ubiquitous  Celebrating Nature's Survivors


Heart to Heart and Side by Side edited by Sandra Jordan–Two compilations of poetry written about seeing and reacting to famous works of art.

heart to heart  side by side

Talking to the Sun by Kenneth Koch and Kate Farrell–Another poetry anthology in which poems are matched to corresponding paintings.

 talking to the sun


Vocab Rock! Musical Preparation for the SAT and ACT (with CD) by Keith London and Rebecca Osleeb–The audio CD that accompanies this book is full of hip hop and alternative music that makes use of difficult vocabulary words in its lyrics. Activities and worksheets to guide the students’ understanding of the new words and their contexts is provided in the book. What a great way to study for a standardized test!

vocab rock

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss–A witty argument for the continued use of proper punctuation, and the hilarious consequences and shifts in meaning that occur with punctuation is neglected.

eats shoots and leaves