Fifth-Grader Completes 40-Book Reading Challenge

He didn’t finish the books before the pandemic closed schools – but he did complete it as part of his at-home learning. His work and commitment didn’t go unnoticed by his teacher who drove to his home, put a congratulatory sign in his yard and left a gift as promised.

“She made a promise and she kept it,” said Camden. “I was so surprised when she came out with the sign and the gift. I was really happy and excited. We had been out of school for two months and I hadn’t seen her.”

Michalski said the goal of the challenge was simple – to instill a love of reading in her students. She got the idea after reading “The Book Whisperer” by Donalyn Miller. Michalski made the challenge mandatory for everyone – even herself. The whiteboard at the back of her classroom was covered with tracking sheets of every student so they could share the books they had read and celebrate milestones reached. Students were recognized with small rewards for reaching certain goals throughout the year.

Camden said after reading a book, students had to write a letter to Michalski telling her about the book and what they liked best. She, in turn, wrote back to every student after every book completed. “I liked getting her letters,” said Camden. “I even got them after we were out of school.”

The challenge was going very well.  Students were actively participating and eagerly watching the number of books read grow. More importantly, Michalski said her students were showing an eagerness to read books and try new genres. Before schools closed March 13 because of COVID-19, collectively the class had read 297 books, but no one had met the 40 book challenge yet.

With students at home, Michalski said she continued to encourage her students to read and complete the challenge. Camden was the only student to reach the goal by the end of the school year.

I’m hoping to have more students reach 40 next year! My plan is to start a Hall of Fame on a wall in my room and keep adding to it until I retire. I’m loving the impact the program is having and will definitely continue for the rest of my years!” said Michalski.

Camden said his favorite books to read were the first three books of the Harry Potter series and especially liked the “/Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” He also likes realistic fiction and a comedy series called “I Funny.”

When school was in session, Camden said he read a lot during his bus rides to and from school. After COVID-19 shuttered the classrooms, he still made 45 to 60 minutes available every day to enjoy his books. He said he’s very glad he didn’t give up and now has developed a strong love of reading.

“I would just want to tell my teacher thank you for making me realize I like books so much and I would tell her I miss her,” said Camden.

His mom, Katie, said she gives Mrs. Michalski a lot of credit. “She kept up with him even after the break. She kept encouraging him to read and meet that goal,” she said.

In an email to Page Principal Gregg Bruno Katie wrote, “She (Mrs. Michalski) followed through with her promise, drove from GR,  placed an awesome sign in our yard and gave him a very generous gift card to Barnes and Noble (for more books of course!). Our kiddos feel pretty let down right now between cancelled vacations, events, field trips, etc. so we greatly appreciate that she kept her promise and made it happen! She has been so very supportive, helpful and available during this crazy time through text, FB messenger, phone calls and Zoom for both the students and parents. We greatly appreciate all of her efforts!”