Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Power of a Challenge

 As of today, I am over half way through my 180 Book A Day Challenge that began back in August. I pledged to read one elementary level book for each day school is in session, based on our school’s theme this year:  “Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader.”   Born from that challenge I have been promoting the books I read on the morning announcements.  I have somewhat slacked from that job as of late, but with the new semester, I am pledging to get back to my regular appearances.  I have been keeping track of my books by printing small images of each book I read and posting them on a bulletin board titled, “Principal’s Picks of the Week” in our main hallway.  The five books I am reading that week or the previous week are also displayed for all of the students to see.

So what have I gained by taking part in this challenge?  One thing I have most definitely gained is a deeper knowledge about children’s books.  Not only do I have better knowledge of the books that are available in our school library, I also have a greater knowledge of children’s literature in general.  I hate to admit it, but before this challenge, the only Sharon Creech book I had read was A Fine, FineSchool.  I had no idea she had written such beautiful, and now much-loved, novels such as Walk Two Moons and RubyHoller.  If not for my challenge, I may have never discovered this!  That would have been a huge tragedy, indeed!  I may have never discovered that the world of non-fiction picture books has really expanded and changed in the past decade to include such beautiful books as Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet or that graphic novels are now all the rage with Jenni and Matt Holm's characters  Baby Mouse and Squish leading the charge! 

I have also gained a school community of readers as a result of this challenge—a community to which I belong and feel very much a part of.  Students recommend books to me or say, “Ms. Higgins, have you read….?”  I feel confident in telling a student I think he would really enjoy Fake Mustache by Tom Angelberger—BECAUSE I HAVE READ IT!     Another bonus is that my staff is also part of this community and we now talk more with each other about the books we are reading—be it for school or in our personal lives.  Divergent and Insurgent by Veronica Roth have been making the rounds among the teachers (one of my favorite series that is not part of my school challenge, by the way), and many of them have also read Wonder by RJ Palacio and Matched by Ally Condie.  One of the greatest gifts I received this holiday season was from one of my teachers who wrote a letter to me, from her heart, and then attached a list of book recommendations.  Has that ever happened before?  No!  Why now?  Because I am projecting my love of books into my school community and showing them that books have the power to connect us all. 

This challenge has connected me with my students and staff in ways I never imagined, and I look forward to completing the second half of the adventure.  What books would YOU recommend I read?


  1. I hope other principals read this post and take note. As a teacher at Ms. Higgins' school, I can attest to the fact that my students listen to her book talks on announcements with rapt attention and love to write out their own recommendations for her. This is such a good example of excellent leadership effecting powerful change, not just in students but in staff as well. Lead on, fearless reader!

  2. One of my favorite parts of working at our book fairs has been sharing book recommendations and having book conversations with students, teachers and parents. It isn't a whole lot of interaction, but enough to build connections. At middle school events over the last few years, I recognized several of my repeat customers and, of course, they were among those inducted into honor society and receiving awards for their accomplishments. I love the waves I get out in the community when students recognize me from the book fair. Happened just last week at the grocery store! I'm glad I've been able to share my passion for reading this way!