Global Read Aloud: The little idea that could

By Team ISTE 9/21/2015 Literacies

The big things always start with a spark of an idea. And so it was for Global Read Aloud, an intention that came to teacher Pernille Ripp in 2010 when she wondered what would happen if teachers around the globe read a book aloud and then found a way to connect.

“It was just an idea to try, and then I blogged about it and the response was immediate,” Ripp, a seventh grade teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, recalls. “It was very organic. If I knew how large it would grow, I might not have done it.”

But she did. Since its launch five years ago, Global Read Aloud can count more than 500,000 connections made in 60 countries.

This year’s event kicks off Oct. 5, and Ripp is encouraging educators globally to take a chance and join the project. The premise is simple. During the set six-week period, participate with educators and students worldwide in reading the selected books. Then, find some way to connect with one classroom or several who are reading the same book.

The books vary by level of maturity – from picture books to chapter books. While there’s no specific lesson plans, there is a breakdown on how many chapters those reading chapter books should cover each week. And one caveat – don’t’ read ahead and spoil it for others.

Dip your toe in or jump in with both feet

Each educator decides how much time to dedicate and how involved they’d like to be. Those just exploring the idea can participate by having their classes read one of the books and discuss how learners worldwide are participating in the same process. Or, you can jump in with both feet and get your students connected with others using Edmodo, Google Docs, Padlet, Twitter, Skype, Kidblog, Tackk and the Global Read Aloud wiki.

No matter the depth of your involvement, Ripp acts as your reading Sherpa along the way, providing everything you need to know to engage in the project via emails as soon as you sign up and continuing weekly. Updates are also posted on the Global Read Aloud website and Facebook – all the places where people get their information, Ripp says. And because the event has spawned an entire passionate community, other educators frequently add to the conversation and assist others via Edmodo or Twitter.

“People invent all kinds of things to make it work for them,” Ripp explains. “All of the things that come out of it are student-driven and passion-driven, and the pioneers that do these things are so willing to share.”

The goal is to get kids to fall in love with books

For those who are terrified, skeptical or pressed for time, Ripp and her team have you covered. “Just start reading the books and then tune into one of the big events that are happening,” she suggests. Random Acts of Kindness Week, for example. If you don’t have a lot of time to spend figuring out technology that’s new to you, just pick one thing – like a culminating Skype session at the end of the six weeks.

As is her style, Ripp doesn’t have a target for total participation. But she does have a goal in mind.  “It’s more of a personal goal that my students have an experience with this, fall in love with the books and have a sense of the global nature of it. My goal is to make sure my students say, ‘yes, that is a great book.’”

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