Tagged: book requests

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Check out what students are reading over Thanksgiving break

favicon My experience says that independent reading programs don’t work well unless students approach what researchers call “voluminous reading.” There’s simply not enough time in school for students to complete the 10, 20, perhaps 40 books a year necessary to transform into avid readers.

That’s why a core tenet of the Kindle Classroom Project is to let students take their Kindles home and to request books whenever they like. The KCP believes that young people should be able to read what they like, wherever and whenever they like.

This Thanksgiving break, it’s clear that students are taking advantage of this 24/7 access to reading. The book requests are streaming in, and it’s an honor to fulfill them. Here’s a taste of what students are reading this long weekend.

– Ninth grader Ricardo (Oakland, CA) is reading Library of Souls, by Ransom Riggs.


– Eleventh grader Carlos (Oakland, CA) is reading It Calls You Back, by Luis Rodriguez.


– Tenth grader Paulina (Oakland, CA) is reading Bronxwood, by Coe Booth.


– Twelfth grader Monica (Oakland, CA) is reading We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart.


I wish Ricardo, Carlos, Paulina, Monica, and all 900 KCP students a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend of reading and relaxation. Thank you also to the generous supporters who have helped the program grow by leaps and bounds in 2016. favicon

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Kindle Classroom Project: Any book, anytime

IMG_20150911_085254550favicon My good friend Barbara, who is also a sustaining donor of the Kindle Classroom Project, made a great point tonight. It went something like this: The Kindles are great, but the KCP is about the books.

Students who participate in the Kindle Classroom Project get to read any book they want, whenever they want.

The KCP Library, which stands now at 639 titles, grows from student requests. When a student wants to read a book that is not yet in the library, she lets me know through the KCP website. Within an hour or so, the book is delivered and available — not just to that student but also to all 600+ students in the program.

Any book, anytime. Choice and access.

There’s definitely a novelty when a student gets a Kindle. Look, you can make the text bigger! You can look up words! You can turn on text-to-speech! Nevertheless, over time, like most things, the wow factor wanes.

What’s left are the books.

Every new book to the KCP Library originates as a student request. Through these requests, students recommend books to each other. A few students are particularly influential. When Tae’Janai (San Francisco, CA) requests a new book, students in Oakland — whom she’s never met — start reading it, too.

Book requests come in all the time. It’s most heartwarming when I get them in the evenings and on weekends. Students are becoming independent readers. They’re building reading identities. They’re following their interests outside of school time.

It makes me extremely happy that the KCP is expanding. New teachers are signing up, new students are joining, Kindles are showing up on my doorstep, and generous donors are making contributions so that students can read any book, anytime. favicon

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What happens when a book request comes in

Book Requestfavicon Thanksgiving is coming, which means the 600+ students in the Kindle Classroom Project are finding themselves off of school — and ready to read even more.

This also means I’m receiving more book requests than normal. Over the past week, the average has been four a day. Here’s what happens when a book request comes in.

Step #1: I receive an email in my inbox. Before I get the email, the student has already searched for the book on his or her Kindle, not found it in the Kindle Library, and then logged on the KCP Website to ask for the book. The email looks like this:

KCP Book Request Email

Looks like Jazmine likes Octavia Butler! (Kindred is a book that some teachers assign, and it’s possible this student got hooked on Ms. Butler after reading it. One of the best ways to get students to read a lot is to encourage them to follow a series, author, or interest over the course of a number of books.)

Step #2: I confirm the book is not yet part of the Kindle Library. Sometimes the Kindle’s search feature doesn’t work perfectly, and as a result, students may request a book that already exists in the library. Until I finish adding all 600+ books to the KCP website (want to help? 🙂 ), the complete Kindle Library is currently on Goodreads.

KCP Goodreads

In the bottom left corner, you’ll see that the status of this book is “want to read.” I change the status to reflect that the book is now part of the Kindle Library on Goodreads. (The Kindle Library now holds 587 titles, thanks to generous donors. Every book that is purchased comes from a student or teacher’s request.)

Step #3: I buy the book on Amazon. This part takes a few clicks. Just to be safe, the KCP’s gift card balance — where supporters’ generous donations go — stays in a separate Amazon.com account from where the students’ e-books go. This means that when I buy a book for the Kindle Classroom Project, I gift the book from account to another.

KCP Amazon Book Request

It looks like Mind of My Mind costs $6.15, much cheaper than buying the mass-market paperback at $16.14. To be clear, I’m not an enemy of physical books, but purchasing the e-book version means several things: (1) Jazmine starts reading the book immediately, (2) The book never gets lost or worn, (3) The book is available to other students, particularly if Jazmine recommends it to her friends.

Step #4: I add the book to the KCP Website and notify the student. This year is the first where the program has a dedicated website — where students can search for books, review them, and recommend them to friends. In addition, teachers will soon be able to track their students’ reading progress, and I’ll be able to see which books are most popular. Big thanks go to my friend and former colleague Brandon, who is volunteering his time and skill to develop this website.

KCP Website Page 1

You’ll see my administrator dashboard, which announces the new book requests. Mind of My Mind is ready to be added to the Kindle Library, and after a few clicks, Jazmine gets a personal notification that the book is ready for her to read. My favorite part is that I get to write a personal note to students. Even though the primary contact students have is with their teacher, I get to be interested in their reading lives, too, from afar.

So there’s the process! Usually I honor students’ book requests twice a day — once in the morning, and once at night — so that no student is waiting more than a few hours to get their book. Many requests come late at night — after school, after homework is done. This tells me that students see themselves as readers, and that they trust the KCP to deliver quickly on their reading interests.

If you would like to help a young person to read the book that he or she wants to read, please consider making a donation. Here’s the Contribute page, and here is a really quick way to donatefavicon


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You may request one book at a time

IMG_20150911_085254550favicon The reading excitement is so intense that I’m receiving multiple new book requests every day. Sometimes, these multiple requests come from the same students!

Are students hoarding books? Or are they reading them?

My guess is the latter.

Growing up, I remember times when I tore through books. It would be a reading rampage. Maybe I would hit a lull for a while and focus on baseball, but then, boom, an unstoppable reading marathon hit.

Did you experience something similar?

With the Kindle Classroom Project, students gain access to books 24 hours a day. There are now 563 books in the library, waiting to be read, plus the promise that students may request new books they want to read.

With 600 Kindles out, the requests come in every day.

Luz, a power reader in Hayward, who read 40 books last year, requested two books tonight. Katie, a student in Oakland who just received her Kindle last week, asked for a book yesterday and then another one today. Juan did the same thing.

The requests are so rampant that I’ve had to tell students, “You may request one book at a time.” My intent is not to limit their enthusiasm. It’s just that I want to make sure students are respecting the process. I don’t want their Kindles to get filled with unread books, just like the to-be-read pile next to my bed.

Except I don’t think this is what’s happening. The students who are requesting multiple books per week are reading those books, and there’s a high chance that we’ll have many students who read more than 50 books this year.

The KCP is really growing, and it’s exciting to see, and I’m happy that students are reading, and that they’re comfortable asking for the books they want to read. favicon

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The Kindle Library reaches 450 titles

favicon One powerful part of the Kindle Classroom Project is that it breaks down barriers to reading. If a student wants to read a book, he or she can request it, and because of generous donors, I buy it.

I’m happy to announce that today, the Kindle Library reached 450 titles.

Every day, the Kindle Library grows because students are reading. It’s very exciting. Here are a few of the latest books students have requested and received:

The Cartel 3The Cartel 3
By Ashley Antoinette and JaQuavis Coleman

Requested by Vanessa, Kathleen’s class, San Francisco

“I want to keep reading The Cartel books until there are no more sequels!! I LOVE THE BOOKS!!!”



Dark AllianceDark Alliance
By Gary Webb

Requested by Nicholas, Kathleen’s class, San Francisco

“I want to read this book because it revolves around the CIA and its involvement in drug syndicates. This topic has always been of interest to me. I also am looking for books that pose more of a challenge and have a higher Lexile level, and this seems like the perfect book to fill that requirement.”

Memoirs of a GeishaMemoirs of a Geisha
By Arthur Golden

Requested by Alasia, Kathleen’s classroom, SF

“I really want to read this book. I saw the cover of it a lot growing up, and I really want to read it now. What sparked my interest was yesterday I was walking by a book store, and I saw the book on sale, but I didn’t have cash. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back there or not and if the book will still be there. I was hoping I could get it for my Kindle since I just got one from my school.”

If you’d like to help students request books they want to read, please consider donating an Amazon gift card. The easiest way is to visit the KCP Wishlist and to select among the $10, $40, or $100 denominations. For more ways to contribute, please visit the Contribute page. favicon

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A few thoughts about the KCP right now

favicon Just thought I’d jot some thoughts down about the KCP:

– I’m thinking lately about how to recruit teachers to join the program. The new teacher application is solid. But no teachers yet have completed it. The application may be putting up a barrier; maybe teachers are nervous to to apply. Still, I like that I’m getting clearer about what the program is and what teachers can expect if they participate.

– I’m continuing to wonder about what to do about Kindles breaking. It happens from time to time. Kindles are fragile. A teacher and I are doing some inquiry about what can be done. Worldreader, which has done excellent work with Kindles to eradicate illiteracy in Africa, has some good ideas about decreasing breakage. One idea is to involve students in the process.

– Students continue to complete books and request new books. It happens every day. Students are more likely to fill out the request form than they are the completed books form. Both are at KCP Info, a one-stop quick site for students, teachers, and donors. (Check it out on your phone!) I want to encourage students to keep reading, to reduce the gap between the end of one book and the beginning of another, but I also need data of completed books.

– Speaking of data, I’m still working with teachers and students to collect all the successes of the program. I’m most interested in how many books students are finishing. In addition, I’d like to know if students are improving their reading scores and if they have more confidence and stronger identities as readers. All of this is a work in progress.

Donors, teachers, and students: Thank you for building this KCP community. Reading is believing. favicon

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A flurry of book requests

favicon The Kindle Classroom Project is flourishing. Here’s how I know:

– Kindles are streaming in (~1 a day, on average),
– Students are requesting tons of books.

It’s heartwarming. Students are reading, and they’re reading a lot, and as a result, they’re requesting books at a pace of around five a day.

The KCP Library is up to 406 titles. Here are a few books that students requested today:

Retribution of Mara Dyer   I Am Legend   After

The Retribution of Mara Dyer (requested by Elizabeth), I Am Legend (requested by Leo), and After (requested by Nandini) are all excellent choices. When students have choice, they choose well.

The best part about my promise — that if a student requests a book, I’ll honor that request — is that students spend more time reading. They churn through books, talk about them, and build a robust reading life.

As the KCP grows (~90 Kindles the past three months), the demand for books grows. It’s time to build the Kindle Library to 500 titles and to continue honoring students’ reading interests by providing them with high-quality titles.

Will you help? I’m piloting a cute new donation button. It’s quick and easy and fast and safe (using PayPal competitor Stripe). If you have a credit card, $10, and less than two minutes (it really is fast), please consider buying a book for a student. Here is the button!

[stripe name=”Kindle Classroom Project” description=”Help students love reading again.” amount=”1000″ payment_button_label=”I want to donate $10 to buy a book.” image_url=”http://www.iserotope.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/13-Stack-of-Kindles-e1421308500362.jpg” checkout_button_label=”Donate” enable_remember=”false”]
If you donated (or have already donated — there are many of you), thank you very much! I can’t wait to thank you more formally. If right now is not the right time, I too appreciate your interest in young people and enthusiasm for the KCP.

Update: Mary (Parkersburg, IA), a sustaining donor to the KCP, has contributed again! Thanks for getting this little book campaign started! And thanks, Kate (Oakland, CA) and Michele (San Francisco, CA), too! favicon

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Popular books among Oakland youth

favicon When you’re starting to build a classroom library, one of the best ways to find high-interest books is to ask your students what they like.

It’s not always best practice just to ask them with no context, though. If they don’t see themselves as readers, they may request a book they read several years ago, like A Child Called It or The Giver. That’s no good.

What is better is to team up with your local public library and put on a Book Faire. I’ve written about the Book Faire at Envision Academy in Oakland. It’s great. Students browse about 150 books and then fill out a slip of their top three requests. Then, if you have the money, you buy some!

Take a look at a few of the most-requested books from last month’s Book Faire in Oakland!

Any surprises? For me, there’s nothing shocking about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Life in Prison, or Perfect Chemistry. But I didn’t expect Hunger Games to still be so popular.

On the other hand, I was pleased that Zom-BMonument 14, and Article 5 made the list. Students everywhere still like zombie-filled, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian tales. Why not? (I liked Zom-B.)

The only non-memoir nonfiction title in the group, Buzzed is an excellent resource for students who want “the real truth” about drugs. It makes me happy that it’ll be checked out. wtf, maybe not so much (though I haven’t tried it yet).

Please let me know what you think of the students’ requests! Did they choose well? Have you read (and enjoyed, or hated) any of these books? And feel free, as always, if you feel the urge, to buy a few for my students over at their Amazon Wishlistfavicon

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5 books that African American boys want to read

favicon I’ve updated the Kindle Classroom Library Wishlist on Amazon to reflect some recent requests that I’ve received from African American boys.

Here they are:

Our America: Life and Death on the South Side of Chicago
by Lealan Jones
$14.44 (paper), not available on Kindle

The Beast
by Walter Dean Myers
$5.46 (paper), not available on Kindle

A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League
by Ron Suskind
$10.87 (paper), $11.99 (Kindle)

The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream
by Sampson Davis
$10.88 (paper), $12.99 (Kindle)

There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in The Other America
by Alex Kotlowitz
$10.88 (paper), $11.99 (Kindle)

* * *

Pretty good titles, don’t you think? It’s not a surprise to me that most are nonfiction (in general, boys prefer true stories). I’ve read all the books and am impressed by how they’ve remained important over time (especially There Are No Children Here, which was featured in last month’s This American Life).

I’m hoping that you, Faithful Iserotope Readers, will get the word out so some of these books can reach my students’ hands. (Hey, that’s in color!)

You’ll note that I’ve listed both physical and electronic formats if available in case donors want to help me achieve my quest for classroom library mirroring. The Amazon wishlist makes things easy: The ebooks go straight to my email, and the physical books get shipped to my address. (And yes, Kindle books are now becoming more expensive than their physical counterparts. Oh my. I don’t know what to think of that.)

If you don’t want to buy those books but still want to make a donation to reading, you can check out the other books on the wishlist or go to the Contribute page or click the green “Promote reading!” button on the top right.

And if you’d like to share this: See those cute little icons below this post? You can email this post or share it to tons of different places — like Facebook and Google+ and Twitter and LinkedIn and Pinterest (and more).

Thank you, as always, for caring about young people and their reading lives. favicon