February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Connecting the World Through Books: Tips from the Global Read Aloud  

Fourth graders creating an image for our Pinterest board for "The Sketchbook of Impossible Things," which is based on an idea from Lynda Mullaly Hunt's Global Read Aloud book,  Fish in a Tree.

Fourth graders from the Orchard School in Vermont created a Pinterest image for “The Sketchbook of Impossible Things,” which is based Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s Global Read Aloud book, Fish in a Tree.

The Global Read Aloud (GRA) is in full swing, but it’s not too late to join or glean tips from this popular annual project for connecting readers across the globe.

“The premise is simple; we pick a book to read aloud to our students during a set six-week period and during that time we try to make as many global connections as possible,” states the GRA site. This year’s program formally runs through November 13, with recommended books for various age ranges, plus a picture book author study for younger students. This year’s selections are: The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes (ages 7 and up); Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (9 and up); Fish by L.S. Matthews (12 and up); and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina (14 and up). Younger students are reading six picture books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, one in each of the six weeks.

Grade-level recommeGRA15 booksndations have been purposely removed so educators are not confined in their choices. The beauty of the project is that there is so much freedom in how teachers can use it.

“People make it their own and relish the experience,” says Pernille Ripp, a Wisconsin educator who founded GRA in 2010. There are no packaged lesson plans, although participants are very willing to share resources. During GRA, educators may connect with as many classes as they’d like. On the GRA site, Ripp offers numerous ways to connect—Edmodo, Twitter, Skype, KidBlog, the project wiki, and more.

In 2014, GRA drew more than 300,000 student participants from 60 different countries. More than half a million students are expected to participate this year.

The authors of the various books are also connecting with GRA readers through Twitter and/or videos posted on their blogs. Although there are recommendations on specific chapters to read each week, these are only guidelines. Flexibility is one of this project’s best features. Teachers may jump into the project at any time.

I joined the project in 2011 with my fifth graders, who read Tuck Everlasting. We connected with others mainly through Edmodo. In the following years, our contacts grew. Today, all 20 classes in my school—kindergarten through fifth grade—are exploring the world beyond their classroom walls through participation in GRA groups.

We’ve been doing Mystery Skypes, sharing Padlets, writing blog posts and responding to others’, joining Google Hangouts, tweeting, Skyping, taking surveys, and sending emails. For the Rosenthal picture book author study, kindergarten and first graders heard the first book in the project, Chopsticks, and then learned how to use the namesake utensil. We’re now creating a shared book of pictures of students eating with chopsticks with some new friends in the state of Georgia.

Here are a few recommendations if you’re considering jumping into the Global Read Aloud:

  • Pour over the amazing Global Read Aloud website. There are so many possibilities, but I’d recommend starting with one or two ideas. The most important thing is to choose a book to read aloud, enjoy with your students and then connect with someone, somewhere.
  • Take a look at your chosen book’s GRA Twitter hashtag. For the Amy Krouse Rosenthal author study, folks are using #GRAAmy, but when discussing a particular week’s book, you could use #GRAAmy1, #GRAAmy2, and so on. There are similar hashtags for each of the other books in the project. Participants are sharing amazing ideas and you just may find a great connection.
  • View a Pinterest board of related ideas.
  • Participate in “slow chats,” available on Twitter. Classes around the world have volunteered to pose questions each w eek and moderate discussions about the chapters. Classes participate by tweeting whenever they have time.
  • Skype or Google Hangout with another class about your shared book.

More information about this year’s project is available on the GRA website.

As Ripp says, “It’s never too late!” All are welcome. Of course, “There is no pressure to do everything,” she says. Just explore your options and connect with the world through a book.


Donna Sullivan-Macdonald (@dsmacdonald) is ISTE Librarians Network past president and library media/tech integration specialist at the Orchard School in South Burlington, VT.



Diversity and Cultural Competency Training: Collections & RA

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