Your Kid Can Read 40 Chapter Books in a School Year (Yes, They Can!)

Your Kid Can Read 40 Chapter Books in a School Year (Yes, They Can!) | HSLDA Blog

Your Kid Can Read 40 Chapter Books in a School Year (Yes, They Can!) | HSLDA Blog

What is the most important thing to teach kids? You cannot teach everything. At the risk of sounding like a broken record on this blog, I’m going to continue on my theme of instilling the love of reading in kids. Kids who read are life-long learners.

In my quest to open up new worlds for my kids and spur them on as book-lovers, I read The Book Whisper by Donalynn Miller.

Miller is, ironically, a public school teacher in Texas. But what we have in common is the desire to get kids reading as much as possible.

In her 90-minute class period, she spends the first 30 minutes allowing and encouraging her sixth-grade kids to read independently. She keeps stacks and stacks of books in her classroom to ensure that there will always be lots of interesting books in different genres readily available.

Other teachers have criticized her for allowing so much “fun” reading during classroom time, and they wonder how she can get all the mandatory content taught in only an hour. Her point is that when kids love reading—which is the most important thing—everything else will follow. She has experienced great success in getting kids to love books and, incidentally, test scores have improved significantly as well.

My credibility with students and the reason they trust me when I recommend books to them stems from the fact that I read every day of my life and that I talk about reading constantly,” says Miller. “I am not mandating an activity for them that I do not engage in myself. I do not promote reading to my students because it is good for them or required for school success. I advocate reading because it is enjoyable and enriching.”

Your Kid Can Read 40 Chapter Books in a School Year (Yes, They Can!) | HSLDA Blog

Clara has recently discovered the joys of Shel Silverstein and has marked pages of poems she wants to memorize. She likes authors she thinks are funny.

Miller notes that most adults read little or nothing. A 2007 AP poll in The Washington Post indicates that the average American adult read only four books in 2007. Of the adults who read, their average was seven books, but 25% of respondents did not read a book at all.

We have created a culture of reading poverty,” states Miller.

After reading The Book Whisperer, I realized my expectations of how many books my kids should be reading are way too low. Miller expects her students to read at least forty chapter books during the school year. Books that are more than 350 pages count as two books. Her kids consistently meet and exceed her expectations.

The lowest amount of books any of Miller’s students has ever read is twenty-something books. Because this particular kid was somebody who never previously read any chapter books at all, the fact that he read more than 20 books in just nine months can rightly be called a huge win!

10 books or 20 books are not enough to instill a love of reading in students, according to Miller.

Since I think most parents, myself included, would be thrilled if their kid read 20 books just for “fun” during a school year, I was taken-aback by Miller’s assertion that 20 is not enough to for a child to truly love reading.

But when thinking about my own experiences in reading, and when I truly started to enjoy reading on my own, just for fun, I think Miller is right.

In my next blog post, I will talk about some changes I implemented in our own homeschool day, based on what I read in Miller’s book.

I had been particularly concerned about my nine-year-old daughter, Clara, who loves when I read books aloud to her but rarely reads on her own. Utilizing some strategies in The Book Whisperer, Clara has started reading exponentially more books. I no longer remind her to read, and she has even started taking books along with her in the car so she can keep reading. Amazing!

What I have learned after experimenting with some strategies in The Book Whisperer is that 40 books a year is completely doable, even for a child who does not currently enjoy reading.

For now, I will leave you with a resource I created to help us keep track of the books we are reading this next year. Like Miller, I’m going to start expecting my kids to read 40 books during the school year, and I want them to read different genres of books.

I will explain more on how to practically implement this in my next post…but for now, here is a log I created to help us keep track of our reading: Genre Book Log for Kids.


Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; Second image courtesy of Amy Koons.

10 thoughts on “Your Kid Can Read 40 Chapter Books in a School Year (Yes, They Can!)

  1. Excellent post! My kids and I used to laugh at the school reader boards every summer that said kids should read 20 minutes a day. I’d catch them curled up with a book somewhere and tell them, “It’s summertime! Only 20 minutes a day!” I loved introducing my kids to good books. We’d get school books in August, then every year I’d fill the Christmas tree branches with fun books. It was amazing how many of them would disappear and then reappear well before Christmas day arrived. Now there are bookcases in every room of the house (except the bathrooms since the moisture would be bad for the books), and also in the hallways. I am thankful for kindle readers so that I don’t have to find more storage space! I wanted to make sure my kids loved reading, and it worked. Now the youngest is 14, and our problem is that he’ll sit and read all day, ignoring his schoolwork :).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great read! Like you, my children (3 boys) seem to prefer that I read aloud to them, which I do often, but I really want them to pick up more books and read for themselves!! Will look forward to your next post…


  3. I am a homeschooler and a writing teacher at our umbrella school. I teach high school classes and am surprised that at the end of the school year last year I asked the kids to tell me what books they read that year. Only one of my homeschooled students had read more than 2 or three books that year. I am glad you are encouraging reading through your blog and wanted to mention that I include audiobooks and read-aloud as books my kids have read, because hearing the English language read is just as important as them reading the books themselves.


  4. I have often said, if I teach my child how to read and love to read; and if I teach my child how to learn and to love to learn; they will almost teach themselves.

    My first two read the encyclopedia just for fun! They remember what I said. They are both college graduates. One teaches high school history. How they got to be 35, I really don’t know… They now homeschool their children.

    All nine of my grandchildren are homeschooled. I have two left to finish schooling.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes to everything you said here! We homeschooled our kids with Sonlight, a popular literature-based curriculum, for 16 years, and typically read at least 40 books in a year, either with me reading aloud or the student reading on their own. (I would count read-alouds as reading the book. This should be a regular activity in every homeschool.) It worked great because we would discuss the book as we read and it strengthened our relationship as well as we snuggled together enjoying those books. The books were all scheduled in the instructor’s guide, and sometimes I substituted books or added in more books.

    I can truthfully say that my daughter, who was the only one homeschooled all the way through and who graduated last June, still loves literature and has even written a few novels herself. Reading all those great books taught her what was good literature and what was not, and she taught herself to write based on that. She is an excellent writer.

    One suggestion: as you read aloud to your children, let them do arts and crafts activities to keep their hands busy as they listen. You get in two subjects at once that way!


  6. I agree! 7 kids, homeschooled from ’79-2014, and found over and over again that strong reading skills influenced every subject- and adult life!


  7. 40 books a year is boring. I’ve heard of a case where a kid read 32 books … in 1 vacation. I don’t know how long the vacation was, but she needed an extra suitcase just for her books.


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