I often get asked how a book becomes an official Global Read Aloud choice? The books are the heart of the project and are so very important to its success. Simply put; without the incredible books, there would be no Global Read Aloud. So how does the process work, when does it start, when does it end? And while the answers vary from year to year, there does seem to be a little bit of a pattern by now. Here are the steps to becoming an official Global Read Aloud choice.
- I receive the book. This is huge. No book has ever been selected without me having read it first. So I spend a lot of money on books. A lot. In fact, so much so that I tend to not keep track of it because it would probably upset me. There seems to be four ways I get books:
- I buy it because it looks amazing or because someone has recommended it to me. The recommendations come from people I trust, my students, The Nerdy Bookclub, people who sign up to be a part of the project, and chance.
- My students hand them to me. Often something a student has just read ends up on the contender list, I love this so much.
- One kind publisher, Simon and Schuster, has graciously started sending me books. That greatly helps me read more incredible books, that sometimes turn into contenders.
- Authors mail me books. This has only happened 3 times, but it is another way a book gets to be considered if it fits the project’s vision.
- I read the book and it speaks to me. I wish I could say I read every book I get but my pile is simply too large. So I prioritize a lot, I skim, and I abandon books if I don’t connect with them pretty quickly. After all, an official GRA choice has to spark connections.
- I listen to my inner conversation. While reading a book that I am thinking may be a possibility, I stop and think a lot. What would students say here? How would they react to this? What would this book make them think or make them do? Would they love it as much as me? Students are at the forefront of every GRA choice.
- I ask for other opinions. If I love a book, I start passing it on to people, particularly my students, to get their take. A great book may not necessarily be a great read aloud so I ask them about listening to it. Would they want to hear it be read aloud for 6 weeks? I also ask for thoughts from people I trust, what do they think, has the book been read aloud already a lot? This helps me either cement my own thoughts or sometimes changes my mind.
- We vote early. This project is not just about me, but about the thousands of people who love the books as much as I do, so their voice needs to be heard too. Therefore a shortened list, sometimes with as many as 30 books on it are sent out for public discussion. This early voting lets me listen into ideas, concerns, and general thoughts that others may have and sometimes even lets me add an unknown book to the mix. I had never read “The One and Only Ivan” but it kept popping up in conversation that I finally read it and then knew it would be our 2012 choice.
- We vote again. I like to whittle the list down to a top ten or a top five depending on what the sentiment of voters are. Then we vote again. I stop and listen to feedback once more and then the hard part starts…
- The top 2. I always make the final decision between the final contenders. This is so that I can stand fully behind the books that are chosen. And most of the times I don’t go with the most popular vote-getter either, but rather my own heart and instinct. Let me tell you; it is nerve wracking to hit “publish” on the post that shares the choices. Every year I hold my breath hoping people are as excited as I am.
So there it is; how a book becomes a Global Read Aloud book. In the end, the authors whose words that are selected are those that speak not just to me but to thousands of people across the world. They are the words that i think will spark connections, spark change, and make people feel something. Picking the books is not something I take lightly, nor for granted, it is a privilege and a very hard choice. I am lucky I get to make it every year.