Franki Sibberson chats with Pernille Ripp about Global Read Aloud, a worldwide initiative bringing children of all ages together around shared read alouds. You can visit Pernille's blog at http://www.pernilleripp.com and learn more about Global Read Aloud at http://www.globalreadaloud.com
A full transcript is available below the player.
Franki Sibberson: Pernille, tell us a little bit about the Global Read Aloud project: what it is, who participates, what’s the goal, things like that.
Pernille Ripp: Sure, the Global Read Aloud, which is in its fourth year, is all about the sharing of a great read aloud. It’s about as simple as it gets. We pick a certain time of the year, usually in the fall. This year it’s September 30th, and this year, we picked three books to share and read aloud and to have students across the globe read aloud at the same time and then connect using technology, and it really hits all sorts of great levels. We always have first through about eighth or ninth grade. I think this year we’re expanding to three books.
And we have kids from all over the world enjoying the read aloud and the shared experience, so it’s just about the connection that we can create between books, and how we can get kids to understand that there are students somewhere else in the world listening to that same story and connecting with our stories just like they are and then having them share that experience. So it’s a pretty simple idea that just happens to reach a lot of kids around the world.
Franki Sibberson: I love the idea. This is the first year I participated. It was amazing. It was so powerful. Can you tell us how you got your inspiration? What inspired you to start such a big project?
Pernille Ripp: Sure. Actually, it started with Neil Gaiman and NPR and driving in our car on a summer night, my husband and I, and I’m a huge Neil Gaiman fan, and I heard them mention his name on the radio, and so I turned it up, and they were talking about the — I think it was world book or something like that, but people were using Twitter as a global book club, and they were using his books, American Gods as the first book to do it with, and I thought, “Oh, my gosh, what if we did that with a kid’s book.” And my husband looked at me, and he said, “Yeah, you should do that.” Now I was just new to Twitter. I think I had been on for about a month, and I didn’t have a lot of followers, and I didn’t know a lot of people, but I knew a couple of people that did know a lot of people, and so I sent out a few tweets and said, “Hey, how about a global read aloud.” And the reaction was instantaneous. People said, “Yes. What do we do? How do we do it? Where do we sign up?” And I went, “Uh-oh. I have not thought of any of that.” And I quickly kind of got a blog put up and a wiki put up and a sign-up sheet, and then the ball just kept rolling. So that first year, we had 60 classrooms around the world read The Little Prince. About 3000 students were involved, and then every year, it’s just kind of snowballed and really grown through word of mouth and people having a really great experience. So last year, we peaked out at about 30,000 students and this year, I think the last time I checked — a couple weeks ago — we’re already had 20,000 students signed up and September’s pretty far away, so yeah, it’s got a life of its own, and all thanks to NPR and Neil Gaiman.
Franki Sibberson: So exciting. Great idea. So you’re committed to connecting to students as learners. Can you talk about why you think that global collaboration is important, especially for young children, elementary children, and what impact that has on your students?
Pernille Ripp: Because the world isn’t as big as it was when we were growing up anymore. And kids know that; and even though they take the global connectivity for granted, they don’t understand fully. They don’t really understand that kids are just like them in other countries, and so I thought it was so important for my students to become invested in other children’s lives and to fully realize what it means to be a global citizen. We throw that term out so flippantly, “Oh, we’re global citizens.” But what does that really look like? Well, for my students, it means that if they have questions about something in England, then we find students from England to tell us about it. And I want them to know that the world is kind of this open book of just knowledge, and they just need to work on connecting with people and figuring things out. I think that’s so important, and so every kid loves a good book, and every kid loves to be read aloud to even if they’re old, so why not do that through the read aloud and have that shared experience as our beginning point, so that we can further collaborate and connect over other things down the road. It builds the trust for future relationships, and it’s really powerful for the kids.
Franki Sibberson: I have to say the share in October we did it with my fourth graders. It really did change — like that was their turning point that they kind of got it. It’s pretty amazing. So other than Global Read Aloud, how else do your students connect with others?
Pernille Ripp: A big change for us is definitely a student blog. We use kid blog. I’m just such a fan of kid blog. You think they pay me for everything I say about them, but they’re such an incredible product. And my students blog, and they blog about everything, and they also blog about curriculum, but they blog about their thoughts on education and their thoughts on the world, or they blog with other students, so that’s a huge part of our classroom. We are a blogging classroom. It’s something that my students are very proud of. We also Skype with whomever we can Skype with. We use it for all sorts of stuff, whether it’s author visits or book recommendations or of course, mystery Skype, which such a blast. We do Twitter. We just started doing Twitter last year. My kids really loved it. They discovered all these authors that were on Twitter. They come running up, “Have they answered me yet? Have they answered me yet?” It was so cool. And we just kind of have this open classroom policy, so if people want to visit our classroom, or if they want us to videotape some stuff and set it up on the Web, we do it, and we just try to let everybody see what’s happening within our four walls. So we just connect whenever we can and in whatever we’re doing, and it works really well for us.
Franki Sibberson: You mentioned Mystery Skype, can you tell us really quick what that is?
Pernille Ripp: Oh, it’s so easy. It’s fabulous. You find another classroom, and you don’t tell your kids where they are. And through Skype and through yes or no questions they answer, they have to discover where the other classroom is located in the world. And we do it internationally, and it’s so cool. And if you want to talk about – and you can’t tell as a teacher — you have to stand totally back as a teacher and make sure the kids are doing their jobs and that’s so hard as teachers, but to talk about team work, and people taking responsibility, and then using their geography skills authentically, it’s just mind-blowingly cool. And we do those usually once a week, and through Twitter, we find other classroom, and my students this year just knocked my socks off with how good they got at it, and how responsible they were for it, and they really became role models for other classrooms. It was really cool to see.
Franki Sibberson: Wow, that’s fun. I didn’t know about that one. And so finally, what’s the future for Global Read Aloud? How do you see it growing and changing? I know you said it had a life of its own, but what’s your prediction?
Pernille Ripp: Yeah, it kind of does. The cool thing about Global Read Aloud is that it is whatever the participants make it into, so I just kind of sit in the back and pull a few strings. I think the coolest thing that has happened, and it happened last year, was the involvement of the author, and the fact that Katherine Applegate, who wrote The One and Only Ivan, took time out of her incredibly busy schedule and really got invested in the project and promoted it and answered all of our questions and tweets and Skyped with people. It took it to a whole different level; and so this year, I was so excited when I already got in contact with all three authors that are involved this year, and all of them saying they’re so excited, and they can’t wait to be a part of it. And that takes it to a whole different level because now it’s not just a global connection with kids between kids, it’s also kids accessing authors, and I think that’s so important, especially for those kids that are thinking maybe they want to be a writer someday. So that’s the direction it’s going in. I don’t know. It really — I don’t know where it’s going to go. How wonderful is that, you know?
Franki Sibberson: It’s exciting.
Pernille Ripp: I just care that it’s a great book. That’s what it’s all about.
Franki Sibberson: Well, thank you. This is great. A little insight into your inspiration and everything that it’s doing; so thank you so much for doing this and your work and everything else.