I’m a huge believer in building a school-wide reading community. Today, I want to share ten simple ways to promote reading in the classroom and across the school to help your students develop a lifelong love of literature!
Read. And Read. Then read some more. You read. They read. Everybody reads. Are you picturing that Oprah meme?
But seriously, we have to promote reading by actually doing it. That means making – and protecting – time each and every day for reading. This means independent reading, literature circles, buddy reading, chapter book read-aloud, interactive read-aloud, etc. Providing consistent opportunities to read has to be high on the priority list even on days when the fire alarm goes off or you have an assembly cutting into your instructional time.
2. Provide diverse literature.
How do we reach every reader in our classroom or school? We can start by providing students a variety of high-quality literature in which they not only see themselves reflected, but learn about other people’s experiences, too. Making diverse books available creates an opportunity for students to connect to characters like them. That is huuuuuuge. And it also exposes them to new experiences and stories that they might not see otherwise!
If you haven’t taken a close look at your classroom library or school library recently, now’s the time. Are diverse characters shown on the covers? Do the main characters in the story come from a variety of backgrounds? Do you have books written by diverse authors? Are a range of viewpoints expressed in your fiction books? Will the community you serve feel represented by the books on your shelves?
And if you already do have a diverse selection, are you actively promoting it? Do your students know what’s there and available to them?
If you need some help adding diverse books to your library, I strongly recommend searching the hashtag #weneeddiversebooks on Instagram and Twitter!
3. Offer books your students want to read.
This goes hand-in-hand with #2. If your students are obsessed with Minecraft (sorry), and you have zero books about Minecraft, that should make you stop and go hmm. Your students need a range of fiction and nonfiction books (including e-books and audiobooks through your library) that they want to read!
First, you have to get to know your students as readers. Doing a simple reading survey at the beginning of the year, and maybe again halfway through, is a great way to get to know your kids’ interests so you can begin to match them with some great choices. Am I saying you should replace your entire collection every year for each new class? Of course not. But making an effort to fill your room and school with books your kids can’t put down is instrumental in growing readers!
4. Share about your reading life.
Modeling reading behaviors and positive attitudes about reading can go really far. Reading in front of your students, telling them about the book you’re currently reading, and discussing your reading experiences is huge in helping them see that adults enjoy reading, too!
I totally get that not everyone is a reader, and I don’t think you should fake it. I think part of the package is being honest about what genres you like or don’t like, why you abandoned a book, or how you might be taking a break from reading right now! Maybe even turn it around and ask students to recommend books they think you would like!
5. Integrate technology.
There are tons of easy ways to use technology to promote reading, which can be especially helpful with your reluctant readers, and a lot of it is already out there waiting for you. Here are a few ideas!
- Skype with an author
- Skype with another class who’s read the same book as you
- Show book trailers and book talks
- Have students film their own book trailers and book talks
- Have students use Google Apps for Education™ to respond to reading
- Have students create book recommendations or discuss a shared book on Flipgrid
Your school library likely has some leveled e-book databases, such as MyOn, TumbleBooks, or PebbleGo. These are more great options for students to read while at school or at home!
6. Participate in reading initiatives.
You can join national/global reading initiatives or work with your school librarian and reading teacher to create literacy-focused events just for your school. These don’t have to be fancy and don’t even need a lot of planning. Try a simple family literacy night or read-a-thon in the school library!
7. Showcase books that are pro-reading.
I’ve noticed that as students get older, reading starts to become “uncool.” I love finding books that frame reading in a positive light, especially when they feature relatable characters who are avid readers or even reluctant ones who decide to give a book a try! Here’s a few I like:
- The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce
- The Losers Club by Andrew Clements
- How to Read a Story by Kate Messner
- The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers
- Matilda by Roald Dahl
- Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t) by Barbara Bottner
- The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
- Just Read! by Lori Degman
8. Get creative.
Some kids just aren’t going to want to go pick a book off the shelf. Sometimes a little pomp and circumstance can help reach those reluctant readers and rekindle an interest in reading! You can:
- Hold a book tasting
- Vote on favorite books
- Raffle off new books
- Read outside
- Display student book recommendations
- Hold a book character dress-up day
- Allow students to request specific titles/subjects/genres to be purchased
- Set up a book tournament (think March Madness with brackets)
- Hold a read-a-thon
- Do a book scavenger hunt
- Start a book club
- Read with flashlights
- Pair up with another class to do buddy reading
- Make a bulletin board to showcase your staff’s favorite books
- Work with your school librarian to host an author visit
- Invite guest readers (parents, older siblings, administrators, etc.)
- Celebrate literacy-themed holidays
9. Involve your community.
If your school partners with community organizations, you already have a network of resources to explore! If not, you can try reaching out to businesses and individuals in your school’s neighborhood! Invite people from your community to come in to school to guest read, buddy read, or mentor a reluctant reader. Ask them to sponsor a little free library or to donate gently used books to your classroom library. There are lots of good opportunities here!
10. Don’t make reading a chore.
I saved this one for last because it’s really one of the most important things I want to leave you with. If we make students fill out a worksheet every time we ask them to read, we may kill their love of reading. If we ask them to complete lengthy reading logs and reflections and summaries as part of their homework, we may turn them off from reading. When reading becomes a chore, we lose readers.
I’m not saying we can’t use worksheets or that we shouldn’t hold students accountable or that we shouldn’t ask them to work on the reading strategies we’re teaching. But I do think that looking at how we set up our reading workshop, and what assignments we give, is really important. Thinking about how we present reading is important. Assessing whether we provide opportunities for student choice and voice is important. It means thinking about how we can make reading an enjoyable activity while still teaching all the literacy skills we need to teach.
Alright, I’ve come to the end! I hope you’ve found some new ideas and ways to promote reading in your classroom and elementary school! If you want to grab any of the resources you see featured, just click on the photos or click here!