I’m a huge believer in building a school-wide reading culture. Today, I want to share ten simple ways to promote reading in the classroom and across the school. I hope these tips help your students develop a true love of reading!
Read. Read again. Then read some more. You read. They read. Everybody reads. Are you picturing that Oprah meme?
But seriously, we can only help kids build strong reading habits by walking the walk! That means making – and protecting – time every day for reading. Independent reading, literature circles, buddy reading, chapter book read-alouds, interactive read-alouds… it’s all good. Providing consistent opportunities to read has to be high on the priority list even on days when fire drills and assemblies cut into instructional time.
2. Provide access to diverse literature.
How do we reach every reader? 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 or school library recently, now’s the time. Are diverse characters represented on the covers and in the pages? Do you have books written by authors of all backgrounds? Are a range of viewpoints expressed in your fiction books? Will the community you serve feel represented by the books on your shelves? Do you highlight and teach with a variety of books?
If you need recommendations, #weneeddiversebooks on Instagram and Twitter is a great place to start!
3. Offer books your students want to read.
I’m not personally into Minecraft, but many of my students are. If I have zero Minecraft books, that’s a problem. Students need a range of print and digital fiction and nonfiction books that they want to read!
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 essential in growing readers!
I like using a quick reading survey to get to know students’ interests. This is really helpful so I can match them with book recommendations.
4. Share about your reading life.
Modeling reading behaviors and positive attitudes about reading can go really far. Reading in front of your students, discussing books you’ve read, and sharing your reading experiences is huge in helping them see that adults enjoy reading, too!
Posting signs like the ones below is an easy way to connect with students around the books you’re reading!
I totally get that not everyone is a reader, and I don’t think you should fake it. I’m honest with my students about what genres I like and don’t like. I tell them why I abandoned a certain book and even when I’m taking a break from reading at the moment. This is also a great opportunity to ask students to recommend books they think I’ll like!
5. Integrate technology.
Using technology to support reading can be really engaging for all students, 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. A simple family literacy night or read-a-thon in the school library are great ideas!
7. Showcase books that are pro-reading.
Reading starts to become “uncool” for many students in the upper elementary grades. I love finding books that frame reading in a positive light, especially when they feature characters their age! Here are 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 pique their 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
- Let students 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. People from the community are often willing to volunteer to guest read, buddy read, or mentor a growing reader. They might be willing to sponsor a little free library or 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 tip for last because it’s really one of the most important. If we make students fill out a worksheet every time we ask them to read, we may kill their love of reading. If reading becomes all about reading logs and reflections and summaries, we may turn totally them off from books. 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 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!