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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

"Read along with me: the best is yet to be." - Lisa Dabbs (adapted from Robert Browning)

When I first became a teacher, I was excited to begin sharing the love of reading with my students. I grew up loving to read and couldn't wait to open up the children's literary book club pick that my Dad had on monthly order for me.

The time I spent with books transformed my life and sparked my imagination. I wanted to create a similar experience for my students, but I found that it was sometimes a challenge due to their home life circumstances. In the end, though, it was well worth the effort.

Fostering the love of reading in your class may take a little work, but there are plenty of resources available to support you in this effort. Here are five suggestions that can help you get started with leading the "love for reading" charge.

1. Read Aloud

Read-aloud time was one of the favorite things in my class. My students loved the chance to sit together on the carpet or at their desks and listen to their teacher read. It was one of the best times of the day for me. I loved to read in different voices and "ham it up," depending on the book we were reading. It gave my students a chance to see me in a different light and connect with me in a down-to-earth way. Don't neglect this opportunity to bring reading alive in the classroom. Remember that it's OK to read fave books many times during the year, and to include chapter books and poetry as well. If reading aloud is not your thing, seek out colleagues, administrators, parents and web friends who can support you. Skype an Author is also a great way to build excitement around the read-aloud time.

2. Visit the Library -- Weekly

When was the last time you stepped into your local library to check out the haps? When was the last time you did this with your class? It's true that many school libraries have been shut down, but why not consider planning a library field trip? It's an amazing opportunity to get books into the hands of your kids -- for free! Get colleagues, parents and school admin to support you. Your local librarian can be an excellent resource, so be sure to tap him or her for support. While you're there, don't forget to sign everyone up for a library card!

3. Develop a Classroom Library

Did you know that research says we should have at least 1,200 books in our classroom libraries to support our students' literacy? Do you have a classroom library? If not, I urge you to develop one. To share the love of reading with our students, we need to have a variety of books that are easily accessible for them to read. How do we accomplish this feat? By enlisting the support of parents, friends and family who will make a commitment to support your goal of developing and sustaining a classroom library. Ask them to donate books or sponsor your class with resources that can be used to purchase books. Also, be sure to collaborate with colleagues on creative ways to fund your libraries.

4. Start a Book Club

The idea of a book club can be so exciting for our kids. Many students will benefit from the fun interaction that a book club can provide. Book talks with friends makes the idea of reading that much more enjoyable. The whole social nature of book clubs can be a very positive activity for kids who may still feel that reading is boring. For a resource on how to get a book club rolling, check out Elizabeth's blog post about how she engages her students in reading.

5. Write Stories

Writing stories can be overwhelming for kids. At the beginning, let's make this easy and fun. Try the idea of adapting a current storyline of a favorite book (Brown Bear, Brown Bear comes to mind) and having students turn that into "their" story. Early grades especially can benefit from this strategy to support a student's writing until they are ready to write (with your guidance) on their own. Consider integrating apps, such as StoryBird and FlipSnack, that allow for a collaborative writing experience.

More Suggestions to Keep On Reading

Here are three more resources that you might want to check out:

  1. Read with Me: My Book List: Create a Pinterest board with your classroom.
  2. What Should I Read Next?: Type in your favorite book, and this website will list 20 others similar to it.
  3. Ten Ways to Cultivate a Love of Reading in Students: My fellow Edutopia blogger Elena Aguilar provides more great tips.

The five tips I've shared today are probably not new to you, but they are a way to help you stay on course with nurturing a love of reading in your classroom. Do you have suggestions of your own? I'd love to have you share them in the comments.

Comments (11)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

zep's picture
zep
Education Specialist

I appreciate that rather than forcing kids to read early, these activities invite the joy of reading. These type of enjoyable experiences will eventually foster the student asking the teacher to help them learn to read. Now if only we can get every teacher to take this invaluable wait time...

Kevin D. Washburn's picture
Kevin D. Washburn
Educator with interest in neurocognitive research
Blogger 2014

Excellent! When I was in college I had a professor who strongly encouraged me to develop an extensive classroom library. I made this a major emphasis in how I arranged my classroom, and how I spent the little spending money I had left over in each paycheck. But it was all worth it. When I occasionally interact with students I had in that fourth grade classroom, who are now adults, the thing they remember is the stories we shared and that they fell in love with reading during that year. I'm grateful that professor had such influence on me. May your ideas find their way into our thinking and efforts!

Norah's picture
Norah
Early childhood teacher, writer, life-long learner

These are great suggestions. Reading aloud time was always a favourite time in my classroom, for me - never mind the children! Setting aside times for uninterrupted sustained and independent reading with everybody reading material of their choice (DEAR - drop everything and read) is also very worthwhile.

Mike Serrano's picture

Thank you, excellent article! To help with item #3 Build a Classroom Library- try Classroom2Classroom.

Grenard Madrigal's picture
Grenard Madrigal
Web Developer for BirdBrain Science

I grew up in magnet programs and with a sister that, more or less, forced me to read and write from an early age (she made it fun though). So, these are all things that I took part in and got excited about as a kid and it really put me on the right track early. I also realize a lot of kids weren't as lucky as myself and these things weren't available to them. I think one of the best parts about this list is that all of them are both cheap and easy! So, it's nice to have this list together as a little reminder of how simple things can do the trick just as well as all of the crazy technology out there. Something important to remember, especially if you're a web developer like myself!

Elizabeth's picture

Thank you for linking to my post about Book Clubs! I have loved listening to my students' conversations about books. Fostering a love of reading should be our number one priority in reading instruction.

Keadle's picture
Keadle
2nd grade, Georgia

I am looking forward to trying Book Clubs with my second grade students. Initially, I plan to read the book aloud and then let my students discuss each chapter in their own book club group. I am looking forward to hearing their comments and opinions. Thank you for the tip.

Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Media teacher

I teach 8th grade English, and a few years ago I started a daily practice that has quite simply and radically turned my classroom into a book-loving refuge. Each day, after my students spend 10-15 minutes reading books of their choice, I read aloud to them. I know read-alouds aren't new, but I read from a different book each day, which exposes them to so many different authors, genres and stories. I keep a running list of the books I have shared in front of the room , and students add books to their own lists that sound good to them. This is such a simple procedure, but it has huge impact. When we talk about writing/reading now, we are able to reference so many different books/authors/genres that we've shared. Parents tell me all the time now that kids ask for books from the bookstore/library, and they read on their own, at home, without it being a requirement.

I also have a huge (1000+) paperback library, which I have built mostly for free through Scholastic. I encourage (really push) book orders (via email, website, etc.), and when parents order, I get free books. Keeping track of the check-outs used to be a problem, but now I've got them all catalogued via http://classroom.booksource.com/, which makes keeping track of them a lot easier.

I'm convinced that helping my kids learn (or re-learn) to love to read is one of the most important parts of my job, and I'm also convinced that the best way to do that is without assessing or requiring pleasure reading. We just read every day in class, share new books every day in class, and take a variety of opportunities to talk/blog with each other about our books. No dioramas, posters, reports, etc. for pleasure reading, and no reading logs. Without a doubt it's the best change I've made to my classroom in 20+ years.

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