Creating a strong community of readers in our classrooms can produce literary habits that last a lifetime. The good news is that it is not difficult to accomplish. The best news is that it can be loads of fun for us and our students.
Here are 21 ideas that help promote a passion for literacy. Pick and choose what fits your style, the time you have available, and your grade level.
- Stand in the middle of your classroom and look at each wall separately. Is there something that nourishes the values of reading in every view?
- In my classroom, reading is a goal, a belief, and an everyday practice. Here’s my initial reading speech: “I love reading. I hope you do too. But if you don’t know how to read yet, I will teach you. If you haven’t found books you like to read yet, I will help you. We will become book people together. Now let’s begin by reading one of my favorite books this very minute.”
- At parent night, be enthusiastic about reading. Ask parents to name their favorite book as a child. Share handouts with an outline of how you teach literacy at school and what parents can help their children work on at home.
- Nonnegotiable: Build a personal relationship with each child. Find out their interests and relentlessly search for that genre, topic, or even a particular book. This is time well spent and yields great gains.
- Be sure to collect diverse books that represent various cultures. Children should be able to find a book in your classroom and say, “That’s me.”
- Involve and appreciate the librarians. Make a point to thank them for the opportunity to check out books at every visit. Invite them to the classroom to participate in Daily 5, even for just a few minutes.
- Encourage the children to read as soon as their belongings are put away in the mornings. It’s a peaceful way to transition into school.
- Make finding interesting words an exciting game. Hunt for “zesty” words in your read-alouds, and write them down. Challenge students to find “lively” words in the books they read; even parents can send in “fancy” words to add to the list. Soon you’ll have “marvelous” words popping up all over.
- If you order books from Scholastic Book Clubs, open the box together and marvel at the treasure of new, unopened books. Read a few immediately.
- Use book character names for math story problems. “Curious George had 10 bananas. He ate two for breakfast and three for lunch. How many will he have for dinner?”
- Display familiar book character “stuffies” throughout the room. They double as comfy reading buddies during Daily 5. Find them at local bookstores or on Amazon.
- Take reading field trips throughout the school. Pile into the principal’s office to read a book about school, the art teacher’s room for a book about color, or the cafeteria for a book about food. Challenge the children to suggest new “trips.” Be sure to take photos to revisit the excitement later.
- Invite students to bring books from home to add to their book boxes. This is especially helpful if your classroom library is small.
- Find reading buddies. In my school, kindergartners pair with fourth graders. We meet once a week for 20 minutes and read together. It’s a perfect match.
- Use your clothing to advertise books. You can find book-themed socks, T-shirts, and bags with literary sayings at Etsy and Amazon.
- Invite students to bring photos of themselves reading outside of school in interesting places. It’s just fun.
- Look for picture books where characters are reading, enjoying books, and collecting words. How Rocket Learned to Read, Hooray for Books, and The Word Collector are favorites, but there are many, many more. Books like these provide repeated opportunities to discuss the enjoyment and merits of reading.
- Teach children to read between the minutes. Waiting time is wasted time. Never go in the car, to an appointment, or to a soccer game without a book.
- Share your reading life with students. Talk about what you read last night, before work, or on your weekend/vacation.
- Participate in World Read Aloud Day or Read Across America Day. It’s a way for children to be a part of something bigger. Besides reading that day, have a book-themed snack. Pinterest has many possibilities.
- Volunteer to help with a literacy night for the entire school. You want to be seen and known as the teacher who loves reading.
Inspiring a child to discover the love of reading is a noble pursuit. Whether reading for pleasure or knowledge, reading competency is a building block for a happy and productive life. We, as teachers, can help. Isn’t that why we went into teaching in the first place—to make a difference?