How do we build a love of literacy in our classrooms? Do our students know how important it is to us that all of our children love reading? We all have our favorite subjects to teach, and we may even say or think, “Well, I’m not really a reader,” or, “I’m a math person.” As hard as we try, we may pass these messages on to our students. Gasp! Having preferences is natural, but it’s important as teachers that we do all we can to help children find books they love and build lifelong reader habits.
Interest Inventories Help Teachers Match Readers to Books
Children have unique interests. Some love sports, while others prefer activities in the arts. Students may prefer a specific genre or author too. These interests can lead to a starting point for books a child might enjoy and help us with book titles that we might recommend or that other students might recommend to each other.
Book Talks Spark a Love of Literacy
Book talks from the teacher as well as from students help spark interest in new literature. As you learn about new titles, you might work a little promo into your morning meetings or as part of your mentor text lessons. You might highlight great titles you see in the Scholastic Book Order forms you send out, or you might share just the opening of a book or an exciting scene as a teaser. After all, this method is used all the time with movie trailers. In fact, you might even consider letting your students videotape book trailers to share with classmates. My friend, Anita, over at Goodwinnovate, has a great collection of blog posts on using greenscreens in the classroom. Imagine how fun that type of project would be for your students. AND…all you need is an iPhone or iPad and a green bedsheet as a backdrop to get started!
Book Recommendation Walls Increase Motivation
Book recommendation walls are a must in my opinion. They can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. I’ve done them with blank index cards where students simply record the title of the book, a small illustration, and a one sentence summary. You can also create them with some of the seasonal forms I’ve shared (Christmas Lights, Mittens , and for this month, Conversation Hearts). With all of these activities, we strung them on clothesline in the hallway to share with classmates in other classes. You can read all about our We Love Literacy Month here.
Host A Book a Month Project to Share a Love of Literacy
Recently, a few teacher friends started A Book a Month Project by soliciting sponsors for each of their students. For just $10 a month, teachers can purchase a book a month for each child in their classroom using Scholastic Book Club’s dollar deals. I think it’s the best idea ever IF you can find the sponsors for your kids, and what a way to spark motivation!
One School + One Book=Love of Literacy
One School, One Book is a parental involvement activity many schools have adopted to foster independent reading in the home. Typically, one chapter book is chosen for families to read together, so it’s important that the RIGHT book is chosen in order to include all age levels. Parental involvement funds through Title 1 can be used for this project. At the end of the reading time, you might host a “book bites” night for discussing the book or have the kids create a final project to share.
Book Clubs Increase Motivation
After-School Book Club
A few years ago, our school hosted after-school book clubs for students in grades three through five. The kids signed up to read one of 3-4 book titles, and each group was led by a parent volunteer. The children really enjoyed it and so did the parents.
Many of the books chosen had discussion guides available online which helped in the planning, and during the winter months, it was nice for the kids to have an after-school activity. Participation in the fall and in the spring dropped off considerably due to after-school sporting activities. However, another option is to run book clubs in the classroom.
Benefits of In-School Book Club
First of all, all students can participate, and in a way, it provides them with additional small group time.
Secondly, we know conversation builds enthusiasm and engagement. Kids in upper elementary need to talk, and having a shared experience with a book builds wonderful memories.
With book clubs, you can also work in accountability. You can run your clubs using reciprocal teaching where each student has a specific job or role such as these on the right OR you can provide your students with a response to reading form that must be turned in after the group meets. Below, you’ll find a subscribers only resource I created for book clubs. I hope you’ll find the set helpful in planning.
Finally, book clubs can assist students in making connections with their peers in the classroom. Students learn who has the same reading preferences as themselves, and from there, they can make book recommendations to each other.
And one more point…book clubs make reading fun.
Get Books in Their Hands with Take Home Bags
The last suggestion I have is to have a well stocked classroom library that you can use for lending. For my entire teaching career, I’ve done take home bags. Each night, kids get to take home a book to read. In the middle to upper grades, it might be the book they picked from the library, but for the primary grades, I always sent a short picture book geared to the child’s independent reading level that the STUDENT picked.
It takes time to switch books out, but my kids were always trained to swap them out. During the day, we worked in about 15 minutes of independent reading where I would confer with students about their books. We didn’t discuss every single one, but we did discuss enough that I was able to learn what my students liked reading and because I knew books, I was able to recommend books they might choose next. To build your classroom library, I have several suggestions:
- Send out notes via your school newsletters and to your parents that you are in need. Many parents clean out bookshelves and enjoy donating books to teachers.
- Check out yard sales. Most books in my library were purchased at yard sales for a quarter a piece.
- Make requests for the use of Title 1 funding to support reading at home.
- Donor’s Choose is another great source of funding. A well written proposal with photos is sure to get funded.
Use Personal Book Bins for Keeping Books Kids Love
My last suggestion for building interest in reading is to provide your students with book bins. You can find wonderful bins at The Dollar Tree or Target’s Dollar Spot that are perfect for this purpose. In each bin, students can keep their library books, guided reading books that can be used for repeated reading poetry anthologies, magazines, bookmarks, journals, sticky notes, and/or highlighters. As you can see, there are LOTS of ways we can encourage a love of literacy.
Related Posts You Might Enjoy:
- Using Early Morning Book Club to Motivate Readers
- Helping Your Readers Love Reading
- Keep Kids Reading with a Summer Book Club
This list is certainly not all inclusive, so what do you do? Please share your best tips for celebrating books in your room.