Five Simple Ways to Improve Your Reading Climate

Reading climate matters, and there are things teachers can do to build a positive and warm reading climate to encourage your students. This post includes real actionable ideas.

Having a positive reading climate has been proven to directly impact student motivation and achievement. There are lots of things teachers can do to build a positive reading climate for readers. In this post, I’ll share five ways to improve your reading climate that have worked for me and how these tips have motivated my students and improved their reading achievement.

Why we need to build a positive reading climate

All year, I’ve been working to spark an interest in reading with my students and help them increase their reading time. As Donalyn Miller says, “A classroom atmosphere that promotes reading does not come from the furniture and its placement as much as it comes from the teacher’s expectation that students will read.” The Book Whisperer We need to make reading climate a priority and find time to squeeze in reading minutes DURING our school day.

I have always been passionate about developing a love of reading and books. Growing up, there wasn’t an emphasis on reading in our home. I seldom went to the library, and I do not even recall a real reading routine. It may not have been emphasized back then, but now we know just how important it is to develop a habit. I chose to be a reading specialist to help kids find that for themselves and to help parents with this at home.

Do you have a culture of reading in your classroom? Think how important that is to our daily lives. No matter what level your students are at, it is our responsibility to find what interests them and help them develop a love for reading.

Reading Climate Starts with Knowing Your Readers

First thing Monday, I had a handful of fresh new books to place in front of my “dormant” readers. Let me tell you…the kids were fighting over who could take the books first. They made their choices, and then I gave them time to get going with them.One of the boys ended up abandoning one book after reading the first chapter. He realized it was too hard (I think), but he commented that it was just too long. The key is to know your students interests, have options for them within their reading range, and allow choice.

Reading climate matters, and there are things teachers can do to build a positive and warm reading climate to encourage your students. This post includes real actionable ideas.

Include Accountability to improve reading climate

informal reading conference for building reading climate

Right off the bat, I implemented a conferring time into our routine. This conferring form from Reggie Routman worked well to guide our discussions. I met with each of the kids to review current reading and reading plans. During reading time, I pulled students one at a time to discuss where they were in their books and to make plans with them as to when they would complete the books.

To give an idea of how the session goes, I’ll share an example. One of my girls was reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and she planned to finish by Friday with plans to read one of the Dork Diaries next. We talked about other series that were similar including Big Nate, and James Patterson’s series, Middle School. The conversation lasted a max of 3-4 minutes. As you think about this plan, you may prefer digital versus using hard copies, you might use a Google form. Then, your discussions can be recorded for reference later. These conversations make a huge difference for reading climate.

Use Goal Setting to Boost Your student engagement

My students keep reading notebooks, and within the notebooks, students have a section for goal setting. We’ve been using interactive notebooks all year, so I chose to add our reading logs to the back of the books.

You might use a form to have the kids rate books. It gives them the goal of completing the book (since you can’t rate what you haven’t read) and the goal of being able to recommend the books to others. My students are so excited about doing star ratings. It highlights their hard work.

A quote came up this week. On Friday one of the little boys that just hasn’t shown much enthusiasm about reading said, “Do you have any more like these??” I almost cried right then and there, and the answer was, “Yes, I do! How many do you want?” The hook? It was George Brown Class Clown Reading climate matters.

Teach Explicit Lessons on Real vs. Fake Reading

real vs fake reading

To help students with how to use reading time, we need to have explicit instruction in the form of mini lessons. One example of this is to talk about real versus fake reading. In this lesson, we brainstormed how to squeeze in reading minutes and made an anchor chart like this one from Fearless in 5th. We discussed reading emergencies and the importance of carrying a book with you.

Kids really do crave time to just read. Keeping strategy mini lessons short is really important. Most of our time needs to be spent in the book or with the kids talking about their reading. We need to work hard to monitor the amount of talking we do and step back to listen to their thinking.  If we focus our talk on think aloud with gradual release, we will more likely see application of our lessons.

Create a Cozy and Comfortable Reading Climate

I LOVE when kids get lost in books.  It’s so nice when kids are so into what they’re reading that they do not even know I am photographing them.  I want them to be WILD about reading because that WILL transfer into a lifelong habit.  After all, we want kids to love reading and spread the love.  

When we think about life goals, we want our students to be literate people.  We wish for them to be wide-read, knowledgeable about all types of books, and purposeful in their reading choices. We read fiction and nonfiction differently, so we need our children to have opportunities to discover all genres too.  

Reading climate matters, and creating a cozy reading space makes a huge difference.

Donalyn Miller gives her students the 40 book challenge. Mine now have the 10+ book challenge for the last quarter, and next year, we’ll all be accepting the 40 book challenge from day one.  How about your students?  Imagine what a great school you’d have if every teacher set that standard for his/her students. It would put a lot of fun and energy back into our children’s days.

Include Work Ethic as a Goal for Reading Climate

Character development applies to more than just behavior. Building a strong work ethic starts in the classroom. Things like completing work on time, giving your best effort, working well with partners, and being neat are all examples of skills needed in college and the work place. This bundle of Social Emotional Poetry could be a very helpful tool in sparking discussions on important topics including reading climate. You can learn more using the link below.

For other posts you’d enjoy on this topic, check the links below, and remember, motivation matters!

Pin for Later:

Reading climate is a critical component of reading achievement. In this post, I share five suggestions that will help you connect with and motivate your striving readers.


Carla is a licensed reading specialist with 27 years of experience in the regular classroom (grades 1, 4, and 5), in Title 1 reading, as a tech specialists, and a literacy coach. She has a passion for literacy instruction and meeting the needs of the individual learner.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for such a great blog! So much useful info. I love it.

  2. I love to use poetry to get kids interested in reading poetry books on their own. Brod Baggert came to our school years ago. I will never forget him. Hope to win!

  3. He is hilarious, isn't he? It's been about 7-8 years ago for me. Giant Children was brand new, and he was fantastic. I'm sure his rate is much higher today. 🙂

  4. Brod Baggert is a new name for me which is saying something since I'm sort of book nerd. Love finding a new name! Thank you 🙂 I usually work in a weekly poem into our calendar time but I also involve poetry in our writing stations. This year I've found some fun looking TPT resources that I'm excited about trying and thought we'd either kick our unit off, or end it with, a poetry picnic. 🙂 A resource book idea: The Poetry Friday Anthology (our district purchased these for us).

  5. Well, I'm glad I gave you a new name, Laura. I got acquainted with his poetry when he visited our school, but I've since seen Giant Children and Shout in book stores. His poems are great to read out loud to your kids…very entertaining. Perhaps your library will have a copy.

  6. I was amazed at how honest my kids were! This was from Pinterest, but mine was very very similar. The conference form could certainly be modified for K if some questions don't apply. I think this new addition to my routine is going to be a huge turning point for some. I'll have my 4th graders again next year, so I know this will help them.

  7. Cool post with lots of great ideas.

  8. I LOVE the anchor chart "real reading vs fake reading" !!! LOVE IT!! something the kids can really relate to as well….

  9. I'm glad you thought so, and I hope you can take something from it for your classroom. I've enjoyed the excitement this week, and as we go through this last quarter, I'm hoping that it carries the kids through the summer.

  10. The discussion was great, and as the kids had time to read later in the week, I had one I asked…real reading or fake reading…he smiled and said, real reading and put his nose in his book. 🙂

  11. I love showing kidos new books. I did it every month last year when I had my own classroom. I also talk to kids about fake reading all the time… even with the K kids I work with this year.

  12. I will have to look and see the name of your blog. I love connecting with other reading specialists (assuming literacy teacher means that's your job). It takes mine to get started sometimes, but once they are into their books, they do not want to be interrupted. I love it!

  13. Laura: Thanks for the shout-out for The Poetry Friday Anthology! A lot of districts have been adopting our series (for K-5, Middle School, and K-5 Science). Brod has a terrific poem about dancing in our first K-5 book–with his trademark infectious enthusiasm!

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