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.
Include Accountability to improve 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.
This form from Donalyn Miller works well because the kids were excited to rate the 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
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.
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!
- Motivating Readers
- Teaching Strategies that Work…Motivating Struggling Readers
- How to Motivate Young Readers to Keep Them Reading
- Know Your Readers and What Motivates them