While you have multiple state standards to consider when designing your ELA curriculum, the underlying goal for most teachers is to build a lifelong love of reading in your students. Easier said than done, right?
Research shows that giving students time to read, helping them find books that they are excited to read, and making independent reading more social are important ingredients to developing that intangible love of reading. By working on these three things you will build a community of engaged readers who openly share what they like – and don’t like – about the books they read and encourage each other to read more.
Here are some practical ideas and activities to achieve these three objectives and have a classroom full of kids who love to read. Some of these are tried and true tactics from my own experience facilitating book clubs for kids and creating Bookopolis.com, an online community made especially for young readers. Other ideas have been shared by experienced classroom teachers and librarians who use Bookopolis as an edtech tool to track and monitor students’ reading goals.
#1 Give Students Time (and Space) to Read
This seems obvious but making time for reading can get lost in a busy school day. Research shows a definite link between time spent reading and reading achievement. Help students build their reading miles and stamina with these simple ideas:
- Start every day with independent reading time.
- Model reading. Let students see you read and talk about your favorite books.
- Let them pick where to read. Stretch out on the carpet, go outside, or make a cozy reading nook in the classroom.
- Encourage students to read at least 20 minutes every day at home.
- Remind students to bring books with them wherever they go to take advantage of spare moments when they’re waiting for a sibling or in line at the grocery store with their parents.
#2 Kid Centered Book Discovery
73% of students say, “I’d read more if I could find more books I liked,” according to a 2015 Kids & Family Reading Report from Scholastic. Helping your students find books they like is a critical part of creating a community of readers. It’s also important to let them know it’s okay to abandon a book they don’t like. Some students equate not liking a book with not liking reading. With over 30,000 new children’s books published each year, lack of good options is not the issue, but there is an overwhelming amount of choices that we must help students navigate.
Peer recommendations are a key source of new book ideas for students. Just like adults turn to Facebook, Pinterest, or Goodreads for book ideas from friends, students love to swap book recommendations with classmates.
Here are a few ways to honor kid choice and voice and help students find books that will help them see themselves as readers using Bookopolis:
- Get to know your students as readers by having them complete a Reader’s Interest Inventory. You can download and customize this Reader Interest Inventory template for your class.
- Use BookQuest, an interactive tool on Bookopolis.com designed especially for kids to find books. They travel along a path with options like “Graphic Novel” or “Regular Books with Words,” “Magical” or “Not Magical,” or “Funny” or “Sporty” books.
- Explore Bookopolis’ curated book lists by grade and genre level, new releases, or award winners.
- Let students send book recommendation messages books to classmates on Bookopolis.
- Fill your classroom bookshelf with “Reader Recommendations” like you see in your favorite indie bookstore. Download this template and suggested classroom lesson.
#3 Make Reading Social
By its very nature reading seems like an individual activity. But, making it social actually increases students’ interest in reading. Donalyn Miller, aka The Book Whisperer, says engaged readers “enjoy talking about books almost as much as reading them. Reading communities provide a group of other readers who support us.”
- Here are a few activities that provide meaningful ways for students to talk about books:
- Write and share book reviews for an authentic audience of peers on Bookopolis.com.
- Host a Book Talk Swap. Have students bring in their favorite book, give a two-minute Book Talk about why they love it, and swap their pick with someone else’s favorite book.
- Have each student create a “My Top 10 Favorite Books” list. Post them around the room.
- Make Book Trailer videos using iMovie or WeVideo after you finish a book. This is a great alternative to the traditional book report.
- Have lit circles or mini-book clubs with student led discussions. Check out these discussion prompt ideas.
This simple formula – Time to Read + Good Books + Social Sharing can help you turn your classroom into an engaged community of readers. What else do you do to build a reading community? Share in the comments below. Happy Reading!
About the Author
Kari Ness Riedel runs book clubs for elementary and middle school students and is the Mayor of Bookopolis.com, a social network and book discovery tool made especially for 7-13 year old readers to share reviews of their favorite books with friends and help them find new ones. Kari believes that there’s a perfect book for every kid. If you need help matching your student with the right book, contact her on Twitter @bookopolis or at firstname.lastname@example.org