Reading opens the door to academic and career success, imagination, knowledge, understanding of others, compassion, and so much more. As educators, we can give students no greater gift than positive reading experiences and sufficient opportunity to practice the skill.
Need suggestions? Here are a few creative ideas I’ve tried as a teacher or learned from others.
I can no longer find the thin pink book where I first saw this idea, and I don’t remember its title, but I do remember that my students loved when I put the idea into practice. It goes like this: once a school day, at any random time, the teacher announces, “Drop everything and read!” and every student drops their regular schoolwork to read for fifteen minutes. The unexpectedness of the announcement lends a feeling of spontaneity to an otherwise monotonous school schedule and keeps things fun. I used this idea when I had a slow-reading student who never had extra time for books. I wanted her to get the added reading practice and experience the enjoyment of reading just for fun. Be sure to set your own work aside to read with your students! For the youngest students, just looking at pictures is fine and still gives them positive exposure to books.
When I was young, my mom made us children fake drivers’ licenses, complete with official-looking writing and small square photos. I still remember how proud I was of that license. In later years, I implemented the idea with a reading club for young readers. Each student received a Reader’s Club membership card containing their name, personal information, and a photo. That card was their pass to our weekly reading club, which usually consisted of fifteen to thirty minutes of silently reading books to ourselves. Sometimes I read them a story. Often we had a snack.
Many schools take a trip or two to the local library sometime during the school year, and library trips are a great way to promote appreciation for books. Some ideas to make library trips fun:
If you have a broad and varied school library, wonderful. But sometimes school libraries are inadequate for voracious readers, or the books seem worn and unappetizing to students who have seen them a thousand times. You can bring life to your classroom library by temporarily contributing interesting, colorful, and well-written books from your own collection. You can also find books in used stores or check them out from your local library. To keep things interesting, switch the books out now and then.
Plan a reading contest for the school children or, for even more fun, involve the parents, too. One church-school library committee planned a month-long contest for the whole church, to see who could read the most books. At the end of the month, they hosted a special dinner where winners were announced and prizes awarded to the top readers in both child and adult categories. It’s a great way to get everyone involved and feeling excited about reading.
Every year from October through March, Pizza Hut offers a reading incentive called BOOK IT. Under this program, the teacher sets a monthly reading goal for students, perhaps pages or minutes read per day or books read per month. If a student meets the monthly goal, the teacher rewards him with a Reading Award Certificate, which he can then take into Pizza Hut and redeem for a personal pan-size pizza. To participate, enroll your school through the simple online process offered on the BOOK IT website. To keep things easy, BOOK IT also offers free printables such as charts and goal setting guides.
To reward students for completing a reading goal or just to celebrate books in a fun way, plan a day where everyone comes dressed up like a book character. Amelia Bedelia, Paddington Bear, Laura Ingalls Wilder—the world of literature is yours. To make the day more meaningful, students should bring the book from which they took their character and tell a bit about it to the class.
Dr. Seuss says, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Read with your students today!