Cultivating a Love of Reading

2009 07 03 Old Classics sdobie via Compfight

After teaching 3rd grade for the last 14 years, this year I have moved into the role of Librarian/Technology teacher for the whole school, PreK3 – 8th grade.  It has been an adjustment to say the least, but I am really enjoying it now that I have settled in.  This job has allowed me to teach my 2 favorite things – technology and the love of a good book.  One goal that I have is to motivate my students to read everyday for enjoyment.  Here are a few of the ways I’ve tried to incorporate this goal in my new position.

  1. Read Aloud to the Children Every Time I See Them – I think it’s easy for teachers of younger students to incorporate this practice on a daily basis, but as students get older and work gets harder, it’s one of the first things teachers cut out of the daily routine.  When I was teaching 3rd grade I tried my best to read every day.  My favorite time of day was before dismissal.  I would get the children all packed up about 15-20 minutes before dismissal and then I’d read whichever chapter book we were into at the moment.  It helped to alleviate some of the craziness that can happen at dismissal and it was an enjoyable way to leave – sharing a great story together.  In my new position I see grades K-4 twice a week and grades 5-8 only once a week.  I’ve been pretty good about always starting off with a story from 4th grade down but it’s not always as easy with the bigger kids since I only see them once a week.  But read on for ideas on that.
  2. #Classroom Book A Day In my search for library lesson plans this year I can upon this idea started by Jillian Heise and based on Donalyn Miller’s #Bookaday challenge.  Her idea is to read aloud a picture book every day of the school year to students of any age.  Having been out of the picture book scene for the last 15 years or so, this has been a great resource for sharing fun, now favorite, new picture book titles like We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, Creepy Pair of Underwear, Creepy Carrots, The Book with No Pictures, Potato Pants, Nerdy Birdy Tweets and The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors, to name a few.  If you are looking for an easy way to incorporate real alouds into a busy classroom, give this a try.  You can get some book titles ideas from the Heise Reads website or by following the #classroombookaday hashtag on Twitter.
  3. Live Video Conference with an Author – When I was in grade 3, I would always be searching for author’s that would Skype with us for free.  Over the years we had live sessions with authors like Kate Messner, Mike Artell, K. E. (Kristin) Rocha, and Peter Raymundo.  There is something that motivates students to read when they talk to the author live.  I remember ending the session with Kristin Rocha where she played games and taught the kids to speak in the bear language mentioned in her Bearhaven series.  As soon as the Skype ended, I had 26 kids running for the 4 or 5 copies of the books that I had in the classroom.  It wasn’t always easy to find authors who would do the live session for free, however one great place to look is Microsoft Education’s Skype in the Classroom.  This year in my new role, I found another great resource from Scholastic.  When you host a Scholastic Book Fair at your school, you can get Scholastic Dollars as your payout.  Not only can you by books and equipment with those funds but you can also buy Skype sessions with authors.  The way it works is that you purchase a set number of books by that author and then the Skype comes with it for free.  They only post these Skypes a few times a month and they sell out fast but I was able to purchase one this year.  Last week we Skyped with Sandra Markle, author of over 200 books including the What if You Had animal series.  Now I had bought that series for our library in October after seeing a few of them at our Book Fair.  They include colorful funny pictures and facts about different interesting animals.  I had been trying to get the kids to check out the books over the last few months without much luck.  Then last week grades 1 – 4 took part in a 30 minutes Skype with Sandra.  She did some Science magic, showed photos of the books, talked about her research which included interactions with live animals and answered questions.  She ended by saying that every time the kids read her books, they will think of that Skype experience.  Each child went home with a copy of her book What if You Had Animal Eyes.  The children just loved the experience!  I’ve had several parents tell me how excited the kids were when they went home that night and now they are fighting to check out her books.

4. Hold a Book Tasting – Often times children come into the library and don’t know what to read and sometimes they are not willing to give news books a chance.  Try holding a book tasting to get them to into something new.  In a book tasting, students are given a choice of books to “taste.”  They look at the cover and book jacket, if applicable.  Then they spend 5-10 minutes reading the book.  After that they jot down whether they liked the book so far or not and why on their “book menu.”  I’ve done one with grade 2 students and I’m planning one with my grade 3 kids this week.  I tried to choose books in a series for these tastings so there would be several books for them to choose from.  Not everyone loved all of the books choices but they all found something new that they liked.  Here are a few photos.

5. Keeping Track of Favorite Authors and Making Recommendations to Others – Many adult readers love Goodreads for keeping track of their favorite books and learning about good books from others.  Recently I was looking for a similar, free, social media type sharing website for students to do the same and I found Biblionasium.  Teachers set up free accounts for their students.  You can search for a book and it will give a short summary and reading level.  Both students and teachers can write reviews for the books and recommend them to others in their group.  I just set up account for my grade 3 students as a trial and if all goes well, I’ll create accounts for other classes as well.

6. Reading free eBooks with Epic Books – One of my issues this year was finding something for the large group of children to do while I am helping small groups of students check out books. Epic books has worked out great for this.  Teachers create free accounts for their students.  Students can log in and either listen to audio books or read ebooks.  Everything is free during school hours and there are many good titles.  If the children want access at home, they would need to subscribe.  Epic Books is available as a web version or with an app.  Another great way to get students reading something new.

One of my favorite moments of this school year was when I was reading Shiloh to my grade 4 students.  I usually only read a chapter or two each class period and then we move on to either a library or technology lesson.  On this particular day I was about 3/4’s of the way through the book and when I tried to stop they kids all yelled out, “NO, please keep reading!  We have to know what happens!”  After we finished the book, I had students fighting over the chance to check out the other books in the series.  I smiled and thought, “Goal accomplished for today!”  I am looking forward to trying some reading challenges and digital book reviews later in the year as other ways to encourage young children to make reading an everyday part of their lives.

If you have any other ideas to share on this topic, please leave me a comment below.  I’d love to get some new ideas.

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