12 Ideas to Promote Independent Reading in Your School or Class
- Librarians can be your best friend! Our school librarian provided monthly opportunities for our kids. They KNEW kids and they KNEW teen literature. They provided information on library resources,book talks, book speed dating, lessons on research, special presentations for banned book weeks, and information on books up for awards. The kids were involved and inspired. Another option is to utilize the services of public librarians. I’ve found them to be more than willing to help with school projects and they have provided excellent lessons for my students.
- Let kids see you reading. During silent reading time, I tried to read to read to model independent reading, allow me to read what the kids were reading, and to illustrate the importance I placed on reading. NEVER grade papers, answer e-mails, etc. Read or conference with kids. They notice. It makes all the difference in how seriously they take independent reading.
- Let kids know what you are reading. At my school, all teachers were provided a laminated sign like the one below. Using a dry-erase marker they filled in the title of a non-school book they were reading.
4. Invite a guest to read aloud or do a book talk. If you want real mileage with your athletes–invite the coach! Utilize staff members the kids relate to and that will inspire them. That may mean the principal or school resource officer comes in and shares about the book they are reading, reads a short story, or just stops by with a book and reads while the kids read. Local celebrities or authors would be awesome!
5. Have teachers “hide” bookmarks in library books recommending books they enjoy. This can even be a class project where students collect the bookmarks and learn about the library as they file the bookmarks in the correct books.
6. Bring the books to the kids. Our librarians knew there were kids who avoided the library. They took carts to the halls before school and checked out books as kids were milling around to start the day. Yes–our librarians were superheroes! I know other schools have brought carts to the lunchroom to check out books. Do what it takes to get books in their hands!
7. Brown paper bag books create mystery. Our librarians place brown paper bags around books that had been challenged to remove from libraries in some location. They talked about book challenges and censorship. Those brown bag books were quickly checked out. Students were shocked to find some of the books which had been challenged and the reasons why. The brown paper bag has also been used for mystery books. Kids check out a book without seeing the book or title. After a few days, share their book and a brief summary of the book so far.
8. Virtual author visits or visits from local writers may inspire your young writers and authors! Local librarians may be a good source to help you set this up.
9. Try a poetry coffee house or a reading cafe. Adults aren’t the only ones who enjoy this environment.
10. Book clubs are a great way to involve kids. Adult book clubs are popular not only for the scholarly conversation about the book, but also because of the social environment. Kids also enjoy a safe place to be with others. They may find new friends. Initial leadership might be best with the teacher. Gradually allow students the opportunity for leadership as the group progresses. Our librarians had a well-attended before school graphic novel club. Another teacher who enjoyed science fiction had a group which met once a month.
11. Partner with a younger class. I had high schoolers pair with a fourth grade class. Students read and prepared activities/games for the younger kids. I used groups of my students and groups of elementary kids so there was not a problem if someone was absent. Everyone could still participate. I worked with the fourth grade teacher to select novels. Interestingly, most of the books were students my kids had not read. They were “classics” but many of my kids had been reluctant readers when they were in elementary school and had not enjoyed reading. Many of them really enjoyed the books. We talked about levels of questions and asking open-ended questions. The students made some great activities for “their students.” Some of them continued to write to the younger kids they had “taught.” It was an effective tool for authentic learning.
12. Two Ohio teachers have developed a March Book Madness which is an “online bracket-style tournament that matches books in one-on-one “games.” A link to an overview of their program may be found here. To see the list of books for 2022, click at the top of the page for the appropriate level (picture books, middle grades, or young adults). Capitalize on the interest in March brackets as you promote reading. The theme for 2022 is Turning Points.
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