Creating a culture of reading in the classroom can encourage students to develop a love for reading. A culture of reading puts an emphasis on students having some choice in what they read and they are excited about getting the opportunity to read in class. By creating a space where students feel comfortable reading, you can help foster a love of reading in your students. Encouraging students to read on a regular basis can help them develop strong reading skills and a lifelong love of reading.
Talking all about books is Samantha from Samantha in Secondary’s JAM and what better way to create a culture of reading in your classroom then to connect over books?
Classroom libraries are the best way to connect over books. Samantha has a TON of blog posts and resources to share on how to best create your own. She has a blog for how to find the best books, how to organize your classroom library, and even how to leverage your classroom library to enhance classroom culture. There is so much you can do in your own classroom by creating a space in your room to house engaging, age-appropriate books for your students.
If you’re having trouble finding great books, let Samantha help. She has a list of 100 of her favorite YA novels to add to your classroom library. You can grab the list for free by clicking here.
Fostering a culture of reading is important, but in doing so, Amanda from Mud and Ink Teaching wants to make sure that she teaches students the strategies they need to actually enjoy reading.
One of Amanda’s go-to strategies is letting students experience the fun of Reading Sprints. Reading Sprints is something Amanda started doing with her own adult reading friends — pick a time, gather together on Zoom or FaceTime, set a timer and just read together! The act of setting aside time to read – and with the intention of reading as much as possible – might be a bit confusing on the surface.
Won’t speed reading hinder comprehension? Won’t “going fast” make students miss important details? The answer is…maybe, but so will distracted reading and/or not reading at all.
Reading Sprints are not designed to be the way students read at all times; they’re designed to jumpstart reading energy and get things moving that might be stuck or flat or bored in the course of a larger read. When sprinting, students are reading quickly, but only as fast as they are comfortable with. With kids focused on speed, they’re concentrating on the text and working to accomplish something during that time. Free reading is different. For readers who are not naturally focused, that experience can be more like read a little, look around a little, check the time, read a little, forget what I was reading, backtrack, look at the person next to them coughing…you get the point.
Used sporadically and thoughtfully, Reading Sprints can get students back in the reading groove and re energized about a story that they might have lost interest in. Give them a try and let Amanda know how it goes by sending her a DM on Instagram!
Creative Check Ins
Students love choice and teachers love giving students as many relevant and engaging choices as possible, but sometimes it is difficult to come up with a list of options that suit the needs of both students and teacher.
Krista from @whimsyandrigor created a list of creative prompts to get her students thinking analytically about a text so she could quickly provide options to her students as they worked on their independent reading.
For example, their first week of reading might ask students to choose a song one of the characters would have on repeat and explain their selection with evidence from the text. The next week of reading, students may choose to become a talk show host and develop three questions they would ask a character. The final week of reading, students might want to draft a letter to the author asking specific questions about their craft or decisions they made about the plot.
With a mighty list to choose from, students can explore various ways to respond to a text and teachers will know they are not only getting students to think critically about what they are reading but they will also get a variety of different assignments, which is way more interesting to grade!
If you don’t want to create your own list of creative check-ins, check out the 17 that Krista made for you!
Have an interesting one to share? Email it to her at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Molly from The Littlest Teacher has found that unique visuals draw students in and build enthusiasm for content. Interesting visual displays to highlight a variety of authors can help to build a culture of reading in your ELA class.
She created a series of colorful author timelines to showcase a variety of authors, many of whom students may not yet be familiar with. Students enjoy perusing the interesting timelines to discover new authors and to see where familiar authors fall in history.
To create your own exciting author timelines, simply compile a list of authors you’d like to feature, and gather a photo and a few key facts about each author. Post them in chronological order along a timeline on a bulletin board, or any classroom wall.
You may choose to honor a particular group during different emphases months, such as authors of color in February, or female authors in March. To save you the legwork, check out these done-for-you timelines that will allow you to simply print, assemble, and hang.
Lesa from SmithTeaches9to12 likes to set up reading challenges for students and staff. This means creating categories for book choices that offer a wide array of choices. Set up at the start of the year the prompts include categories such as read a book about time, a book by a BIPOC author, a book of poetry, and so on. From there people read at their leisure. In class this means setting aside time for reading. In Lesa’s class this can vary between a daily 10 minutes or a longer stretch on a particular day of the week – this depends on the class population. And there is no requirement beyond just reading. Sometimes students share the really great book they finished and so time is built in for those moments.
Students and staff are also encouraged to share about their books. There’s a school-wide Google Classroom where people share their book recommendations. Another way to share is by including what you are reading in the signature of your email (this applies more to staff). This encourages accountability and creates opportunities for personal connection too.
Finally, the main thing Lesa does to build a culture of reading is that when students are reading, she is reading. Set aside the small tasks that can be done in those quiet minutes and open your own book and… just read. It will do wonders to model the task but it also acts as self-care in a time when we definitely need more of that!
Katie from Mochas and Markbooks loves to incorporate Book Clubs into her English classes to promote reading and boost engagement by offering reading choices and peer-led discussions.
To facilitate the book clubs, Katie plans an ongoing unit, designating one day a week to focus on reading and discussion so that students are not rushed, having most of the semester to read their book and complete the summative tasks with their peers.
When choosing books for your book clubs, you can really create your own rules. Some of the types of book clubs that Katie has organized for her students include:
- Genre based – students choose a genre of literature they are interested in reading from a teacher selected list. Then all of the students within each genre group read a different book in that genre. So, for example, in the Dystopian Fiction group, one student might read The Hunger Games, and another might choose to read The Maze Runner. Even though students within book club’s aren’t reading the same book, they can still meet on book club days to discuss their books and work through genre-specific tasks or questions together. This is a good option if you don’t have multiple sets of books for students to all read the same book.
- Book-based – in this scenario, students choose from four or five different books and they become a book club group with their classmates who chose the same book as them. You can choose the books to include however you want, but your options may come down to which books you have multiple copies of. Katie likes to have a theme within these book clubs so that each group can have discussions based on one big idea or essential question that all groups are following. Some examples are to choose authors with a specific heritage, books with strong female protagonists, novels in verse, and so on.
There are many thoughts on providing class time for students to read choice books. Recently posts have popped up in teacher groups with comments about some admin restricting independent reading time viewing it as wasted instruction time. This is truly appalling!
Carolyn from Middle School Cafe is passionate that all students are readers if you can pair them with the right book and provide the time needed to read students will improve their reading skills. While some dispute the importance of independent reading of choice books, Research supports that independent reading has the most significant impact on student success in reading, but unfortunately it is a practice that is often replaced with other programs and interventions (Lewis & Samuels, 2002).
Many students struggle to know what books to pick up, what books they might be interested in and resist the opportunities to simply browse the shelves. For this reason, Carolyn knows that she needs to incorporate more book talks into class.
A book talk is a short introduction to a book, an opportunity to “sell” the book to students and encourage others to read the book. You can read more on the power of a book talk in this blog here.
One way Carolyn has increased the number of book talks in class is by having students share the books they love. This can be done as a whole group (if students are willing to share in front of the class) or in small groups (where students are more willing to talk).
This is a low prep activity that yields high results.
Staci from Donut Lovin’ Teacher is all about graphic novels! She loves to use them to encourage all kinds of readers (especially reluctant readers) to try another type of text!
Staci recommends putting them out on display wherever you can and when students finish early, tell them to go try a graphic novel! It sounds different than “Go get a book,” or “Go read” and she has found more students are open to trying them. She also leaves them out as “Early Finisher” work during testing so students have enough time to get through a good portion of the book. Of course, once they try them, they’re hooked and they’ll be the ones asking you if they can take it home!
Here are a few class favorites of books turned graphic novels:
A Wrinkle in Time written by Madeleine L’engle & adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson
The Crossover written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile
Monster written by Walter Dean Meyers, adapted by Guy Sims, and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile
And a few other favorites:
New Kid (and of course Class Act) written and illustrated by Jerry Craft
City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm written by Jamail Yogis and illustrated by Vivian Truong
When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson, Omar Mohamed, and Iman Geddy
Staci has also used graphic novels to discuss identity in her Identity Unit and found that they provided great entry points to larger topics. Staci says that starting Book Clubs at the beginning of the year with graphic novels led to more confidence and curiosity in reading for her students. Check out all her blog posts about graphic novels here.
Snapshot of Books
Sharena from The Humble Bird Teacher builds a culture of reading in her English class by encouraging students to read novels that they enjoy whether fiction or nonfiction. In addition to students reading books they enjoy, Sharena selects new books from the library and completes book overviews with her students that include previewing the front and back cover artwork and summary and reading the first chapter of the book to grab the students’ interests. After previewing the book and hearing the teacher read it aloud, many students want to check out the book and head on over to the inviting reading corner to continue the adventure in a comfy lounge chair or floor pillow. Snapshots of books are a great way to encourage a culture of reading in English class and allows the teacher to share a variety of books with students which will help the most reluctant reader find his or her niche.
First Chapter Friday
Dr. Yaddy Walantas from Yaddy’s Room loves to use First Chapter Friday, and gamified strategies like grade level page challenges to create a culture of reading in her intensive reading classroom.
Trying to get a few reluctant readers to dive into an independent reading novel can be hard in and of itself, but with a whole class of reluctant readers or students who were almost proud when they said they never read a book? It goes to a whole other level of difficulty. This is why Yaddy decided to gamify reading by doing a page challenge. Yaddy paired up with other teachers in her school to challenge whole classrooms to read as much as possible. Students submit a simple book spine one pager as proof that they read a book, and then their pages get added to a big display on her whiteboard with their name. You can grab the book spine one pager here.
Yaddy also likes to use First Chapter Friday to introduce students to books that may interest them. So far, a student has borrowed her First Chapter Friday book each week! Another win in the books for a classroom community that values reading.
You can find more ideas on how to expand your classroom library with a list of books with Latinx characters, or more ideas on why you should start using First Chapter Friday in your classroom here.
Peer-Produced Book Recommendations
If you’re looking for ways to encourage your students to love reading, one great strategy is to make use of peer-produced book recommendations. Olivia from Distinguished English posts her students’ recommendations on a dedicated classroom bulletin board so her students will be able to see what their classmates are reading and get ideas for books that they might enjoy. As they choose their own books to read, they’ll be more likely to find ones that they’re truly interested in, which will help foster a love of reading. Plus, they’ll be able to take pride in knowing that they helped contribute to the classroom’s reading culture! Looking to save time? This book rec template guides your students through the process of creating quick and simple recommendations for their peers.
We’ve all heard it – a student saying, “I’m just not a reader; I don’t like to read,” while our little literature-infused ELA teacher hearts shed a tear. Simply Ana P likes to respond to this with: “Maybe it’s not that you don’t like to read, but that you simply haven’t found a book that you like.”
Unfortunately, many students often have this idea that all reading is boring or that no books given in a classroom are anything but old and irrelevant, which is why Ana believes that exposure to novels-in-verse (NIVs) is so powerful. Now, there will always be some kids who truly do not like to read (which is OKAY!), but nine times out of ten, when Ana has tried putting a NIV in a reluctant reader’s hands, they are surprised at the content, the layout, and their own excitement.
Students often connect very quickly to the characters or the stories being told because of the way in which they’re told. A lot of teens and young adults feel emotions in a very big way, and that’s part of why they are easily captivated by the techniques used in these books. They are able to more easily see mirrors and windows, and NIVs are also great guiding tools for creative inspiration.
Ana suggests adding a variety of NIVs to your classroom library, and if you have independent reading or literature circles around a poetry unit, she has THIS LESSON IDEA that you can use.
If you like what you see and want the whole thing, which emcompasses excerpts from some of her (and her students’) favorite NIVs, and includes instructions on how to run the lesson, the digital station sheets, as well as the excerpts used, CLICK HERE 🙂
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