When students walk into your classroom on the first day of school, what do they see? Are some of your favorite novel quotes hanging on the wall? Is there a classroom library featuring new and classic novels? If your goal is to create a culture of reading, students need to visually see that there is a love and value for all books in your room. Students do not always know what books can offer them, but if they feel your room allows them to explore various genres and styles of books, they will more readily participate in the reading process.
In order to encourage young readers, your class needs to welcome this culture of reading. There are several steps you can take in order to create an environment that encourages and values all readers to be successful. From the layout of your room to the bulletin boards on your wall, students will be able to connect with books and know this is a safe zone for all readers.
Show Off Your Love of Reading
Throughout the school year, it is important to share with students your love of reading. In the blog post, Building a Culture of Reading you can get a sense of how what you are reading and what you enjoy reading affects students in your classroom. This allows students to ask you questions about your favorite novels, which in turn allows you to begin a conversation on the books they are reading. By sharing your personal experiences, students gain an understanding of how your reading progresses and changes throughout life. This opens conversations with all students about their own adventures through the reading process.
As a young adult teacher, it is important to have knowledge on YA novels, but know you do not have to read all the books that the students are exploring. By having a knowledge of various genres and themes in general, you will be able to help students find something they can fall in love with. Reading may not have always been your favorite thing to do in the world, so it is important to be vulnerable with students. Share with them if you have struggled with or loved various novels or areas of reading.
Make Connections to Students’ Worlds
It is vital to make connections to students’ worlds. Students will buy into what is taking place in your classroom if they feel it is relevant to what is currently taking place in their lives. In a world where students have everything at their fingertips, it is hard to hook them to something that may not have instant gratification. Reading can be hard, so it is important to build connections with students and books. Students will feel more connected to books if they can relate to them in their own life. Is the main character a young adult that had to overcome some kind of struggle? Does the character experience a break-up or anxiety before the big game? These small connections can make a big difference in a young reader’s experience with books.
This is also a great time for students to learn about people that are different from themselves. While many of our schools are rich with diverse populations, some schools do not have the same environment. It is important to include diversity in the text selection so students can feel seen, but also learn something new about a culture that is different from their own. This allows students to explore titles that may not be something they would have picked up at the beginning of the year and helps students have conversations outside of teacher-assigned or other connections.
While some students love the connections, others would like to enter worlds that are an alternate reality from their own. Dystopian novels are a great hook for many young readers because it challenges systems and breaks down barriers. Many students also love gaming, so this is a great time to introduce students to novels that are directly related to various online gaming platforms.
Give Time to Read and Find Books
If you want students to be reading, you have to carve time into the schedule to allow them to explore and read. Students have sports, clubs, extra-curricular activities, family responsibilities and social events taking place in their lives outside of school, so it is key to allow them to read in your classroom. This time should be predictable every day or week, depending on your schedule. It also helps students prepare and know when this time will be.
Teachers should also include time for students to explore the library, whether that is your classroom, school, or city library. These are quick “field trips” that can be scheduled into your month, and it allows students to know there is time built in for them to explore titles before deciding on a new novel.
Along with time for reading, be sure to include time for students to discuss and reflect on the novels they are reading. This allows students to connect reading and writing based on individual, higher-order thinking questions. It also gives students time to give book recommendations and have book talks to encourage other readers to pick up the book.
Keep Classroom Libraries Current
While there are endless amounts of classics in the world, it is extremely important to keep your classroom libraries current. As stated earlier, students like to read novels and stories that connect to things that are happening around them. Whether this is personal connections or current events, students love to see books that are written after they were born.
One way to encourage a culture of connectedness is by creating thematic displays that relate to things taking place in the world. For example, a teacher’s library could display books written in poetry for poetry month or books with characters that have special needs during disabilities awareness month. Not only does this create a culture of reading, but it also creates a culture of inclusivity for all students. This is a great way to ensure students see books that are relevant and gives you the ability to display “fresh” books that can catch your reader’s attention.
Involve the Entire School
The culture of reading does not just need to take place in your classroom or department. Not only is it important to create a culture of reading in your classroom, but also in the entire school building. Students need to know that all teachers are readers in some way or another, and reading teachers are not the only ones that enjoy a good book. You can display popular books throughout the school or even put a teacher’s favorite or “what their reading” book outside their classrooms.
In order to encourage and create a culture of reading in your classroom, make sure students are exposed to a variety of books throughout the year. Make sure they know it is okay to not fall in love with every book, but help them find something that will connect to their lives. Reading can be a fun escape for students, and as a teacher, you can create and guide the excitement for reading once again.
For more information on creating a culture of reading be sure to check out the book: Motivating Readers: Teaching in the Post Pandemic Era.
You may also enjoy this podcast: