As a new teacher, I remember gratefully cracking open the glossy pages of my spiral-bound reading curriculum to plan English Language Arts. I desperately needed phonics guidance and grade-level appropriate texts to get me started. Eventually, I realized that while the pre-planned curriculum is a great place to start, leveled readers alone don’t get students whispering about favorite texts or hankering for a trip to the library.
To nudge students towards lifelong reading habits, we need to support a culture of reading that compliments what’s already in the curriculum binder. Below are a few quick ways to spark stronger classroom reading culture.
Make Reading Social
Like most adults, I get book recommendations from friends, podcasts and online sources. Get kids started on this trend too by adding a social element to your reading instruction. Upper elementary students can easily write and share book reviews either in paper form, on your classroom website or on your library’s database. Then, offer sign-ups for book clubs or novel studies so that students can chat about what they’re reading. Book clubs can be an efficient way to socialize reading across classrooms and even grade levels. You’ll have kids gabbing about their latest reads in no time!
Be a Model Reader
As a teacher, you’re in prime position to model what a lifelong reader acts like. Make a point to share what you’re reading with your students or mention a specific part of a book that you’re thinking about. If you make regular trips to your public library or local bookstore, tell your students that, too. As a middle school teacher, I regularly found new young adult books to read so that I could be a better recommender to students.
In my out-of-school life, I keep a long list of books I want to read and a separate list of books that I’ve read each year. I model adding interesting books to my “want to read” list so that students can start their own lists.
Make Authors Come Alive
It can be easy to gloss right over the importance of authorship when reading anonymous texts or excerpts in a larger reader, but connecting to authors is an integral part of strong reading cultures. To connect students to specific authors, use the internet to highlight author collections, Tweet book questions straight to current authors or chat with an author via Skype. I also like hearing author voices on Audible or other audiobook platforms. If you have an in-class library, display books by author or series.
To get more ideas on creating a culture of reading, observe your personal reading habits and ask friends about their reading habits, too. Then, try recreating some of those exciting real-world experiences in your classroom.
Marissa King is the Chief of Staff at the Teaching & Leading Initiative of Oklahoma. Her classroom experience ranges from kindergarten to college. She’s an avid podcast listener, a coffee spiller and a regular visitor to the library.