It was usually Wednesday. We’d go to the library, I’d proudly take my Summer Reading Program log to the counter, and then I’d pick out a stack of new books. I usually had to stop when I couldn’t carry the stack anymore.
I love reading. Always have. But my brothers, who were raised in the same household as me- with the same parenting, same read-alouds, same library trips- didn’t get that same love… so it’s not JUST home that matters! It takes teachers, too.
Over at Adventures in Literacy Land today, I talked about one of the ways I was unintentionally killing my students’ love of reading. Here, I want to share about some of the things I do in the classroom to build a love of reading in my students.
- Read great books aloud.
Pick a really wonderful book that your kids will love, and don’t be afraid to leave out the “lesson” once in awhile. The lesson can just be that reading is fun. (This year, I read aloud Holes by Louis Sachar. They’d beg me to read more! Helloooo, isn’t that what we want?)
- Build a big, diverse, and growing classroom library.Your kids should always be able to find something they love to read that they can read. That means you need variety in a lot of ways- and your library can never be “done” because you should always be looking to add books for your current students. Plus, adding new books through the year brings excitement! Remember, too, that it’s not just traditional books that “count”- and letting kids check out books for home can be a powerful way to encourage more reading.
- Create some buzz about books. Talk up good books. Read just the first chapter as a teaser. Find book trailers online. Browse through the month’s Scholastic Book Order and make suggestions. I have a stack of books at home and a long list on Goodreads of books I want to read next- and we want our students thinking ahead, too!
- Let them see you as a reader.Tell them about the current book you’re reading, or how you stayed up late last night to finish. Let them see you reading the book for a few minutes. Be as excited about new books as they are. Tell them about your moments as a reader- when you choose books, when you’ve abandoned a book, when a book was hard, the books you loved, and the books you hated. Some teachers even create a display in their room to show what the teacher is reading, which I love!
- Start reading routines.One time in my classroom, it started storming. We had a wall of windows, and we could see the trees swaying, the rain pounding, and the lightning flashing. A few of my 2nd graders were clearly a little scared, so I told them how much I LOVE storms- especially reading to the sound of rain. (I really do!) We decided to stop our lesson, turn down the lights, and curl up with good books (me included). From then on, whenever the rain started to pour, my kids would ask if we could pause our lesson to read… and one of my students’ moms told me her kid started to do it at home, too!
- Get kids hooked on a series or author.
We read aloud The Boxcar Children, and the librarian had a hard time keeping the mysteries in stock. We read aloud The BFG, and my kids would almost fight over who got the next Roald Dahl book. Sometimes, reading teachers need to give kids a taste to get them hooked! (Try not to feel too much like a drug dealer, although books are not a bad addiction to have.)
- Build a reading community.I’m just starting Reading in the Wild, but she’s already made this point for me. Lifelong readers suggest books to their friends, go to book clubs, lend books to family, share what they’re reading on Instagram, join Goodreads, etc. I try to give my kids occasional time specifically for sharing what they’re reading with others. Setting up a way for kids to suggest books to each other is great, too!
- Make reading comfortable.
Set up an environment that is physically comfortable. Some kids will stretch out on the floor, others will curl up on a rug, and a few just like to sit at their desks. As well as being physically comfortable, kids need to be used to the routine of just reading, and they need to feel comfortable choosing and reading whatever they want without judgment from their classmates. One year, the boys in my class got really into Rainbow Magic Fairies books… yes, really!
- Let kids choose books… but get to know their interests and needs so you can help!Sometimes, kids need to read books at their instructional level… but most of the time, getting them to love reading is more important. If I walked into a library and someone picked books for me, they’d probably never even make it out of the bag. As teachers, we can help guide students in the direction of books that fit their interests and their instructional needs, which is really important to them being successful!
- Give them chances to be successful.Nobody likes to feel like they’re bad at something. When I worked with intervention kids last year, some of them had felt “bad at reading” for years- so when I started giving them specific goals and feedback, helping them track their progress through recordings and fluency graphs, and even giving them chances to “teach” other students or read to younger kids, their confidence grew so much. Make sure every kid gets to feel like they’re good and growing.
Helping kids to learn to love reading needs to be a HUGE part of our literacy time. Our kids need strategic instruction, too, but if we leave out the passion, our kids won’t be as strong at reading and will only read in school… probably for the rest of their lives.
What are some ways you build a love of reading in your classroom?