How do you help students fall in love with books? What kinds of things do you do to fuel their love of reading? Helping my students find the magic that comes with literacy and the journey to read and write is so important to me. These days, there are lots of heated conversations about how to teach students to read- but that’s not what I want to focus on in this post. Today, I want us to take a minute to go back to a topic that feels…forgotten lately. Let’s shift our attention today to not how we teach students to read, but the attitude and feelings about reading and books for our students.
The truth is (no matter what side of the “reading wars” you’re on) we can teach students to read every word under the sun, but if they hate to read, or if they constantly have to read books that are completely disengaging to them or not books they enjoy, we fail to help them fall in love with books and reading. We may create excellent readers, but we may miss out on the opportunity to create avid, life-long readers. Teaching my students how to read- and helping them all in love with books and the magic of reading, is MY WHY. For me, fueling a love for reading and books is as important to me as the strategies I use to teach them how to read. After all, a reader who hates to read will not grow up to be a reader at all. A reader who loves to read will continue to read long after they walk out of your classroom door.
In the same way that we must provide explicit and strategic phonemic awareness and phonics instruction, through modeling, direct instruction, and intentional practice, we must model and think about how we can fuel our students’ love for books. Of course, the most important ways to do this is to read rich and meaningful books to our students every single day. However, I am going to assume that know you know this already! (Especially those of you who are regular readers of my blog.) Today, I want to share four very fun, extremely practical, QUICK ways that you can get students excited about books!
The Small Group Surprise
In my classroom, the small group table is where the magic happens. It’s a place and time for me to cater my reading instruction to each child’s needs. It’s at the small group table where my students flourish into confident, capable, and fluent readers. That’s why I have always strived to make my small group time FEEL magical, exciting, and full of surprise! When students are excited to learn how to read and we, as teachers, model this excitement, students will work hard for us! They will LOVE small group instructional time!
How do I set the tone for our small group reading time? I build up the excitement for reading and books by offering it as a GIFT and not as just another task to check off in our daily routine. The night before we begin our small reading groups, I wrap each group’s book that we will read and work on during our first lesson. (See the photograph above.) These are not books they will keep, they are simply books that I use for instruction. I make a BIG deal about getting to read new books throughout the year at our small group table! I explain that every book we read is just like opening up a gift! We get to meet new characters and learn so many new things throughout our year together. Then, I count to three and let students rip the wrapping paper off and reveal their first small group book together!
It’s so exciting to hear their little squeals and see the excitement and engagement on their faces. (I wish I could show you some of the adorable videos I’ve taken over the years!) It sets an amazing tone for the year that shows students how magical and truly special the gift of reading is!
The Class Reading Inventory
A class reading inventory is a critical piece of data and information that I use throughout the year during my reading instruction and reading conferences with students. No matter how I teach reading to my students, one thing will forever remain the same: WHY I teach students how to read. I teach my students how to read because I want them to have full access to all of the information, stories, creativity, and news that they will ever want or need in their lives. I want them to reach their greatest potential. I teach my students to read because I want them to LOVE reading and WANT to read books! However, I can’t instill a love for literacy if they aren’t able to read about topics that are interesting and meaningful to them, and have some opportunities throughout the day to make their own book choices.
A reading inventory helps me get to know my students, build relationships with them, and understand more about what they enjoy reading and learning about. Below is a picture of the reading inventory I used last year with my students. You’ll notice it is simple, no-fluff, and even messy! That’s because the purpose of the reading inventory is simply to find out what kind of books and topics my students enjoy. I can then use these interests for interventions, classroom discussions, phonics word list examples, math problems, interactive writing and spelling lessons, and more!
When and how do I go about filling this out every year? I gain a lot of information about what my students like and dislike during our first week together. During one-on-one assessments, or even during those first couple weeks of small groups or reading conferences, I simply ASK my students to tell me about their interests. Even if you have never filled out a class reading inventory, you most likely have these discussions already! Questions such as: Do you love playing any sports? What do you like to read about? What do you want to learn about this year? provide me with a lot of information right out of the gate. When I learn about after school activities they are involved in, or notice they keep gravitating toward a specific classroom library basket during their choice time, I jot it down on the inventory. It’s important to keep it updated throughout the year, as your students likes, dislikes, and hobbies may change from August to February.
Knowing what your students love to read about will help you foster and fuel their love for books! You can grab an updated copy of my reading inventory for FREE by clicking on the button below.
Use Book Bin Notes
Remember when you were a kid, and you got a postcard or a letter in the mailbox? You were SO excited! Students feel the same way when they find notes from you on their books, in their book bins, or in their book baggies! Whenever I am lucky enough to get new books for our classroom library or new take home books for nightly reading, I use what I call “book bin notes” to spark excitement and reiterate how special and wonderful books are. I love jotting a quick message on a sticky note that makes my students feel as though I picked the book out especially for them! They love finding the notes on their books, and as a result, they get so excited to READ the book!
How do I know which books each student will like? My reading inventory, of course! I’m also going to share a little secret with you! (Shhh!) If you pass out a new decodable book about a bug on a rug, and it doesn’t scream, “I saw this title and KNEW you’d love it!”, you can still use a book bin note to spark excitement. It’s the novelty of the book bin note that students love! Write a note that says, “This short a book has SO MANY WORDS that you know how to read! I can’t WAIT for you to try it today!” and stick it to the book. Your student will be equally as excited to read the decodable as he or she would if it was a book about glow-in-the-dark elephants haha! It’s all about personalizing their reading experience, and book bin notes do just that!
Open a Book Bakery!
My last tip and idea is SO FUN that your students will think every book and reading opportunity in your classroom is a total treat (literally!) It’s called Book Bakery Day, and it creates the most wonderful excitement and love for books!
In order to fall in love with books and reading, your students need like the books they read and WANT to read books! However, at a young age, our students may not have had an opportunity to look inside a biography book, poetry book, or comic book before. Book Bakery Day provides students with intentional time to explore books they may otherwise not have explored without the opportunity to do so. (Don’t worry! You can make sure the books they pick up to read are ones they can read and ones they will have success with.) I explain all about my Book Bakery Day in a blog post HERE. If you want to read more about Book Bakery Day and host one in your classroom, you will love reading this blog post! I also have an entire resource that’s filled with my lesson plans, templates, and an adorable cupcake book craft that we make as we explore our books! You can my Book Bakery Pack in my shop, or by clicking on the image below:
Children Who Love Books will READ Books!
I hope this blog post gave you some practical, quick, and fun ways to fuel your students’ love and excitement for books! Remember, children who LOVE books will READ books! Just because a student CAN read, doesn’t mean he or she WILL read once they leave our room. Our job as literacy teachers is not just to teach the mechanics of reading, but to help our students fall in love with reading. A child who loves reading and finds excitement in books will continue to be motivated to grow as a reader and practice, practice, practice! Which of the following tips will you try out this year? Tell me in the comments below, or share with me on Instagram @missdecarbo!
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