So You Want a Reading Classroom – 12 Ideas to Help You

I have always been a passionate reader and this year was no different, what was different though was that I finally unveiled this to my students.  I don’t quite know what took me so long.  So as I go into my second year as a reading classroom – and by that I mean, a room where reading takes center stage,  students cannot wait to read, and there are books being passed around every single day – I am thinking of how to create that.  Here are some of my ideas:

  1. Showcase your reading – this year through the inspiration of Jillian Heise I did a Mrs. Ripp reading display.  I cannot tell you how many book discussions this sparked with not just my students, but many students who just walked by the room.
  2. Invest in great books – I lost count of how much money I poured into books this year and while I wish teachers didn’t have to pay so much out of pocket for things, it seems to be just the way it is.  One great thing that happened was that my students would give the classroom giftcards for more books when they saw my passion – now that was awesome.
  3. Give your library space – I have always had a decent sized library but it was more tucked in a corner and not fully getting the attention it deserved.  While it is still in a corner, it is nice and open with short shelves and all of the books in labeled bins.  I label them by genre, author, or interest, it just depends on the book.  Books are easy to find and put back, which I think is a must as well and students take ownership over it.  They want it to work well for them so they can spend more time reading.
  4. Give choice – nothing will kill reading faster than constantly requiring students to read certain books.  I hate it, my students hate it, so I had to find a way around doing small group instruction without using chapter books.  I now use short high-interest articles instead to accomplish the same thing with my students and when they are done they get to read whatever they want.
  5. Challenge them – I love the concept of some sort of a book challenge and am contemplating doing the 40 book challenge by Donalyn Miller.  I love the idea that it is not about succeeding or failing but rather pushing yourself as a reader.
  6. Give reading priority– the first thing I would sacrifice in our busy schedule was always independent reading time.  Now it is the last thing to go; students crave uninterrupted reading time and many of them need it as a way to work on their skills.  All students get this every day, after all, to become a better reader you need to read!
  7. Read great picture books – I have always loved a great picture book but I had never really used them jus to hook kids.  Now we start many days with a picture book and then cherish the story-telling.  What I discovered is that every picture book can teach us something about reading or writing, thus making them both entertaining and purposeful.
  8. Make it authentic – ask adults; when we read a great book we cannot wait to tell others about it so that they may read it as well.  Students are no different, so many of them cannot wait to recommend a book to a classmate or me but you have to give them the time to do it.  We did through blog writing, speed book dating – 1 minute book recommendations – and informal conversations.  Students always had a to-read list going which made their next book selection so much easier.
  9. Read the books yourself – this is a must for any teacher that want a great reading classroom.  You have to read the books!  Students need to know whether the book is a great book or not and the person they trust is you.  So take the time and read the books; I have and I love discovering all of these incredible books that I need to get into the hands of students.
  10. Talk about it – I book-talk books all the time, I show students my to-read list, I rush in excited about a new book I cannot wait to read and I created the Global Read Aloud.  I even created a book review blog so my students can see what I am reading after they leave my classroom.  I live the life of a passionate reader!  Be a role model for the students and show them that it is okay to really love reading.
  11. Don’t diminish reading – I ask students to read 30 minutes every day outside of school but what they read is completely up to them: magazines, books, websites, or whatever they think.  I do not check whether they do it, I assume they do.  I do not want them to think that they can only get better at reading by reading what I think is worthy, they need to see the power of any kind of reading (and we need to honor that).
  12. Plant the seed early – I had my students create book bins with favorite books for the incoming 5th graders.  These bins will be sitting on their desk the very first day of school and that is what we will start with; a discussion of why reading is the most incredible thing in the world – I cannot wait!

9 thoughts on “So You Want a Reading Classroom – 12 Ideas to Help You

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  9. Some great ideas here Pernille. I would only add that using your school library, if you have one, should be a weekly special event that will give them access to more books and more choice.

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