6 Simple Ideas to Get Kids to Read

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Loving reading, loving books, being a reader, and finding your own books to share are central goals in our 7th grade English classroom.  And I spend every waking moment at times it seems trying to find ways for students to find that special book that will make them feel like they are a reader.  I spend hours planning, prepping, buying books, and yes, reading them to make sure that I am the best teacher possible for all of my many students.  Yet, sometimes we do not need a lot of time, nor a lot of work to inspire a love of reading.  So behold, these are my 6 simplest ideas for getting students to fall (a little bit more) in love with reading.

Public Display of Book Affection

I believe in public displays of book affection every single day and on every surface allowable.  When students enter into our team area (Go sharks!), they are greeted this year with our giant poster wondering how many picture books we can read in a year (Thanks Jillian Heise for the idea).  They can also see what I am reading, as well as what my team is reading.  In our room, there are books everywhere.  Many are faced out and the displays change depending on our mood.  Books are everywhere.  Book love is everywhere.  I take great pride and care in showing that books are central to our world.  There is no willy-nilly displays allowed.

The 1 Minute Book Talk

I will start most classes with a 1 minute book talk highlighting the book I just finished, a book I cannot wait to read, or a book that I purchased for the classroom.  As the year progresses I hope to hand this over to students.  But think about it?  180 days equals 180 books talks.  That’s a lot of exposure.  since I have 5 English classes, there will be 5 different book talks every day.  Once done, they go on the whiteboard ledge for anyone to grab.

The Repeated Question

I always ask students, current and former, what they are reading.  Even when we are not in class.  That constant focus on literacy coupled with the innate expectation that they are reading means that students start to think of their answer before they see me.  And those that don’t read?  Well, this question opens up to a discussion of why not and I can usually sneak them a book recommendation or two as we talk.

The Pushy Book Handler

I am always handing books to students (and colleagues too).  Books do not get read by sitting on your shelf.  Books do not get discovered by being in a bin.  They get discovered and read by someone picking them up, flipping through them, and perhaps reading a few words.  So we have to physically hand books to students if we want them to get excited.  We do monthly (or sometimes weekly) book shopping in our classroom where piles of great books await the students.  With their “To Be Read” list in hand, they take five minutes to browse the piles and find new books to read.

The Getting Out of the Way Trick

Easy access and check out to books is a must.  Donalyn Miller and Teri Lesesne told us at ILA that if books are across the hallway they are too far away.  We need classroom libraries  in every room, not just the English classroom.  We needs books at the fingertips of our students so that at any moment they can be inspired to reach out and find a new text.  Books are not a distraction, they are a necessity in our classrooms and should be treated as such.  This is also why I don’t have a check out system really.  To see more about how I organize my classroom library, see this post.

The Guest Book Shopper

If you have that one child that will not read.  If you have that one child that keeps reading that one book and not because they love it so much.  If you have that one kid that never likes anything you have to offer, this is a great way to spark an interest in them.  Simply hand them a book catalog.  Get them on Amazon.  Take them to a book store if you can and ask them to select a few books.  Before the books arrive get them excited about their impending arrival.  And then when they get make it a priority to get them to the student that day.  It is a matter of urgency now that the books are here, so they should find their home right away.

Those are my top 6 ideas.  Very simple indeed and take very little time.  What are yours?

I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark,  who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade.  Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children.  The second edition of my first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students” is available for pre-order now.   Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press.  Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

12 thoughts on “6 Simple Ideas to Get Kids to Read

  1. I have our local librarian come in once a month and give books talks on the new books that have come in. Many times we are the first to get them. She sometimes follows a theme: banned books, holidays, similar themes. The students are always excited for her to come.

  2. ‘Books are not a distraction, they are a necessity.’

    Love this phrase of yours- am going to pop it up on our smart board today.

    My Year 5 students may respond to the following thinking routine in pairs, small groups or individually:

    Make a claim about this statement

    Support your claim

    Ask a question

    Interested to hear their take!

  3. Love these ideas! My daughters are building a “cave” to read in right now and I’m going to bring this idea to my second grade classroom. The problem-solving skills to build it are great, and asking my students that are often hesitant to pick up a book to lead the project may be a way to get them actively involved in our reading community. Of course the builders could be the first readers in the cave and if I hand them I Yam a Donkey by Cece Bell or Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, I’m sure laughter will echo throughout the room!

  4. Great ideas all around!

    I have Book Talk Tuesdays, and usually raffle off “first reader rights” to the featured books (typically new to the classroom library). Towards the end of the year, I started the two-minute book talk with my students–and they result was a huge WOW! I’ll be doing this at least monthly in this year’s classroom. The students wrote their summaries/reviews in their writing journals and then carried them and the book along with them–so they weren’t stumbling over what they wanted to say. I set the timer and they moved every two minutes. Each student had one minute to share their review. We asked one question each before we moved. What they loved: Hearing about other books from their peers and adding to their Someday Lists. What I loved: They’re accountable for their reading. If done every 3-4 weeks, all readers will keep reading new books instead of “fake reading” the same one repeatedly.

    Thanks for sharing!

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  6. When teaching children, we may have troubles getting them to read. Once a student has a book that interests him or her we encourage sharing of that particular book. Word of mouth sometimes can be the best advertisement. I have created a poem that illustrates why we should share books.

    It’s only fair to share books that can take your mind anywhere.
    Books are not rare like some fancy flatware.
    They are to share somewhere in a nice, comfy chair.
    We could even share books with a bear at a toddler’s daycare.
    Let’s declare that books could even ensnare a billionaire who eats camembert.
    It would be unfair not to share beautiful stories from somewhere.

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