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.