I start thinking of summer on the very first day of school. As I greet my new students, I cannot help but wonder; who will leave us a reader? Who will include books in their summer plans?
With this in mind, I teach with a sense of urgency as so many of us do. I am not just teaching for the now, I am teaching for the after. After the bell rings. After Friday afternoon. After the day before break. After the school year is over.
I teach for the kids who come to me loving reading; my job is to protect that love with all I have.
I teach for the kids who see no point in books. Who scorn every day when I ask them to settle in, settle down, get to reading. For the kids who would rather sit in silence and pretend to read than actually read a book.
And I hope that this year, this time in our classroom, perhaps a seed will be planted. Perhaps an idea will form that reading is not the slow, quiet torture that they have decided it is and that perhaps there is indeed books out there for them.
And so in those very first days, we make reading visible. I book talk a book on the second day of school. This year it was Dear Martin by Nic Stone. I make it the expectation that books are shared, discussed, rated, and abandoned when needed. We speak books as our primary language, immersed in everything else we have to do. The book buzz builds and at the end of the year when I ask what made the biggest difference, there it is, nestled in with time to read, a community of readers, a classroom library; recommendations. But what does that look like? Here are the simple, yet powerful components, plus a few extra ideas that we use to create a visible book buzz.
What Mrs. Ripp Read over the Summer Display
This year, I didn’t just portray the covers, I made a display of the physical books that I had read and wanted to share from the summer. On the second day of school, I pointed to the tree and told them that these were books that I would highly recommend. That this tree would soon be overtaken by their favorite reads, but for now it showcased mine.
What is Mrs. Ripp Reading Display
Throughout our school, you can see a variety of staff reading displays. I chose to not just display what I had just read but keep a visual record of all of the book covers for the year. My students know that my goal is 90 books for a year and so this also keeps a visual track of that. This hangs by our door so it is the last thing they see as they leave.
Our Favorite Books Tree
Within the first few weeks of the year, the tree I used to display my summer reads turns into the students’ favorite reads instead. If books are in high demand this is where they go, if a student loved a book, this is where they can place it to be read by others. This tree is many of our student’s first stop to bookshop. Hat tip to Nancie Atwell for this genius idea.
A To-Be-Read List in the room
Our someday list, wish list of books, books I cannot wait to read. Whatever you call it, I am grateful that advocates like Teri Lesene, Nancie Atwell, Donalyn Miller, and Penny Kittle remind us that students need to have reading plans and that includes having ideas for what they want to read next. In our reading notebook, we have a few pages dedicated to just this, or students can choose to use their devices and Goodreads for example. Whenever a book talk is underway, students are reminded to write down any titles that catch their eye. At the end of the year, we take a picture of the list and send it home to parents/caregivers so they have ideas for summer reading.
A daily book talk.
After our ten minutes of independent reading, I try to start the day with a book talk. Usually, it is a book I have just finished or an old favorite. The book talk is short and sweet; what’s the book about, why did I like it and why might others’ like it. Students have their to-be-read list out and ready to add titles to it.
30-second book talks.
The day we came back from break, I asked my students to write down a 30-second book talk on a notecard. They had to write the title, the author, a little about the book and then why others may like it. It took us about 5 minutes. I then collected the cards and now pick three cards every day for students to do their book talks. The students experience little stress by it because the work is already done and I get to have the book cover ready to display for students to see while they speak.
Book speed dating.
Another take on short book talks is when students split into two equal groups; one with a favorite book in hand, the other with their to-be-read list. Students then line up in front of each other and when I say go, they have 45 seconds to book talk the book in their hand. When the time is up, every child on one side takes steps to the side, thus standing in front of a new child. We do this five or six times in a row. The next day, the roles switch.
Book group book talks.
Once in a while, I will book talk an entire group of books centered around a format, theme, or author. This way students are given multiple ideas for what to read next if they like one of the books. Recently I did this with free-verse books, one of the most popular formats in our classroom, and the books have been flying off the shelves since.
We book shop every three to four weeks in our classroom. It is a community event and one that we discuss how to do well. The goal for every child is to walk away from the book shopping experience with at least a few new titles they want to read. I have written more extensively about our process, right here.
Sharing on Instagram
I resisted Instagram for a long time as I didn’t want to share more aspects of my life, and yet, I needed a quick and easy way to recommend books without having to write an entire review. Enter Instagram. The bonus to sharing “live” recommendations of books on here has been that some of my students follow me on there to get recommendations. As I only use Instagram for book-related things, I don’t have any hesitations with students following my account. To follow my account, go here
There are more ways to build book buzz, but these are a few that work. Other ways include book abandonment, creating enticing book displays, acknowledging our own reading gaps, involving the school librarian and other reading adults, and speaking books to all students. I wrote about all of these and more in my book Passionate Readers, a book MiddleWeb has said should be required reading in all Reading Methods Classes. While those are huge words to live up to, I think it once again speaks to the power of all of the little things we do to create passionate reading environments.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child, out August 2017. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.