In the age of modern literacy, independent reading and student choice can easily take a back seat to having students take on more challenging texts. Motivation and choice play key roles in successful literary programs, however, and strong readers are those who read a wide variety of genres and text types. In the quest to build capable readers, promoting independent, self-selected reading remains key. Creating ravenous, lifelong readers doesn’t just happen; it takes a school-wide culture to help reach that goal. Let’s do our part to promote and encourage independent reading across our schools. Here are 13 ways schools can promote literacy through independent reading.
1. Set aside time for independent reading. Plan ahead for independent reading by making it a priority in schedules across K-12 classrooms. You may need to get creative by stealing minutes here and there, but find at least 15 minutes a day (20 recommended) for self-selecting, independent reading.
2. Support high-quality classroom libraries. Students need access to interesting books and materials, both in print and online. When students are provided with well-designed classroom libraries, they interact more with books, spend more time reading, exhibit more positive attitudes toward reading, and exhibit higher levels of reading achievement. Support teachers in building classroom libraries through budget dollars, grants, and book drives.
3. Encourage reading aloud. Experts report that the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children. Not only do experts suggest reading aloud in the home, but also at school. Reading aloud not only allows teachers to model that reading is a great way to spend time, they also expose students to more complex vocabulary than they typically hear or read on their own.
4. Create a ‘caught reading’ campaign. Feature teachers as readers and encourage reading as a lifestyle by helping students see their teachers as readers. Create posters of teachers and staff reading their favorite books and display them in hallways throughout the school. You can also produce bookmarks that feature teachers’ favorite book picks to help guide students as they select books for independent reading.
5. Encourage students to read widely. Sometimes students get in a rut and don’t read beyond their favorite genre or author, so we need to encourage students to read outside of their preferred genres. Book talks, read-alouds, and book displays can open students’ eyes to new authors, genres, and text types.
6. Create a twitter hashtag for sharing books. Move beyond traditional book reviews by creating a school-wide Twitter hashtag where students and teachers write super-short reviews and highlights of recently read books. In addition, librarians can create interest in books by posting new titles with the school hashtag.
7. Host book clubs for students and parents. A community of readers sometimes happens naturally, but book clubs are a perfect way to foster connectivity around books and reading. Students can even host their own book clubs within a classroom, grade level, or school. Reading is important for parents, too, so host a book club at school or online to help create an adult community of readers and build strong parental support for reading.
8. Collaborate with your local library. Work with your town’s library to learn about and support their programs, services, and resources for students. Invite them into your school so students can easily obtain a library card and learn about how the public library can support their independent reading and research needs.
9. Provide opportunities for summer reading. Schools can play an important role in providing opportunities so that students read over the summer. Ranging from giving away books to providing summer library hours, there are many ways that schools can support independent reading during the summer months.
10. Research what students are reading. It’s important to help students find books that grab their attention and interest them, and one of the best ways to accomplish this is to keep your book knowledge current. It’s not easy keeping current with new books in children’s and young adult literature; however, there are many excellent book lists, reviews, websites, and blogs to steer you in the right direction. Boston Tutoring Services has posted information about popular children’s literature many times before. Click here to see one of our most recent posts.
11. Encourage students and teachers to write book reviews. Readers can share books with each other in the form of book reviews, and it’s easy to experiment with the form. For example, short book reviews or snippets can be featured on a series of bookmarks, while longer book reviews can be displayed in the school library or classroom library or hosted online.
12. Partner with parents. Schools can do their part to support and encourage reading; however, parents play a key role as well. Support parents by informing them of school library hours and resources available at the school and public library.
13. Host a mystery check-out day. Create a little mystery around books by wrapping selected books in brown paper and encouraging students to check out a mystery book. After they choose a book, they can unwrap it to reveal their selection. Mystery selections can encourage students – in a fun way – to venture further and try a new genre, author, or series.
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