Encouraging Independent Readers

As an educator, you don’t want your students growing up thinking reading is dull. Rather, you want them to find it pleasurable enough that it earns a spot in their spare-time activities. Getting kids to read independently is the first step toward showing them that reading is a joy, and not a chore.

TeachThought’s “25 ways schools can promote literacy and independent reading” is a great resource for tips. Here’s a quick 4-point summary:

Create a class environment conducive to reading

The proper environment to encourage regular reading is key. First, find at least 15-20 minutes a day for self-selecting, independent reading.

To encourage students to browse for books, put some effort into the classroom library. Display certain books, put a list of your favorites, and keep bookmarks handy. Let kids get creative and make their own bookmarks, or book displays.

A literacy-rich environment should be full of print, word walls, books, and reading materials. Provide a setting that encourages and supports speaking, listening, reading, and writing with a range of print and digital media.

Take a look at this resource on having students choose and read Newsela articles on their own as part of their independent reading.

Get Interactive

Encourage read alouds, book talks and book clubs to keep it interesting and get students exposed to new vocabulary out loud. Get favorite authors to visit, and encourage students to write to some of their favorites. TeachThought says you can make guest reader appearances fun by announcing them as “mystery readers” and providing clues during the week to create anticipation for the guest reader. Maybe you can convince local actors to come to school and act out scenes from plays.

Add food. “Books and Bagels” morning read-alongs, pizza and p.j.’s read-in parties, or “Book Blast & Bar-B-Que” events can help kids associate reading with fun – or at least food.

Go high-tech. Create a classroom-wide or even schoolwide Twitter hashtag for sharing and reviewing books where teachers, students, and librarians all participate. Have students make video book reviews or video blogs about books.

Access more books

Financially support school libraries and solicit donations from local bookstores. Find ways to share and swap books, and partner with local libraries (even invite local librarians to class) to make sure kids have cards and know how to use them. Find out how your school’s book budget works and consider applying for grants or running book drives. Then use those new books to build up a great in-classroom library.

Find out what books are hot with kids at the moment. Even if they aren’t books you’ll choose to add, it may help you find how to get them interested in similar titles.

Take it outside the classroom

Encourage outside reading, and partner with local libraries, letting parents know about library events. And even though winter is just starting, summer is a great time to encourage lighter outside reading on a wide range of topics. See the last Newsela summer reading challenge – and stay tuned for the next one!