I hate to use the word trick, but teachers have all kinds of “methods” to get kids started down the path of a lifelong reader. As a parent, I will pull out a few of these teacher strategies at home if needed too. After consulting with some co-teachers, I am posting my favorite ways to get kids to grab that next book. Whether you teach or have kids at home, one of these tips should get somebody interested in a new book. Any other suggestions out there for book motivators?
- I dedicate one classroom bulletin board to student book recommendations. I laminated a closed manila folder and slit the opening at the top to make a pocket. The folder is attached to the bulletin board and is filled with short Book Recommendation Forms. In their free time, students may fill out a form and pin it to the board. I also add recommendations for the books I read. Before the students head to their weekly library time, we check the board and share recommendations. Often, students arrive at the library with a book or author in mind, which makes library time more productive. They are not wandering around aimlessly hoping a book cover will grab them. Having books ideas in your head before heading to any library is very effective (parent hint).
Read Aloud Wednesdays
- I borrowed (stole?) this idea from my good friend and co-worker. Every Wednesday, a student gets to read an excerpt from a favorite book during reading class. A) It provides opportunity to read aloud and improve fluency. B) It encourages book discussion because several students may end up reading the same book about the same time. My teacher friend is in the read aloud rotation, so students hear a “professional” reader occasionally too.
- The same teacher who has Read Aloud Wednesdays also has “featured books” displayed on her class bookshelf. When this 6th grade teacher finds a good read, she sets it on a book stand at the front of the shelf to highlight the book. There are write-on cards nearby that give a quick endorsement of the book. Students can suggest books for the feature book area as well. Her book shelf looks like the staff recommendation table at the library or Barnes and Noble. Sorry– no picture available. She was teaching class when I tried to stop by to document her fab idea.
What Should I Read Next?
- Students drop book names into a jar on the teacher’s desk (or a parent’s nightstand?). The teacher draws titles from the jar and that is what the teacher will read next. There is something appealing about having input in what a teacher will do. It is like giving a teacher a homework assignment– every student’s dream.
- Set time limits for completing books. Just like reading a book too quickly will decrease reading comprehension, taking too long to complete a book can have the same effect and kill the enjoyment. Currently, I require students to read 300 pages a month. However, a book must be completed in order for the pages to count. If you want to read the 1,000 page Harry Potter, then you are committing to finishing that book by the end of the month. It prevents students from languishing over a book too long and forgetting character information and key plot details. On the other hand, a student could read three 100-page books, which might be more manageable and can keep the pace reasonable for an average 4th grade reader.
Books with a Sequel
- Two of the novel studies we completed this year have sequel books. If you read an awesome class novel, it takes no prompting at all to get everyone to read the sequel (Parents, try reading a great book that has a sequel with your child and then leave the child to continue the series). After we finished The Lemonade War by Davies and Dying to Meet You by Klise, all but two students lined up for the sequel. Between the school library and my classroom library, we had three copies of the Lemonade Crime and three copies of Over My Dead Body. I put all the names on a wait list and drew out of a hat until all students had read the book sequels.
- I have a whole post about this activity, and I also posted free lesson plans in my TeachersPayTeachers store for writing author letters. The activity has many layers because students research contact information for the author (which might be as simple as reading the publisher page of a book). They recall business letter format to prepare the letter, practice writing addresses– you would be surprised how many 4th graders cannot do this and do not know state abbreviations– and (hopefully) use good writing skills. Every time we receive a reply from an author, it boosts interest in that book. In addition, we have had several authors recommend other book titles to us in the letters. The author letters and replies share a bulletin board with the book recommendations.