Independent reading is often associated with student success and testing ability because students who read have larger vocabularies. Independent reading can create critical thinkers and improve a student’s writing skills. Books provide students with mirrors and doors. Students can find themselves in a book or learn about others. There are many reasons why independent reading is important, but how do we encourage students to read?
Here are five suggestions to get students excited about reading.
First Chapter Friday
First Chapter Fridays give you a set time to share books with students each week. Pick books with engaging first chapters and read one aloud to students each Friday. This hooks students, and if they need to know what happens next, they just found their next independent reading book. First Chapter Fridays are also a great way to introduce students to genres and authors they wouldn’t normally read.
As an English teacher, students expect you to be a reader, but it’s powerful when you can show them that you aren’t the only one. When I taught middle school, all of the teachers on my team hung up posters outside their classrooms with pictures of the books they were currently reading. Our students loved knowing that the math teacher and science teacher read books in their free time, and it got students talking about books outside of class.
Show off the books in your classroom library. Create a display for a specific genre, a nationally celebrated month, or diverse authors. Displays for brand new books have always been effective for my classroom. Students love to be the first person to read a new book. Special displays are a great way for students to see books they may miss on the shelves.
One of the best ways to encourage independent reading is to give students time to read in class. Set aside time each week for silent reading and read along with them. This will give you a more accurate picture of who is reading than a reading log could.
A book tasting is an event that gives students a little taste of novels you have preselected. Classrooms can be set up to look like a little cafe to set the mood. There are kits to help students review books in a way that matches the theme such as menus or placemats with review activities or prompts. Book tastings are a great way to introduce students to different authors and genres, and they’re effective because students are engaged the entire time.
To encourage independent reading, choose a new strategy to expose students to books and switch it up throughout the year. Happy reading!
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