As the school year continues to fly by, I have been reflecting on some of my favorite parts of my new experience in 5th grade this year. Hands down, the reading community that my students have built is my absolute favorite part of this year. Helping build a reading community has really helped me reaffirm just how vital loving/enjoying reading can be to our youth and how lucky I was to find my love for reading at a young age. My parents read to me all the time growing up. My mom, who is a preschool teacher, has always encouraged me to read, explore books, and appreciate a good story. I am the avid reader that I am today because of the reading opportunities and encouragement that I had in my youth.
I know that not everyone has parents who love to read or have role models who have encouraged them to read so helping students embark on their own reading journey has been one of my missions this year.
As I prepared for this year, there was no question in my mind that reading was going to be vital part of my classroom as an educator. As a second grade teacher, I provided read to self as a center during our rotations. I did an afternoon read aloud(usually from a chapter book), and read poetry or a trade book to the kiddos every morning during our morning meeting. Looking back, I see that there was SO MUCH MORE that I could have done, but exposing students to all types of reading experiences was a great start.
Our reading looks very different in 5th grade this year. Whether you are a passionate reading advocate like myself or are looking for ideas on how to incorporate more reading opportunities into the classroom, or need some convincing on WHY reading could be THE NEXT BIG THING for you and your kiddos then you have come to the right place.
When I refer to reading in this post, I am not talking about teaching students how to read or reading comprehension. I will save that for another day. No, this post is all about how to get students to READ and enjoy doing it. Here are my whys, whats, and hows for growing young readers' passion for BOOKS! These ideas are simple and meant to help you brainstorm your own ideas. :)
Why Create A classroom Community of Readers?
Reading should be enjoyable. Truly. I firmly believe that every student can fall in love with reading. It shouldn't be forced. Students should be so obsessed reading that they literally can't put books down. For many, that passion doesn't happen over night. But, there is so much power behind reading text of all kinds. Help students LOVE reading, but let them discover it. Don't force it.
Building relationships is key when helping students, of any age, foster a love for reading. Placing a book in a child's hand is not the answer. Taking the time to build relationships with your students, learn what they are interested in, reading to them, with them, taking reading interest surveys, and never giving up on finding the "right" book or "THE" topic is a step in the right direction. We learn how love the smell of a book, appreciate the way a book feels when we hold it in our hands, and unleash excitement over new reading material.
Book talks are my JAM! Some of my most favorite moments as an educator have come from the reading conversations that I have with my students about the books that we are reading in class. This scenario is quite common in our classroom now-->
"Mrs. Cooper, I don't know what to read next."-S, "Okay, let's sit in the library and I will pull out some books that might interest you. What are you in the mood to read? Action? Adventure? Mystery?"-Me.
Or, here is another conversation that has become a weekly occurrence.
"Mrs. Cooper!!!! I just finished reading Roller Girl. You have GOT to read it! You can borrow my copy if you want! "-S, "Oooo! Tell me what it is about." -Me.
When I purchase new books for the classroom, we ALWAYS sit down in a group as class and talk about the new books going on the shelves. Whether it is watching a book trailer on the new books, listening to me share about the book, having a student who has already read it share, or just reading the jacket cover; we talk about the books and really focus on getting excited about the new stories/information that is being added to the shelves. Each new resource is new information, new adventures, new experiences and building that anticipation and excitement is just part of the reading fun!
Building Student Created Reading Spaces
There are so many awesome ways that I see teachers implementing spaces for readers to share what they are reading. From doors that have book displays to book stands and reading shelf tags; the possibilities are endless. Our classroom adopted the idea of a reading graffiti wall this year, and it has quickly become a student favorite! Our reading graffiti wall is a space for students to share quotes from books that spoke to them in some way. In order to add a quote, the students must have a "quote chat" with me, they share the quote with the class, and then they write it on the wall. The "quote chat" allows the student to run the quote by me and we talk about why the quote spoke to them. They share the quote with the class because the quotes they pick are powerful and many students can usually relate to the message behind the quote. It also gives the students an opportunity to share why it was important to them and encourages other students to read the same book!
This is just a small peek into my reflections on building a classroom community of readers. A lot of my ideas have stemmed from reading The Book Whisper and Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller.
Reading is a powerful tool. Are you tapping into it?