We all try to set a certain tone in our classrooms. I try to teach my students that books are exciting and that we can learn so much from reading. That conversations about books and reading are important to have with each other. I have been thinking a lot about this lately and there are many, many ways to build this culture. Lots of them are easy to implement too!
One way to keep books fresh and in front of kids is to cycle some in and out each month. I am sure all of you do this. Just the simple act of displaying seasonal books or books that go with units you are teaching and placing them on the chalkboard tray brings new interest in books for the kids.
Bless your books! When you do read alouds, talk about how special these books are and that they go in a special place in the room. Keeping them in a special basket and displaying some standing up on a table builds interest in them. Anything the teacher reads builds excitement and students can't wait to look at them too. This very thing happened on Friday. I read a book to the class and as soon as I was done talking, one of the students was asking for the book. Couldn't wait to get his hands on it. I LOVE that!
Allow students to recommend books to each other. This particular way of recommending books takes no precious class time at all. As students finish a book that they like, they can put a Post It note on it and sign their name to it. That lets other students know as they are looking through the book basket what books their friends read and recommend to others. Isn't this what we do with our friends when we read a really good book? We can't wait to tell others about it. That is what I want to instill in my readers. Three people have signed The Giving Tree making it a highly recommended book in my room this year!
It's also powerful for you to sign the Post It note and recommend books too! My kids like to put stars for how good the book is. I mentioned 5 would be enough, but some want to put like 10 because the book is just sooooo good!
This idea does take a bit more preparation. But the kids really enjoyed it and it is real world writing to go along with their reading. We looked at and discussed real book reviews. We learned what book reviews included and how they were written. It is important to me in my room that kids understand it is okay to not like a book. As adults we like some genres more than others and some not at all. I want students to feel safe enough to express their true opinion. The thumbs up or thumbs down in the book review is a good way for them to practice that.
At the bottom of the book review, the students colored book icons to rate the book. They always enjoy rating things!
Another easy way to promote books is in the way we display them on the shelves. Think Barnes and Noble or a library! Instead of having all your books lined up, spine out, or in a basket where you only see the top book, try strategically placing some books facing out. Think about when you are in a bookstore and are looking at books. What do you pick up first? A lot of times it is the book they have placed facing toward you. That is no accident! This is one I have to work on in my room as my shelf is crammed with baskets and no room to face any out. But that is one thing I would like to move towards doing!
Another idea that I have known about for a while now, but unfortunately have not yet tried is wrapping a set of books like a gift for the class or reading group! Now that would get their attention! A good way to do this would be when your group is getting a new book to read, wrap the whole set and talk about how special the books are inside. I would tell the students that it is books though, so no one gets disappointed thinking we were getting new toys! But I like the idea of how wrapping the books and talking them up would physically show the kids how special books and reading are!
One last idea to share is being sure you leave share time at the end of your independent reading time. Because, again, we want to teach kids and let them practice what adults really do when they read a really good book- they TALK about it! So set a timer and have share time. Easy ways to manage this would be to have students share in shoulder partners, in small groups, or within their tables. It only has to be for a few minutes so it can stay manageable.
Question for you today: How are you building a culture of reading and conversations about books in your room?