Every teacher knows that independent reading is important for students. Promoting a reading culture in your classroom is vital so that students gain the many advantages of reading books. As we get ready to celebrate NEA’s Read Across America Day and National Reading Month, I wanted to share some fun independent reading activities. These activities will get students excited about reading and introduce them to new children’s books in your classroom library.
We know that reading daily reduces stress, provides mental stimulation and is fun. But there are lots of academic advantages of reading books for kids too. Important stuff like building the student’s reading fluency and reading comprehension skills. It also improves vocabulary and increases memory. Two things almost every student could use!
By using a wide variety of independent reading activities in your class, you can build a culture of strong readers in your class. A while back, I shared some big teaching mistakes I made that had killed the love of reading in my classroom. You know I’d never leave you hanging with a downer like that though. So I also shared the simple changes you can implement to get all your students to love reading again.
Here are some more independent reading activities to promote a love of reading and get your students excited about new books this month:
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This is a great way to get students excited about the new books in your classroom. These could be brand new purchases, part of your library that you hadn’t shown students yet, or books you’ve borrowed from the library. Set up the books around a table with a cup in front of each, and give your students some tickets. (You can buy a roll of raffle tickets here or just cut slips of paper.)
Before the raffle, show students each of the books and give them a little teaser. Read the back of the book or a couple of paragraphs from the first chapter. Then let your students put a ticket in the cup for the books they most want to read. Draw a ticket from each cup, and the winner gets to be the first student to read that book. Make a huge deal out of how lucky they are!
Anything you can do to mix up the reading time is fun & exciting for kids. This is one of my favorites! Grab some mini flashlights, turn off all the lights, and let students use their flashlights to read in the dark. You can also get finger lights, that light up in different colors. Students love the novelty, and it’s amazing how quiet and focused they are when the classroom is dark.
Teacher’s Personal Library
Create a personal library of your own favorite books. Choose some of your very favorites that you know your students will also love. Place them on a special bookshelf – up a little higher than normal or behind your desk or teaching table. Add a sign that says “Mr./Ms. ___’s Personal Library – Please Ask to Borrow.” Students feel like they’re getting special access to a secret set of books just for them, and they love it! When something seems “off limits” it’s so much more appealing, especially to upper elementary students.
Read Somewhere New
Take your entire class somewhere different for some independent reading time. You can make anywhere seem special as long as you present it that way to the class. Here are some ideas… If your school has an auditorium, let your class read on stage. When the weather is nice, go outside to a grassy spot or an area with benches. Take your class to an unused playground to read on a swing or the slide. Before or after lunch, let them read at the cafeteria tables. The change of scenery is nice for everyone.
Special Guest Readers
Ask special guests to come into your class, share a little about their favorite book, and read the book or a chapter to your students. You can ask other adults in your building, especially those your students know and look up to. Parents and older siblings also make great guest readers. Don’t forget your own spouse or family too. You can always vet the book selections and provide appropriate suggestions This way, you’ll know the books are appropriate levels and content for your class.
Read in Bed Time
I ran across this independent reading idea on Angela Watson’s blog, The Cornerstone for Teachers. She calls it Stay in Bed & Read. Let your students wear their slippers, cozy up with a blanket or stuffed animal, and have extra time to read. There’s something magical about getting comfy and reading a good book!
“Read All Day” Day
Every now and then, if you can get your admin on board, have a day where you do nothing but read. (Read Across America day is perfect for this, and easy to get admin support for!) Plan several of these fun reading activities throughout the day and make it a full day focused on reading. Since most students probably don’t have the reading stamina for a whole day, schedule shorter blocks of independent reading time around lunch and enrichment classes. Mix in some of the other activities like special guest readers, a book tasting, or a book raffle to keep students excited.
For more great reading activities and ideas, follow me on Instagram @chalkandapples. If you try one of these independent reading activities, I’d love to see it! Tag me on your Instagram pics or email me a pic or two.