7 ways to get students excited about reading

fun ideas for getting kids to WANT to readThis guest post is sponsored by SNAP Learning.

With mobile devices and video games competing for students’ free time, getting your students excited about reading can be a daunting task for even the most determined teacher. Here are some ideas to inspire your students to get back to books:

1) Become a Book Character: Get your students to pick their favorite book characters and come to school dressed as them! This could even be a weekly activity as each child comes prepared to talk about why they like Horrid Henry, or the Very Hungry Caterpillar. (Check out some of these fabulous book character ideas which have been made into costumes.) Students can choose any character from an appropriate level book, with bonus points for quoting dialogue or describing the story in their own words.

2) Create Book Stack Bar Graphs: Turn your students’ book reading into year-long wall art! Cut a colored strip of paper to resemble a book spine and write the title of the book on it. Every time a student reads a new book, staple or thumbtack a new “book spine” above the student’s name. Over time, these “stacks” of books will grow vertically like a large-scale visual bar graph. Students will be able to see each other’s progress and can compete to grow their stacks; or, create stacks for different genres of books and have students compare the amounts read.

3) Go Digital: Would your students rather read on a tablet or iPad? Join a publisher program like SNAP Learning which provides hundreds of grade-appropriate books, both fiction and non-fiction, which you can assign to your students and send to their devices!  These eBooks come with interactive exercises and assignments which you can later review and assess. Best of all, the content is Common Core-aligned.

4) Leverage a Hobby: Find out what your students’ favorite activities are and encourage them to read an appropriate book on the subject. There’s nothing like an existing passion to get kids thirsty for more information! Have students share their learning with the class.

5) The Bedtime Deal: You’ll need to get parents in on this one–ask them to offer children an extension on their bedtime (10, 15 or 20 minutes as appropriate) as long as the child spends it on reading.

6) Stay in Bed and Read Day: Choose a day to let kids wear their pajamas to school  and bring in their sleeping bags. Arrange to have a special selection of books available (perhaps from your local library, or favorite books kids bring from home), and have parent volunteers supply  milk and cookies.

7) Live in the Book: Most book lovers enjoy the way a book transports them to another world. What if you could change the appearance of your classroom to resemble a deserted island or an enchanted forest or the fantastic world of Harry Potter? Enlist students’ help in decorating your classroom to fit the setting of a book you’re reading together. Every day when you read a bit more, kids will find it easier to imagine they are in the book and on an adventure. Encourage students to add to the ambiance as they learn more details about the setting, character, and plot.

What fun activities have you used to get your students excited about reading? Please share your ideas in the comments!

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bruce Price August 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm

As long as I follow this topic, I remain amazed by the confusion that reigns, and rains for that matter. All the phonics experts say they will teach reading in four months. So that is the one best way to get kids excited about reading. But schools all over America won’t teach phonics or not intensively, so they end up with kids who can’t read very well. Then they have to invent compensatory devices…So I have trouble understanding this article unless I know if these are children who can’t read and you are trying to make them read. Or, these are kids who can read quite well, thank you, and now you want to increase their interest in reading.

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2 Angela Watson August 8, 2014 at 1:45 pm

I guess my thinking on this is: how do you get kids motivated to learn phonics? Teaching skills in isolation can feel very boring to children and they don’t always make the connection to real-life reading. But if children are excited to discover the world of books, that gives them an authentic purpose for persevering through the tough parts of learning to read.

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3 Bruce Price August 8, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Again, all the phonics experts say just teach a little bit each day. Never more than half an hour. if there’s any resistance, do less or skip a day. Are you saying that kids would get bored with a 20-minute lesson? Engelmann took this to the extreme of teaching phonics in “100 easy lessons.” I’ve seen comments to the effect that his lessons were too short or too easy. I think that was pretty shrewd of him. Better that kids think something is too easy than too difficult.

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4 Angela Watson August 8, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Yes, I know kids who are bored with 5 minutes of phonics. But that’s beside the point, really. I’m not saying teachers shouldn’t be instructing kids on phonics, I’m just sharing some ways they can also inspire a love of reading in their students. I don’t see the two concepts as mutually exclusive, but complementary. :)

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5 Susan Board August 11, 2014 at 6:01 pm

Who ever said teaching phonics was boring doesn’t know how to teach phonics! I love word study sooooo much and my students even know that. Sorry being excited to read in NOT enough for many young readers especially struggling ones. And by knowing a few syllables, morphographs and phonetic practices, a bonus….spelling improves as well. It’s all about instruction!

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6 Angela Watson August 11, 2014 at 8:49 pm

You are very right that phonics instruction does not have to be boring! I’m sure your passion for word study comes through in your lessons and is absolutely contagious for students. :)

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7 Leon Alveranga August 9, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Some suggestions made here are workable Angella. I also endorse the symbiotic nature of Phonics and Interest Creation. Literacy is the product of a learner’s use of phonetic skills and his/her ability to construct meaning. Phonics does not dictate comprehension, however interest and prior knowledge goes a far way.

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8 Sylvia Skinner September 30, 2014 at 9:13 pm

I beg to differ. I teach phonics yes and make it interesting but that’s not all that reading is.
It’s not just a matter of decoding. Students need to apply what they read and the reading experiences Angela is positing do that. My year 5s even my low achievers are reading classic novels now with understanding because of reading experiences like these. I am a great believer in phonics but you need more. You can’t build a wall with just bricks you need cement to hold it together. Phonics alone just doesn’t hack it. The low achiever in year 5 just gets bored with phonics and little readers year after year while their peers go into other worlds of books.

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