Winter break is quickly approaching! Whether your school break is one, two, or three weeks in duration, the fact is that these upcoming days off are still valuable ones in the lives of all readers, regardless of their grade in school or stage of reading development. From kindergarteners to high schoolers, and even beyond, reading matters (for more on why reading matters, I highly recommend this 2015 blog post from Donalyn Miller). To keep students reading over break, here are four practical tips that I have seen work in the past, and that I plan to make use of in my nine teaching days before winter break.
1. Provide access to books. Books cannot be read if access is not granted. Consider taking a small bit of time to spruce up the classroom library- highlight a few book boxes, enlist students in organizing books in a way that makes sense to them (students love creating book boxes in the library!), and refer to the library as often as possible throughout the day. Make it the focal point of everything in the classroom. Also, consider asking your school librarian for support with book access. Perhaps your class can spend some time in the library before winter break. Take a look here if you’re still thinking of ways to grow and maintain your classroom library.
2. Once access is established, invite kids to freely choose a few books to take home. As JK Rowling reminds us, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” And, according to Allington and Gabriel (2012), “Students read more, understand more, and are more likely to continue reading when they have the opportunity to choose what they read.” This applies not only to children, but also to adolescents, teens, and adults as well. Before winter break arrives, consider spending some time in class inviting students to choose a few books to take home. It is more likely they will read at home if they get to pick out the reading material themselves. Worried about losing books from your classroom library? Simply ask students to keep track of the books they have borrowed- rarely do books not come back, but it can happen. There is always a risk of a couple books being lost, but the risk is even greater for students if books sit unread on shelves over break instead of in the hands of readers. Books are meant to be read, not collected on shelves. If inviting students to choose their own books is new to you and your readers, Kari Yates and I have a few tips and tricks to support students in book choice.
3. Make a plan with Your Readers. One of the habits of healthy readers is consistently making plans for reading. By inviting students to think about when they’ll read, where they’ll read, what they’ll read, and possibly with whom they’ll read over the break, they are more likely to actually read. These plans can be jotted in notebooks, written in planners or calendars, typed up, and even shared with friends and family. As human beings, we’re more likely to do something that we make specific plans to do. We’re even more likely to do something when we share those plans with others. Reading is so critical in the growth of all students, we can’t just leave it to chance. Taking time to make a plan has the power to increase the chances of students reading over the break from school.
4. Let students know that the first day after winter break they will chat about their reading. One of the most authentic ways to respond to reading is to invite conversation. Before students leave for the break, let them know that the class is going to casually chat about their winter break reading upon return. This chat, and ones like it, are not an assignment, a method for accountability, or a ‘gotcha’ in any way. Rather, they are what we do- we regularly chat about books. We chat about them in our daily morning meetings, during reading workshop, and often times through more visual means (as seen below). When talk and interaction around books becomes a way of life in the classroom, students will read more. They will want to get in on the action and connection that reading offers. They will want to be a part of the conversation. If chat around books is new to you, or if you’re looking for different ideas, you can find some support here and here.
As a recap…
1. Provide access to books.
2. Invite kids to freely choose a few books to take home.
3. Make a plan with Your Readers.
4. Remind students about upcoming chats about reading after break.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and what you plan to do to encourage your students to keep the reading going over break! Happy reading, friends!
Allington & Gabriel. 2012. “Every Child, Every Day.” Educational Leadership 69: 10-15.
My first book for teachers, To Know and Nurture a Reader: Conferring with Confidence and Joy, cowritten with Kari Yates, is now out and available from Stenhouse Publishers. Our goal with this book was to help teachers make the important practice of conferring with readers manageable, effective, and joyful!