Fostering a Love of Reading in Upper Elementary

Friends, I am SO excited to talk all things READING today.  One of my greatest educational pursuits is to help grow lifelong readers.  Beyond the walls of our classroom, I want my students to reach for a book when they're curious or bored or lonely or content.

I always share with students that as a child, I struggled in reading and have vivid memories of being pulled out of my elementary classes to receive special help.  I remember finally finding books like The Babysitters Club, Little House on the Prairie, and Charlotte's Web and getting lost in the characters and their lives.

I still do today!

And so, I've broken this down into four categories of ways that I try to help reach my readers.  Whether you are virtual or face-to-face, I hope some of it might help you!

Morning Meetings

Let's start off right from the beginning of the day!  Each and every morning, we meet together as a class family.  You can read more about them HERE.  There are several components but my favorite would have to be the book talks.

You can grab this resource HERE.

Students are responsible to do one per month, but you can make it work for you.  I don't require them to have finished the book; they can share where they're at.  My "rules" are pretty simple: stay under one minute, don't give away the ending, and get your classmates excited to try the book themselves.

We used to all sit on the rug together and while we can't currently, we still all listen to our book talks.

Honestly, I think it's the number one way to build a reading community.

I also can't say enough about involving students in the process of what books we ADD to our classroom library.  We will have quite the discussions and debates when and if we are going to put in a Scholastic book order.  We use THESE to do some goal setting with our Scholastic orders!

We also love to find, notice, and discuss new words.  If you use a language program (we have Wordly Wise), it gives students an opportunity to ground those words in their daily lives.  Try and find them in other texts or try to use them in your writing.  My kids LOVE keeping these little notebooks to be word collectors of their own.  You can grab these materials HERE.

We also share a LOT of picture books.  Big kids need picture books, too!  It is also a wonderful place to grab mentor sentences from.  You can read more about that HERE.

Morning meeting is a great time to make words and books come alive, simply through discussion!

Classroom Design

In Donalyn Miller's book (read it, buy it, highlight it all up!), she mentions that students should live in a "book flood."  I want my classroom to be just that for them.  I want them to have books and options and places and spaces, carved out just for them.

I do spend a lot of money on books for our classroom.  Also, I read the book, my own kids read the book, and then I bring it into the classroom.  This is me justifying/explaining how and why a substantial amount of my paycheck goes to books.

If you're looking for my favorite chapter books, click HERE.  If you're looking for my favorite picture books, click HERE.  I try to keep both updated as often as possible!

I try to do a healthy mix of books organized by author's last name and books in baskets.  You can click HERE for more information on this system of ours.

Now obviously, given the pandemic, I've had to make major changes to furniture and seating (insert sob).  But, I have great hope that we can get back to cozy reading spots soon.  These convertible benches are the best and will be the first thing to return when possible!

Currently, if they want to read, I do let them read under their desks.  And, we always do Flashlight Fridays, where we make the room as dark as possible and do nothing but read for about 20 minutes.  It's magical and they request it!

Lesson Design

I am very fortunate to work in a district that doesn't force us to use a boxed literacy curriculum.  I did that for years and while I know they have value (they do!), providing real-life, authentic reading experiences will always reign supreme to me.

One thing that my students use all year is an ELA notebook.  Not only is this great for language and writing, it's where we record our reading thoughts, stop and jots, notes, and even drafts.

I did have my copy spiral bound and it was a game changer!  I did it at an office store for about $7.

I am always using our standards to guide what we need, as well as outside resources.  I love THIS book from Jennifer Serravallo because I can grab SO many mini-lesson ideas.

Also, no matter what we do during the day, I also meet with readers every afternoon.  When students come in from lunch, they read to self and I start meeting with kids.  I use THESE materials to guide our conferences.  This binder is always at my fingertips.

I also think it's very important for students to connect with each other over a love and interest of books.  One way we do this is by employing book clubs.  Grab everything we use HERE.

They LOVE having a reading partner, too.  Our partnerships run the length of the whole year and those kids truly do get SO close.

I love when they work with their partners on a book or in a group.  The thoughts they think and share will make any teacher heart explode!

Now, because my students always have their own independent novel to read, I do want to see how they're doing on their own.  While we do meet in conferences, it's nice to get a gauge of their progress more formally, too.  My students are responsible for completing one of THESE each month.  I let them pick what they want and just ask that it's submitted by the last day of the month.

These are digital now, too!

Another way to incorporate authentic reading experiences that draw readers closer to books can be accomplished through novel studies.

I.  Love.  Novel.  Studies.

You can read more about them HERE.

I like to bind our think sheets but it's definitely not a necessity!  I have used THIS for years and just love it.

Novel studies give us SUCH a great opportunity to dive DEEP into character analysis, plot, and so much more.

Connections and Excitement

We want to do more of what excites us so let's make reading exciting!  Years ago, I started doing this book cover canvas project and is now a true treasure.

In the spring, students may apply to paint a cover on a canvas to commemorate a book he/she loved.  I use resources in HERE to help.

I provide the canvas and they sketch at home.  Then, they paint during lunch, which usually takes a week.  They sign the back and I hang in our room.  It is a beautiful display of a reading community.

Also, I love to make connections with readers.  They LOVE to know that you were thinking about them and I promise their eyes light up when they see that you've left them a book.  It's so simple but has such an impact.

Plus, it helps with the 40 Book Challenge!  You can read all about it in The Book Whisperer and it's one of my favorite ways to stretch readers to try a variety of genres.

We have to learn about all the genres, which is such an important skill!  We use THIS at the beginning of the year and then review all throughout the year, too.

Not everyone will complete the challenge and that's OKAY!  If they do, I sneak over in the night and put this sign on their yard (printed from VistaPrint about six years ago and somehow still kicking; I do have two).  If they live in an apartment or gated community, I always work with the family to make it special!

Also, create exciting and engaging reading opportunities for students.  This book tasting from Head Over Heels for Teaching is ALWAYS a fave!

And last but not least, we read books, we share books, we talk books, and we make books!  They love to see these in our class library and will work so hard on their piece because they know it contributes to a greater project.  You can grab these HERE.

Whew!  I hope an idea or two in here can help you and your readers.  Build, tell, and share your stories and I promise they will connect your students for years to come!

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