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Literacy Strong All Year Long: Motivating K–2 Students to Read

By Lori Oczkus, Valerie Ellery, and Timothy Rasinski
 | Jul 01, 2015

shutterstock_142996465_x300Keeping your students motivated and engaged in reading all year long ensures that they’ll grow “literacy strong.” Just like staying in physical shape, students need to participate actively in “workouts” by reading every day and they need to increase the level of intensity of their routines! Whether you are trying to start the year off fresh with gusto, working hard to beat the mid-year blahs, scrambling to finish the year on top, or sending students off into the lazy days of summer with books to read, each season of the year presents its own set of reading challenges.

Here are some creative and practical strategies to motivate your students to keep reading in every season all year long!

Starting the school year literacy strong

Join the class book club. Invite students to join the class book club by participating actively in read-alouds. Pass out paper “tickets” and invite students to go on a reading “trip.” Tell students throughout the year that the class will take small trips through books.

Keep book logs. Keep a class book log to record read-alouds in. List the author, illustrator, title, and either a sketch or copy of the cover art as well as the class rating on a scale of 1–4. Use the same format for individual book logs.

Beating the mid-year blahs

Read aloud books about reading. Read aloud and discuss books that demonstrate a love of books and learning. Discuss the characters in these books and talk about what the characters read, why they read, and also where and when they enjoy their books. Have students compare with their own places, times, and types of books they like to read. 

  • The Best Book to Read by Debbie Bertram and Susan Bloom
  • The Best Time to Read by Debbie Bertram and Susan Bloom
  • Fire Up With Reading! by Toni Buzzeo
  • How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills
  • I Like Books by Anthony Browne
  • Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t) by Barbara Bottner

Play “Musical Books.” Share book titles with students in a “musical chairs” spin-off game. Arrange chairs back to back and place a book under each chair. Invite the same number of students as chairs to come up and walk around in a circle while music plays. When the music stops, the students sit in a chair closest to them and reach under it for a book to bring to their lap to flip through for one minute. Signal the students to place the books back under the chairs and walk around to the music again and repeat the activity. Reinforce positive participation (i.e., no pushing or rushing to sit down, as there are enough chairs for all). After several turns, invite students to share their thoughts about the books. Pass out the books for students to read.

Ending the year literacy strong

Post a Shelfie. Reading advocate Donalyn Miller encourages students to take a “shelfie,” a photo taken of the reader and his or her book or books. Take photos of your students with their favorite books or books they want to read next. Post them in the room or on the class or school website. Discuss places where people read.

Chant in a circle of students. Invite students to bring a book and sit in a circle. Students turn to a partner on the right and share the title and author of their book. Then invite all of the students to listen while each child in the circle takes a turn chanting the I Like Books Chant. At the end, when every one has had a turn, invite partners to again turn to the student on the right and tell why their book is their favorite by showing some evidence or an example from the text.

I like ______ books. (name the type: story, nonfiction, adventure, animal) books
Yes I do.
I like _____books. (name the type again) 
How about YOU?

Preventing the summer slide

Find online book club reviews. Use the Spaghetti Book Club as an online resource for helping students identify books they want to read and for writing reviews.

Encourage summer reading. Invite students and parents to sign up for summer reading challenges at the local library or join the online Summer Reading Challenge at Scholastic.

Lori D. Oczkus is a literacy coach, author, and popular speaker. Her most recent book with ILA is Just the Facts! Close Reading and Comprehension of Informational Text. Valerie Ellery is as a National Board Certified Teacher, curriculum specialist, mentor, staff developer, reading coach, consultant, and author. Her bookCreating Strategic Readers: Techniques for Supporting Rigorous Literacy Instruction is currently in its third edition. Timothy Rasinski, a literacy education professor at Kent State University, is a prolific researcher who has authored more than 150 articles. He is a former coeditor of The Reading Teacher and the Journal of Literacy Research.  He is coauthor, with Maureen McLaughlin, of Struggling Readers: Engaging and Teaching in Grades 3–8, published by ILA.

Oczkus, Ellery, and Rasinski will host a session Sunday, July 19, “Literacy Strong All Year Long” at the ILA 2015 Conference in St. Louis, MO, July 18–20. This session is based on a forthcoming release from ILA by the three authors. Visit the ILA 2015 Conference website for more information or to register.

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