Classroom Routines That Get Kids Excited About Reading
I think one of the things I’m most proud of as a teacher is that I’ve always been able to get kids excited about reading in the classroom. The fact that I love reading myself – and get super giddy over children’s books – probably makes a difference. But I don’t think that’s the whole thing. I do think that it says a lot to a kid when you pick up a book and are excited to read it, or talk about books you want to read.
But more importantly, in the classroom, the best way to get kids excited about reading is to make reading the reward. In this post, you’ll find some great (easy to implement) strategies that do just that.
Reading with no rules
Reading “just for fun” books is what student get to do when they’re done with whatever they’re working on and waiting for others to finish. They get to read on the rug with their friends, and there aren’t many rules around it.
They’re allowed to read any books they want to. This includes my read-alouds, their book bin books, or any of the other books in the class library.
They can read with one friend or three friends. Sometimes 5 or 6 kids even crowd around a particular book. And that’s ok. Because the whole point is for them to have an enjoyable reading experience.
Which they do! I don’t know how many times I looked around the room and saw all my students engaged in reading and thought to myself, “This is so beautiful. And so easy.” And sometimes it felt wrong somehow, like I should be working harder, or they were wasting time.
But honestly, time spent reading is NEVER wasted! It’s kind of a weird paradigm for teachers…how often we think that things that are easy are wrong somehow. The truth is, we don’t always have to be doing complicated stuff!
There were even times when everybody was reading, and I knew it was time to move on to the next thing…but they were so content and happy that I would just let them keep reading.
Because isn’t that exactly what we hope for as teachers – that the whole class is engaged in meaningful learning?
The ultimate early finisher activity
The thing about making “just for fun” reading your early finisher activity is that it takes no prep whatsoever! You don’t have to plan and prep extra activities for those kids who always seem to get done first.
Plus, there’s no end point to reading…they can keep reading as long as you need them to! Which is different from most worksheets and activities – they finish those and then you need to have something else for them. Or you start trying to rush the rest of the class to finish up so those few kids aren’t just sitting there.
When free reading is their early finisher activity, they’re engaged in important learning. So it’s okay to have them keep doing it until everyone else is done.
Because the thing is, reading is good for all kids, no matter their skill level. Different kids can pick up the same book and get totally different things from it. Or the same kid might pick up the same book at different times during the school year and do different things with it.
The beginning reader might just look at the pictures and tell the story that way. Later in the year, they might start paying more attention to the text and noticing sight words and simple words. By the end of the year, maybe they’re reading all the words or have the whole thing memorized.
No matter what, kids are gaining important skills from looking at books – even if they can’t read them yet. But again, I think the most important thing is that they learn to love reading.
Read alouds with no strings attached
Another thing I do to get kids to love reading is have two read alouds every day (in addition to whatever the curriculum requires). For one read aloud, I get to choose the book, and for the other, a student gets to choose the book.
It’s so fun to see which books the students choose. They’re not always what I’d expect, and I think that’s important. When I think I know what they want to listen to, I probably have a little bit of a bias about it.
But here’s the biggest thing: during read aloud, I just read. Let me repeat: I. Just. Read. The. Book.
There are times in the day, like during your actual literacy lesson, where you need to do the picking apart of the book. The stopping to make important points. The discussion about the text features. All that boring stuff.
Kids need to be read to just for enjoyment if they’re ever going to learn to love it!
I mean, how fun would it be for you if you were watching your favorite t.v. show and it got stopped every few minutes so a host could ask you to analyze it? That would totally kill your interest in it, right?
So during read aloud, just read. And talk up your favorite books…tell them how excited you are to read to them!
There’s TONS of research out there that shows how reading aloud to kids is the best way for them to become better readers themselves. I love this infographic from readaloud.org (one of my absolute favorite organizations, by the way!):
Strategies for independent reading
When it comes to independent reading, kids might be a little more reluctant because there are more rules around it. They have to read books that are at their reading level, and they get less choice in the matter. But there are ways to get kids to love reading “just right” books too.
When I start independent reading at the beginning of the year, most kindergartners can’t read at all…so they get to read “just for fun” books at that time. So right away, they’re starting off with a positive experience of independent reading.
Then, when we start guided reading and they start getting their “just right” books, I have them read all their “just right” books first, then they can switch to their “just for fun” books.
At first, they might only have 1 or 2 leveled books, and then 7 or 8 other books. As the year goes on and they get to be better readers with more stamina, the ratio changes. Eventually they’ll have mostly leveled books and just a couple just for fun books.
The other thing I do is have partner reading right after independent reading….and that’s pretty motivating for them! When they do partner reading, they have to choose one of their independent books to read to their partner. So during independent reading, they’re often practicing the book they want to read to their partner.
And after each partner has read a book to the other, they can read “just for fun” books.
Do you see the pattern here??? Lots of just for fun reading! All the “hard” reading is sandwiched in between “fun” reading.
I’ve always had a lot of success with these strategies and routines, and most of my students have ended up being pretty great readers by the end of the year! But more importantly, they develop a love for reading. And that’s worth more to me than any test scores or reading levels.
How do YOU get your students to love reading in YOUR classroom?
I know there are tons of other ways to get kids excited about reading, and I’d love to hear what YOU do. Leave a comment below with your ideas!