State standardized testing, rigorous common core standards, and intensive instructional schedules leave little time for students to focus on reading, simply to read! The joy of reading has been taken away the past ten years due to extreme schedules and rigid district requirements. While you cannot change these initiatives, you can certainly think outside of the box to help you fit in the time to encourage the importance of reading for pleasure each day, especially at home. After all, we all know that sometimes we simply need to drop everything and read.
First, utilize the Pizza Hut Book-It reading incentive program. Offered in every state, the tasty franchise runs a program that begins in October and ends in March. It encourages students to read three books a month (or allows them to set their own goal by book or by minute). Teachers send home a sheet for students to keep track of the books they have read, and require a parental signature. At the end of each month, students return the signed slip and teachers issue them a gift certificate that entitles them to one free, personal sized pizza! The site is easy to use and has a lot of free, reproducible activities and tracking sheets; plus a simple letter for parents to understand the importance of independent and collaborative reading. https://www.bookitprogram.com/
Next, set up an attractive and interesting reading space in your classroom that will make students want to pick up a book and read for fun. Place a sand colored rug on the floor, set up some beach chairs, and even bring in some umbrellas or beach towels to place in a quiet corner of your room to encourage a beach inspired, independent reading area. Students can visit the “beach” when they are finished early with an assignment or at the end of the day before boarding their bus.
Also, make reading for fun a classroom reward. Students who do well on a test, show citizenship, or who get their name picked out of a bucket can join you during warmer school months to read outside during lunch time. Whether you place a large blanket in a shady and quiet area of the school yard and let students eat and read on their own; or you read a story to the students as they munch on their lunch; you are again reinforcing that it is important to find time to read, just to read.
Finally, students will have a lot of time to read for pleasure over the summer, so it can be fun for them to have an at home reading incentive. On the last day of school, send home a blank game board template. Explain to students that every time they read for 30 minutes, they can color in a square on their board. If students get their entire board colored in and label the titles of the chapter books they have read; they will receive a prize when they turn it into you on the first day of school. Prizes can be a gift certificate to a book club that your school does business with, a book mark and a certificate of achievement, or a piece of candy that says, “Reading is Sweet!”
The sky is the limit when it comes to getting students to read. While you may not have as much time in your day as you would like to emphasize the importance of reading for pleasure, there are certainly things you can do to promote and encourage a love for reading. All you need is some creativity, parental support, and the help of other outside programs that also encourage students to drop everything and read!