Great power for spreading the joy of reading lies within the hands of our students. As teachers we read aloud passionately several times daily, give gotta’-get-my-hands-on-that-book book talks, and create vibrant, inviting classroom libraries. But, how much time is devoted to having students influence their peers about reading? Students themselves are one another's most influential force. If we give them time to talk while honoring their voices, preferences, noticings, and wonderings, a community of engaged, sometimes frenzied, readers develops. Every single student becomes involved.
Here are five of my favorite strategies for promoting student sharing around books.
1. Buzz Groups (Steven Layne talks about this in his book Igniting a Passion for Reading): Several times a week, students meet for ten minutes to share what’s catching their attention in the books they are currently reading. You can form groups or allow students to create their own. They can share annotations to let other readers in on their thinking (they love using sticky notes to interact with the texts). I like to keep the talk in these groups open-ended, and listen in to see what’s ‘trending’ around their self-selected reading at any given time. As I listen, I come across thinking I want to highlight in class lessons and I discover areas where I might push thinking forward. I sometimes also assign a ‘focus’ for their sharing depending on what aspect of reading we’re studying.
2. “The Golden Easel:” (See photo above!) Students can nominate books to be featured on the golden easel—a special place of honor for books. Readers who nominate books can add sticky notes to the covers, briefly sharing why they want to inspire other readers to read them. Then, those who are interested can write their names on sticky tabs and put them on the books. Viola! A list of readers waiting for a title! A bunch of readers making plans for their reading! (Hint, place the ‘golden easel’ in high traffic areas, by the sink, for example. Students are washing and find themselves cleverly drawn into a book commercial!)
3. Plastic Document Holders: Love this strategy! Again, place these strategically around the classroom (I like to have several by our door, so as students are waiting, they are once again drawn into reading one another's thoughts about notable books). Since they are clear, the COVERS of books are easily visible. Readers can add their thoughts on sticky notes along the bottom of the holders, and peers can comment on the sides. I found the plastic holders at OfficeMax (they also come in sets of 3 attached holders, but I prefer the single ones so book covers have more visibility).
4. “I Just HAVE TO Share” Parking Lot: This is a poster where students can place sticky notes about things they simply MUST share with classmates. When there are a few seconds here and there in a day, I have the student retrieve the note and share what must be said! If I find we’re getting flooded with notes, I allow students a minute or two to come up, grab their note, find a buddy or group and share OR I simply tell them to take their note to lunch and share it with other readers!
5. Televised book talks: Many teachers record their students giving books talks. Take it one step further: televise them! A TV strategically placed near the lunch line, where book talks are broadcast, can go a long way toward creating a culture of reading in a school. Plus, students feel so empowered: their reading lives are potentially affecting the reading lives of countless peers!
Just think how these strategies can ignite your room with talk, exponentially increase the number of books students are exposed to, and spread positive energy around the act of reading. When visitors walk into a classroom that is flooded with books and genuine talk about books, they know reading isn’t just a priority, it’s a passion!