As teachers, we work incredibly hard to build many facets of community within our classroom and then… BOOM – a break happens!
One of the biggest challenges is how to maintain our reading community over the long Winter Break. It’s easier when I’m seeing my students five days a week and am there to encourage, share books, confer, and build excitement. When we spend two-and-a-half weeks away from each other it’s a struggle to bring that community back together. These are my top strategies for maintaining the reading expectations over break so that we are ready to roll in 2018!
- To Be Read (TBR) Lists: In Reading in the Wild, Donalyn Miller, @donalynbooks, dedicates an entire chapter to the fact that Wild Readers have reading plans (p. 135). Before break, I build my own TBR List to share with students and then have kids create their own! I always bring my book stack or list in before a break to share with my students. We discuss the variety of genres, how I have books that will be easy to read and others that are more challenging, how I have new authors and old favorites. After this discussion, I hand it over to the kids and we pull out books from the classroom library and head to the school library to fill TBR lists and pack backpacks so there is no excuse for not reading over break.
- Preview Stacks: As their teachers, we often know our students as readers better than anyone, so who better to make recommendations? Miller also discusses building Preview Stacks for students (p. 73). It is crucial to consider your students’ interests and passions and then books that might connect to them. Miller states “Always offer several books at once. Suggesting one book takes away a student’s ability to choose.” Just because I think it is their perfect book, that may not be the case. After picking one or two to read immediately, they can then add titles to their TBR lists that they may want to read at another time
- Book Raffles: Do you have new books that you haven’t shared with students yet? What about the books that you love, but kids aren’t picking them up? Book talk a handful of books to build excitement about them and then raffle off the opportunity to read! This is always a great way to generate interest in books. In my classroom, I share about 5-7 books and then hand out “tickets” (let’s be real – these are cut up pieces of bright colored paper). Students get four tickets towards the raffle. They can split them among different books or put all four towards one book. They love it and I have even had to create a waitlist if there a ton of names for a book!
The key element for encouraging and supporting reading over break is that READING ISTHE PRIZE (@hellojenjones). It is easy to want to offer prizes when they come back for who read the most minutes, most books, most pages, whatever it may be… Students need not be rewarded for with extra prizes for reading over break if our aim is to build a community of lifelong readers!
Keep supporting those readers and engaging them, even when on break! Enjoy the time to recharge for yourself and build up that stock-pile of books you love so that you can share with students when you return! No better way to start the new year than with new books!
Ashley Hickey is a fifth grade teacher in Jefferson County. She is “Mama” to two lively boys who love to read and discover books. She is a board member of JCIRA and explores all things teaching, running, reading, and “momming” on Twitter and Instagram @ashhickeyread.