With spring semester in full swing, now is a great time for a reading refresh! Here are four strategies that can be used in the library or in the classroom to help readers refresh their current reading habits.
Rethink Your Shelves
You don’t need to completely overhaul your collection to keep it feeling fresh and relevant. Small changes can have a big impact on how your students discover new titles to enjoy:
- Add visual cues to shelves, such as picture cards or shelf-talker signs that will grab students’ attention and give them information about what is in each section. Ideas for shelf-talkers include student reviews, readalikes, opening lines, or a fun fact.
- Are your titles shelved spine out? Try flipping them front-facing—yes, it is totally okay to judge a book by its cover.
- Let students build, or help you brainstorm, displays on the topics they care about. Don’t have the space for big displays? Use small containers to create portable, browsable bundles for high-interest topics. Increase accessibility by creating similarly themed displays for digital resources as well. The Groups function in MackinVIA is a convenient way to curate resources for this purpose.
- Provide opportunities for students to practice organizing materials in whatever way makes sense to them. Encourage thinking beyond the scope of traditional categories; this frees readers to see the individual qualities of a book, instead of potentially passing up a great story just because of the genre or subject tag. For example, a reader who usually skips the biography section might discover that Dan Santat’s upcoming memoir, A First Time for Everything, fits right in with their favorite graphic novels, coming-of-age stories, or books about travel.
Model Different Formats
There is no right or wrong way to read a book—stories can be enjoyed in many different formats, all of which play an important role in building literacy skills! Modeling a variety of physical and digital book formats demonstrates to students that all forms of storytelling are valid, and empowers them to take control of their reading experience.
- Use an eBook to identify key story elements as a whole group. The MackinVIA Reader includes helpful tools such as multicolor highlighting, and students can save and export notes from their personal Backpacks.
- Consider choosing a graphic novel adaptation as an introduction, or an alternative to, a classic novel. The visual storytelling may feel more approachable for struggling readers, and adds novelty to a work that might otherwise be considered old, and therefore, boring.
- Play passages from an audiobook or a read-along format that emphasize the tone of a story. Verbal narration supports readers in connecting with the character and recognizing emotions that could be difficult to interpret from written text.
Add an Element of Surprise
Selecting a new book to read can be a daunting task when students are overwhelmed with options. Incorporating a game or mystery element into choice time may help alleviate the anxiety of decision-making, while introducing students to materials that might fall outside of their comfort zone.
- Try setting up a scavenger hunt around your library or reading area. Having specific items to look for will encourage students to notice materials outside of their own interests and reinforce their overall familiarity with the space. Readers who feel confident navigating independently are more likely to browse a wider range of materials, versus just sticking with what they know. You can do this for your digital library as well! If your school uses MackinVIA, this user scavenger hunt is a great resource for exploring the platform.
- Design a “blind date” or “incognito” book display. Wrap each book to keep the contents hidden. Then, add a short descriptor highlighting the most important aspects of the story (laugh-out-loud, epic adventure, etc.) This would also make a great mini-writing activity for students using their favorite or most recently read book. Encourage students to choose their next read based on the descriptors they find intriguing.
- Raise the stakes with a game of “Rob Your Neighbor”: gather your group in a circle with the selection of “incognito” books in the middle. The first player will choose any book and read aloud the descriptor. Then, going around the circle, each player gets to choose a new book (and read the descriptor) or steal one from someone else in the circle. The player who started should get the final opportunity to steal if desired. BUT, everyone must wait until the game ends to unwrap their books!
Talk, Talk, Talk About Books
We are social learners! Having a safe space to talk about books and express opinions can help students develop a deeper understanding of their own reading preferences. Plus, hearing positive reviews from peers can hugely influence what a student chooses to read.
- In addition to routine reading conferences and book discussions, make time for informal sharing opportunities where students can give honest reviews of their current reads, recite an interesting fact or quote, or show the awesome picture they just came across.
- Watch book trailers or share previews to build excitement around upcoming titles. Follow favorite authors on social media. Include fan art and other lighthearted “bookish” topics into the conversation. If you have a bulletin board or newsletter, include a section for “things we’re hyped about,” or compile links to author interviews, articles, and book lists.
- Create a space in your library or reading area where students can trade recommendations.
- Set up a class poll on the Top 5 Best Books of 2022, or take part in a mock election for the Youth Media Awards before the winners are announced.
For more ideas on how to promote a reading refresh, check out these posts by Jen McCarty Plucker: Prioritize Helping Our Students Fall in Love With Reading (Again), and Create A Culture of Literacy.