You got the “back to school blues?" No need for that! Focus your sights on revving up reading enthusiasm by designing a year-long book bash! Can’t think a year ahead? Then think about one month at a time…What can you do to get kids excited about books, reading, sharing, talking, and writing? It can be large or small, but the point is to start and keep the momentum rolling. The year will fly by, your kids will be reading more than ever, and they’ll be asking what they get to do the following year. Here are just a few ideas…but really the sky’s the limit!
Start a book club. This can be done in any number of ways. I lead three “Books and Brownies” groups and meet at lunch once a month. I always let the kids take the lead with choosing the book, or the genre, or the format. And I supply the dessert.
Let the kids recommend books. There are many ways to do this: make book trailers, student-led book talks, a favorite quotes wall, shelf talkers, students’ picks shelves, online book reviews, and more. The point is to let the kids talk up the books to each other.
Organize “battle over books” teams. Some kids thrive on competition, and this is a great way to get students to read books closely, talk about the books, and battle it out to see who can sport a winning score. You can design this within a school, between schools, or between districts.Invite authors in to visit with your students in several ways: in person, Skype sessions, YouTube videos, cardboard standees, book displays with author photos. Let your kids see that real people leading real lives find stories within them, and can share through their writing. I’ve utilized all of these ideas over the years and can testify that when students see why and how authors create, they not only read more of their books and talk more about them, but they start to see themselves as writers too.
Integrate books into content areas whenever possible. And not just during social studies, but also for science, the arts, and even math. I’ve always attempted to integrate both a book and a technology component into as many lessons and units as possible. When you do that, kids garner greater understandings, and see relevance in a topic, much more readily. And don’t forget to incorporate picture book biographies for any content area topic; the human side is a must.
Many states have designed children’s/teen choice awards. Investigate what they are, what’s the nominating and voting process and time frame, and how to participate. Your state doesn’t have one? Then create your own. Name the award, establish your own criteria, and hold elections; your students will be proud of their input.
Does your school publish a student written newspaper or literary magazine? Most schools have budding writers who love to see their work in print. The writing can be original, but also encourage writing book reviews. Teach them a critical stance when reading, and a balanced approach to the writing. Encourage that creativity by providing an avenue for publication.
Many students wish to write fan fiction, create comic strips, or rewrite endings of books. Allowing time to write this way, and displaying it around your library or classroom, boosts pride in their work and encourages value for what others can create.
I held my first open mic poetry opportunity during our lunch times this past April for the first time ever Poetry Month. The event attracted a small but passionate crowd, who has begged to create a poetry club, with the added component of turning some of the poetry into song lyrics.
Celebrate national library and reading events. These include ALA’s Youth Media Awards, National Library Week, School Library Media Month, Banned Books Week, Teen Read Week, March Book Madness, to name a few. Design displays, bulletin boards, contests, announcements, etc. to bring meaning to these events and get kids excited.
Work with students to create blogs or vlogs. These can cover subject matter like favorite authors or illustrators, new books, best lines, alternate endings, controversial themes – just about anything that get students talking about books and issues.
Prepare and assist kids in practicing reader's theater scripts to help them interpret and internalize stories. One of the best ways to truly make meaning and share it with others is to submerge yourself in a character and navigate the space within a story.
Sounds like all too much? Then bite off one piece for September, another for October, and a third for November. Then see where the kids take you through the rest of the year. Latch onto what they enjoy the most, then stretch them a little farther. You’ll be pleasantly surprised what a year-long book bash will do for you and your kids. You just might now want the school year to end!