teach brother to read
Start a Book Club

by Carol Baker

For your students to become good readers takes practice beyond the time available in the classroom. You need the leverage of a reading culture at school to get students to read more outside of school. The Read2Dream Book Club provides the tools and incentives to do just that.

Test Drive the Book Club

Before the school year starts, join the Read2Dream Book Club at the same reading level as your class. Do all the things that they will do. Have fun: change your profile picture, enter books, get a free prize, print your book list, visit Tucker’s Corner… Take a look at the resources — especially Tools for Schools. (I have materials like a reading log for the students to use.) Join the mail list to be notified when I post new topics or materials of interest to teachers.

Let Your Principal Know About the Book Club

Reading should be part of the daily conversation. This most easily done when you get enthusiasm from the top down. My principal is very supportive of the Book Club. Students know she is interested in what they are reading because she takes time to ask them. What are you reading? What’s a good book? How many books have you read? They love to show their book lists to her when they reach a bench mark of 10, 25, 50 and 100 books. She praises them and gives them stickers. (Your principal is proud of you!) The office staff praises their accomplishments, too. In our school reading accomplishments are as important as sports, music and arts accomplishments and the principal includes them in the morning announcements.

Engage Parents

The end of year PTO meeting, Back to School Night, Orientation — whatever fits best — plan on introducing the Read2Dream Book Club to parents. Briefly tell parents the importance of reading every day. When children read 20 minutes a day they will read over a million words per year. Automaticity is critical and daily reading builds automaticity. Point them to the web site for more information, it has suggestions on creating a reading environment at home. (http://read2dream.com/bookclubbing4overwhelmed.cfm) If you need materials for your presentation go to http://read2dream.com/tools.cfm Getting Started — register and add a book using these simple directions with screen captures. Summer Flyer— Three-fold flyer explains Read2Dream program Reading Log — students can write titles down until a good time to post

Prime the Pump

Early on the first day of school ask the students about their favorite book. Build excitement by reading a great book to them. It only takes a few minutes a day to create a reading culture in your classroom. Make books part of the conversation as you greet your students in the morning. My class loves to tell me about family news, after-school activities and book talk. The conversations flow into homeroom. They will tell me about a book they have read and share with each other about the book they are reading. This magic works with all ages: kindergarten and up.

Looking at the Mountain

The second week of school I tell the students about a special club they can join called the Read2Dream Book Club. When students first hear about the plan to read 100 books in one year — they are sure they can’t do it. It’s a great opportunity for children to set goals and then make a plan to get there. Patience and encouragement are the keys. For many students it is the first time to set and take a goal challenge to heart — independently. It is also important to remember that a child’s concept of time has a very small window. I write on the blackboard, “All goals in life begin with tiny steps.” and I tell them what a former student replied when her aunt asked her how she was going to read 100 books in just one year. “You just read one word at a time and keep going.” That child read over 500 books including some chapter books by the beginning of June.

Set realistic goals with the children, just 10 books at first, then 10 more… You know your students — consider disabilities and learning difference when setting the pace, goals and rewards. Adjust the numbers for older children reading longer chapter books. For students that progress to chapter books, I count chapters the same as I would a whole non-chapter book to encourage more reading.

By all means, keep the chatter going. Add Tucker’s Corner to the conversation — the write about the antics of our mascot to engage young readers. As a bonus it adds a little more reading outside the classroom.

Open the Doors to Incentives

When it comes to holding your students attention outside the classroom — get all the help you can. Read2Dream has free prizes to acknowledge starting a new level, and the threshold of 10, 25, 50 and 100 books/chapters. More incentives are for sale at the Reward Zone. Schools and teachers can’t provide these rewards, but you can look to PTOs and parents for support. I do keep a few samples in my classroom for the students to covet. A few of my students wore their Read2Dream tees on reading day and now every Friday is a sea of green! Grandparents are very active, too. They love to read with their grandchildren and often delight in lavishing them with rewards. I am always pleased and surprised by the many creative ways reading groups and families make use of the Reward Zone. Here are some of my favorite strategies:

  • Tee shirts at the beginning or 10 books in help to promote buy-in to reading, believing that the reward will be there and belonging to the group.
  • Fleeces and bears make wonderful companions and set the proper tone for reading. They make reading important and provide a steady reminder to read.
  • A surprise gift along the way with the message “we see how much you are working and we love what you are doing” can provide the needed boost. For many children the long gaps between meeting their milestones can be overwhelming.
  • Goal setting may be new to them, but browsing the Reward Zone for their favorite items is a great way to ease into the conversation and stack the deck in your favor # the big reward at 100 books is the carrot for all that practice! It is a good idea to read the article about using incentives in the home.

Book Club at Work

Every Friday the children bring their book list to school (printouts from the account page or the hand written reading log are fine) and I record the number of books read for each child. This is a five-minute, math activity including addition, graphing, estimating and goal setting. I share their personal progress and rate of reading with them. The weekly chart shows their rate of reading (how many books per week). Praise and encourage takes very little time and doesn’t cost anything, but the investment pays great dividends now and in the student’s future. Before we go home we take a few minutes to add the class total of books read. They are so proud of the total. I include a sentence or two in my weekly newsletter with ideas to encourage reading at home, great book titles, and the class total. You will observe that the adult-to-student book conversations quickly lead to student-to-student conversations about books. As the culture grows stronger students talking with friends about the books they are reading will be commonplace.

Maintain an Inclusive and Supportive Program

With leveling, all children (including students with IEP’s) can participate. I use the train paradigm to explain leveling to the class. Everyone gets on the reading train at a different station (reading level) and moves to the next station at their own pace. Everyone keeps moving to the next level and it doesn’t matter that a classmates level is different than your level — because we are all moving forward towards the class goal. I encourage leadership, team building and kindness in the classroom. So when some students need help, because they do not have someone at home who can read English or encourage their reading, my more advanced readers step up to help them read and record before school, during breaks and while waiting for the buses.

We have a sense of community in the classroom. When we help others meet their goals, we all benefit. The students see it on the blackboard — the class total keeps moving up. It is self sustaining. They help, encourage and read. The partnership works for all the students. The advanced reader has more time to practice by reading with the developing student, making book recommendations, retelling books they have read. The developing student is encouraged by the partner to read more, they hear fluent readers modeling fluent oral reading and they have someone to talk to about what they have read. The friendship and understanding they create is a welcome by-product.

Encourage and Recognize

We celebrate every student’s accomplishments. It only takes a minute in the morning to celebrate a student getting to a benchmark toward their goal. They can also be the line leader for the day, etc. This is a powerful motivator — helping students get to the next goal. The message is always clear, reading enables all dreams. Reading is the path to success.

Please let me know how you are doing with your Book Club on FaceBook or an email — and sign up with Read2Dreams’ Constant Contact mail list and share in the ideas of other participating teachers.