10 Tips for Teachers: How to get your students reading
Creative tips, activities, and resources to help your students develop a love of reading and storytelling
12 January 2022
With National Storytelling Week and World Book Day just around the corner, we’ve put together a list of top tips and ideas for teachers looking to encourage students to read more, read widely, and read for enjoyment. The benefits of a love of reading are deep and far reaching. It can help with literacy skills, creativity, concentration, empathy, world knowledge, and wellbeing – not to mention it’s fun and relaxing too!
Check out our list of creative activities and resources below, and book your free place at our upcoming Word Power Webinaron 25 January 2022. The webinar will explore how Arts Awardcan support children and young people to engage with the power of language, performance, and creative writing. There will also be live performances by Young People's Laureate for London, Cecilia Knapp, and spoken word artist, writer, and performer Adisa The Verbalizer.
You can find loads more resources and discover organisations who work to promote reading, such as Pop Up, by searching our LookUp platform. Try selecting ‘Literature’ from the Artforms dropdown or searching the words ‘book’ and ‘reading’.
2. Provide books from diverse authors with diverse characters
Why not sign Inclusion Labs’ Decade of Diversity pledge and commit your school to working towards a diverse Governing Board and 25% diverse literature by 2030. If you know of some great books that you want to see in school libraries, you can submit them here for an upcoming list. A New Direction are proud to be a supporting partner of Decade of Diversity.
3. Discover more books by getting in touch with your local library
As a self-confessed bookworm, I do believe there is a book out there for everyone. Children will be encouraged to read more if they can find the right type of book for them. Some children might think some of the things they enjoy reading, like comic books for example, ‘don’t count’, when of course they do! Help your students discover what genres they like by having a range of different types of books available to read in the classroom, including different formats such as picture books (no matter the age) and audiobooks.
Regularly refresh your supply of books by visiting your local public library. You could even do a class trip and get students library cards so they can select their own books. Libraries also usually offer special schemes or events that students can take part in outside of school, such as The Summer Reading Challenge.
4. Use reading diaries in a different way
Lots of Primary Schools already have reading logs, but they can quickly turn into a chore for students and checking them often slips down the to-do list for teachers.
Try a different kind of reading diary where the aim is for pupils to discover what kind of books they enjoy, instead of proving how much they’ve read. Here are some steps you might like to try (these are are suitable for older students too):
Ask students to keep a record of the books they read, rating them out of five and noting the genre
Encourage them to respond to the book in any way they like. They could write a few words about what they did or didn’t like, draw a picture of their favourite scene or a character, write a review, draw a poster for the film version, summarise the plot in three sentences, or identify something that might be a ‘spoiler’
Set aside time every few weeks for the students to look back at their logs and discuss with a partner if there are any patterns. What kind of books have they scored highly? Which genres do they seem to prefer?
Have a list of genres and challenge students to tick them off, with a prize for completing the list
Create a display of the whole class’s favourite genres and book recommendations. You could try doing something simple with post-its like this:
Add quotes from students as inserts to the books to ‘advertise’ them like this:
Or create a ‘Bookflix’-style display like this:
Don't forget to include your book recommendations too!
5. Read aloud to your class – for any age!
All teachers will know that reading to children supports their language skills, fluency and reading ability, and helps them to access texts above their reading level. However, statistics suggest that even young children aren’t being read to at home every day.
To help develop a love of reading in your students, set time aside every day to read to them. This applies to Secondary school too! Benefits for older children include being able to enjoy a book even if they are a reluctant reader, being exposed to different book choices, improvements in wellbeing, and more interest in reading and writing.
Here are some creative ways students could respond to a text (these should be more fun than the guided reading responses usually used to assess!):
Write or act out a three-minute play based on a chapter
Design a costume to be used in the film or stage version of the book
Check out the fun and interactive Me Books and Epic! (which is free for educators) – these are both apps which can be used on tablets. There are also free online libraries, such as Oxford Owl, The Book Trust and the National Literacy Trust, or apps such as Libby – your students’ parents simply need to register at their nearest local library and download the app they are linked up to and they can then access huge collections of e-books.
8. Create a cosy book corner to set the atmosphere
Secondary schools can do this too – is there an area of the school you could turn into a reader nook? Perhaps in the library? You could get students involved by asking them to help design it. What do they want to see there? Bean bags? Fairy lights? Piles of cushions? What about a colour scheme or theme? They could even plan fundraisers to pay for it as a project, or make elements for it in art or D.T.
Students could also re-tell stories in their own words or have a go at writing their own version. Try asking them to do this in a book that doesn’t get marked so there’s no pressure to include those fronted adverbials or the correct speech punctuation
Don’t overlook the importance of visual literacy – linking to films is a sure-fire way to engage more children in reading. Literacy Shed has a wealth of brilliant free resources with online video links and suggestions of how to use them
Into Film have curriculum-linked resources for feature films which are especially helpful for older students