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 Webinar on 25 January 2022. The webinar will explore how Arts Award can 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.

1. Celebrate National Storytelling Week

This year, National Storytelling Week will take place from 29 January to 05 February. Engage your students with these storytelling resources and event ideas from the Society for Storytelling, this list of ideas from The National Literacy Trust, or this pack of resources from Twinkl.

Don’t forget World Book Day is also coming up on 03 March – there are lots of great resources out there to help you celebrate the day. If you have the time (or a TA who loves to make displays!) decorate your classroom door for a more immersive classroom experience, and check out this list of activity ideas from teachers on Teachwire.

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

All children and young people deserve to see themselves reflected in literature and to read about the experiences of children from different backgrounds. There are plenty of lists of diverse books online – try Books for Topics for starters. The publisher Penguin also has some teaching resources for Primary and Secondary linked to their Lit in Colour campaign.

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
  • Write a recipe linked to the book
  • Plan a themed party based on the book

For structured discussions, you can find ideas in our Teaching for Creativity Taster Cards or try some crafty art activities with these ideas from The British Library.

6. Use audiobooks

If you struggle to find the time to read aloud yourself, YouTube channels such as Storyline Online have lots of books being read aloud, many by celebrities, as does Cbeebies Storytime and Bedtime Stories.

Research suggests audiobooks are a valuable tool for supporting children to read. The National Literacy Trust (NLT) has some ideas for getting audio into your classroom here, and Now Press Play offer an immersive audio experience for EYFS up to Year 6. You can book a free trial or explore their free At Home resources here.

7. Read on Screen

Reading on screen is increasing, and those with low levels of literacy are likely to benefit from reading digital formats.

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

Most Primary teachers do this already, so it goes without saying, but having somewhere comfortable and special to sit will help get students in the mood for reading. You can see some creative ideas in this blog post from Hope Education and Twinkl also has some top tips for creating your reading corner, such as finding a balance between books and props and having books on low shelves.

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.

9. Join the National Literacy Trust

National Literacy Trust membership is a great resource for teaching ideas around literacy and reading. They offer CPD and training such as this session about reading for pleasure, teaching resources such as this Marcus Rashford Book Club, tips such as this list of ideas about reading for pleasure and research like this report focusing on reluctant girl readers.

Their reading audit tool developed for Get Islington Reading can help schools figure out what to prioritise in terms of reading for pleasure and has examples of best practice. It's based on research from NLT, The Reading Agency, and Teresa Cremin with the OU. Check out their blog for free tips before you join.

10. Use books for the basis of literacy lessons

This is an obvious one, but here are some of our favourite resources for literacy lessons that centre on using texts:

  • Ask students to re-tell a whole-class reader. You can see some ideas here, or try the method of using hand gestures to remember the summarised story, with icons as prompts. Note – this one works best with short stories!
  • 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
  • Use CLPE (Centre for Literacy in Primary Education) resources – such as The Power of Reading. These resources use teaching approaches such as drama, art, and responding to a text in various ways for writing tasks which create a ready-made way of making literacy lessons more engaging. You need to buy the schemes of work, but they do offer some whole school ones for free, and some for home-learning. They also do fantastic CPD sessions and have a library in London members can visit. Check out their list of recommended books, too!
  • 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
  • Although written for home-learning, you can get some ideas from our Keeping Creative at Home blogs: How to sail away using storybooks by Pop Up and Five easy ways into poetry by The Poetry Society

What have we missed?

Are you a teacher who has great ideas about how to help children learn to love reading? We would love to hear your tips!

Let us know on Twitter – tag @A_New_Direction and include the hashtag #CreativeTipsForTeachers. You can also email us your ideas or share them with other teachers in our Creative Teaching Community.

Feature image credit: The Leader

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