Distance Learning Mini-Unit on Building a Reading Life at Home


With school now taking place virtually in homes across the world, it’s critical that we take the time to help students build their reading lives in their at-home spaces. Research on reading achievement has concluded that volume of reading is directly and positively correlated to reading growth. Just like anything that we want to get better at, we have to put in the time to practice. Much like an athlete or a quilter, the more we immerse ourselves into the sport or craft, the more our expertise grows.

This is why it’s of utmost importance to take the time to directly teach students about the habits of avid readers and to teach them how to develop strong reading lives.

In this blog post, I’ve outlined three sessions of teaching that I believe will quickly help remind students of strong reading habits and set the foundation for them to build their reading lives in their homes. Many of the ideas presented here are from my own learning from utilizing the Units of Study for Teaching Reading from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP). I hope these prioritized sessions and examples of each will be helpful for you in your own teaching.

Session 1: Making Reading a Habit!

In this initial session, I teach students three tips for starting a reading life at home.

  1. Reading space: First, not just any spot will work well; students must put some thought into the space they choose to read. Considering things like the number of distractions in the space, noise level, lighting, and even seating choices are important as they need to find a space that allows them to focus and think. The best spots will be ones that allow students to read for a period of time without much interruption so they can increase their volume and stamina.
  2. Optimal time/s of day: Secondly, students need to find times in their day that work well for them to read. When teaching this, I discuss my own trial and error of searching for times to read in my day. We want to teach students that they will need to experiment with this a bit, especially now that their typical days have gone to the wayside, and once they find times that work well, they need to make those times a habit.
  3. Reading material: Lastly, as they are setting up their reading lives, students need to curate a collection of things they are excited to read. Reminding students of their text choices (both analog and digital) and talking through some of the text selections you have made will be helpful as they set off to find their own. Check back tomorrow for some great free resources for building students’ at-home libraries!

Check out this mini video lesson I created for students I work with: Session 1 Video

*Please note, all of the videos shared here are true one-takes, meaning I only record them one time. In some sessions, you’ll hear my cat in the background, see my daughter pass by in her robe, or you’ll notice my own wording can get tripped up. I keep going and then I post! It was hard for me to get used to this at first, but I’m beginning to feel more comfortable with this. Hang in there–it will get easier for you, too!

Session 2: Setting Goals for Reading

In this second session, I teach students that readers with strong habits set goals for how much reading they want to do. This teaching will help students build their pace of reading, which in turn will increase their overall volume of reading. In my teaching, I demonstrate my own decision-making around goal-setting with an example text, considering things like how much time I have and how much text is on the pages to determine the amount of reading I think I can push myself to do. I reiterate the learning from the previous session and then encourage students to start their own reading by setting goals.

Watch a mini video lesson I created for Session 2 here: Session 2 Video

Session 3: Share Your Reading with Others

In this final session, I remind students that people with strong reading lives share and talk about what they are reading with others. In real life (outside of classroom or digital classroom walls), people with avid reading lives get excited to talk about what they are thinking as they are reading, and sharing texts with one another helps to give us ideas about what we might want to read next. Having students share the things they are reading is a great way to foster a reading community in your virtual classroom. In the mini video lesson below, you will see that I demonstrate a quick book introduction for students using a favorite book of my own. In my share, I include the title and author, the genre of the text, a quick summary (without giving anything away), and I read a favorite part.

Watch a mini video lesson of Session 3 here: Session 3 Video

I hope these reading life session ideas and our other mini video lesson examples are helpful for you to be thinking around how you teach your students how to develop strong reading lives at home!

References/Acknowledgements: Thank you to Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP) and their Units of Study for Teaching Reading. To learn more about the importance of building a reading life and how to do so, visit their website.

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