Increase Student Engagement by “Gifting” a Book

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While digging through baskets of books in our library at home, my son Cameron found a volcano book with a sticky note stuck to the cover.

“Who is John?” he asked.

One look at that crinkled-up sticky note and I was instantaneously transported back to my classroom. Although I don’t remember this particular sticky note. I do remember John. I can picture him smiling as he found this book knowing that it was chosen just for him.

The discovery of this little sticky note reminded me of the power of going out of our way to get just the right book into a child’s hands at just the right time.

As a classroom teacher, I was really fortunate to have a huge classroom library, full of engaging, high-interest books. Even with this beautiful library, I still had students who struggled to find books they loved reading.

What Are Gifts Books?

One of my favorite weekly rituals was to “gift” books to students. These weren’t necessarily books students would keep forever. Instead, these were books from our classroom collection, school library, or public library picked just for them to enjoy during reading workshop or during a soft start to the day. When they were finished, they could pass it along to a friend or simply return it to me.

Each week, I made it my mission to think of a reader in my class and to find a book that let them know that I was thinking of them. With each gifted book, I wanted to send a message that I not only cared about their reading life, but also who they were as a person.

After finding the right book, I’d plop a little note on the book and slide it into their book bin or leave it on their desk.

This was an easy thing to do and I want to believe it made a difference in at least one reader’s life.

In the book Striving to Thriving Annie Ward shared a story of her daughter being surprised with new books from “The Reading Fairy ”. For primary teachers, how fun would it be to have a “Reading Fairy” that selects special books for readers in your classroom? I can only imagine the excitement a child would feel when they walk into the classroom and see that “The Reading Fairy” left them something to read.

Students Can “Gift” Books, Too!

One last thing you should know…you don’t have to do this work alone. What about having your students “gift” books to each other? ​

With my big kids both in school full-time, Monday mornings have been library days with my littlest guy. On our first Monday library adventure, Ryan decided to pick out books for his big brother and sister. Now book gifting is part of our library routine, and everyone is reaping the benefits.

Check out our latest lot from the library last week. The simple act of being surprised by a book has sent reading engagement through the roof in our home.

Want to give it a try in your classroom? Leave out a stack of sticky notes and pens, then invite students to “gift” books to each other.

With March is Reading Month now in full swing, let this ritual be one way you celebrate reading in your classroom.

I challenge you to “gift” a few books this week to some special readers. We love hearing from you. Leave a comment to let us know how it goes.

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