3 Inspirational Tips for National Reading Month

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As a first-grade teacher, I always made a big deal about reading, but March was a different kind of beast.

From favorite -author-door-decorating-challenges to reading minute goals. From ‘Caught ya Reading’ phone calls home to guest readers practically coming out of our ears. March was full of reading & full of fun.

And because we rallied around the joys of reading, and warmer weather started filling our recess time, March was always one of my favorite teaching seasons.

This March is my first time experiencing National Reading Month as a parent, and let me tell you, it is really interesting being on this side of the fence. As I approach this month through literacy-loving parent glasses, I find myself making a mental list of things I would revise & ditch from my classroom Reading Month festivities.

I figured since we aren’t too deep into reading month I would share some of my thinking with you. Hopefully, this will inspire you to revamp your already amazing National Reading Month supply. Or possibly help you to think about what Reading Month might look like in the future.

Let’s start with what I would revise…

Mystery Readers {Through Zoom!}

One of my favorite things I did as a first-grade teacher was inviting Mystery Readers into my classroom. Parents, siblings, school celebrities/ local celebrities would do a read-aloud for our class every Wednesday-all year long. Each Wednesday, I would read a set of clues sent in by the Mystery Reader and we would try to guess who our Mystery Reader was. At the end of the day, our reader would show up, shock us with their identity, and read to us.

My favorite part was the reading life interviews. At the end of the book, our class would interrogate our guest reader. We’d ask questions about their reading lives, their all-time favorite books, their favorite place to read, or how reading has helped them in their career.

The kids loved Mystery Readers and the Mystery Readers loved the experience, too.

During March is Reading Month, we always ramped up our Mystery Readers inviting one a day, or some years I crammed them all into our final day which was always a Read-In {you know-the PJs, flashlight, read all day kind of Read-In}. It was always such a fun way to wrap up Reading Month with a bow.

With this year being incredibly unconventional, I could easily revise this fun reading activity by hosting Mystery Readers through platforms like Google Meet or Zoom. What a great way to make families a part of your classroom when they aren’t able to join you in person. Give it a try! Let us know how it goes.

What I might add to my Reading Month activities?

Reading Challenges

My daughter’s school has incorporated weekly challenges to celebrate National Reading Month. Each week the students get a list of reading challenges to try.

  1. Reading Forts: This week our challenge was to build a reading fort. With every unused sheet in the house, we built a giant fort and enjoyed books together. Her teacher used their Seesaw app for the challenge. The kids shared pictures or videos of their reading forts. we loved seeing all the different reading forts from her class.
  2. Favortie Character Costume: Next week, our challenge is to create a costume of a favorite character from a book and wear it on Friday. I don’t think it will be a big surprise to her teacher or friends when Molly shows up as Hermoine. Yes, we are living in a Hogwart’s world right now and loving every minute of it.
  3. Book-Inspired Snack: Another challenge is to create a snack inspired by a book you have read. Harry Potter Pumpkin Juice recipes are already sitting on my counter. Doesn’t that sound delicious? I will let you know:)

These reading challenges have been easy and fun. They’ve shown me how we can easily provide joyful reading experiences that are simply tied to loving books, loving where they take us & loving how they change us.

Bedtime Stories

Each night my daughter’s school is posting pre-recorded bedtime stories from the teachers in her school. They are shared through email, on the school’s Facebook page, and my daughter’s Seesaw account. My kids are LOVING these!

As I watch these, I can’t help but think of all the possibilities. You could do take this one yourself, sending one each Sunday. Or you could see if you have families interested in recording bedtime stories to share with the class. What about including your very own readers? You could have students sign up to record themselves reading during independent reading and then share those videos as bedtime stories for your families. So many possibilities. Right?

Finally, what would I ditch?

Rewards for Reading

Research shows that when we offer rewards for activities we might otherwise enjoy, it actually squelches our enthusiasm for that activity. I noticed this firsthand with my daughter this past week. She didn’t read much more or any less than what she typically reads, but this week most of her reading was not happening because she wanted to enjoy a good book. Instead, her time was tied to these little twenty-minute reading slips that she had to cut out, sign, and return to school. Each slip was entered into a drawing with a chance to win some little trinkety prize.

Molly really wants the darn prize. This week, I have felt a little pit in my stomach as the kid who would have picked up a book anyway was suddenly only focused on how much time she read and how many reading slips she earned.

For some kids, these incentives might make them read more in March. However, when they aren’t reading for the sake of reading, and when the reward goes away, research shows that the reading will likely go away, too.

This isn’t what I want for any of my readers. How about you?

So, if you are a teacher handing out reading prizes, don’t beat yourself up over it. I was the queen of reading prizes and I have had my fair share of regrets this month as Facebook memory kindly reminds me of all the incentives I pushed with my students over the years. Let’s continue to grow together and more importantly–let’s continue to grow readers together.

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